Long Distance & Marathon Tips for Beginners

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Tips to start running

The world of long distance running is nothing short of amazing. It dates back to prehistoric times when hunters would run for days in pursuit of their prey. Today, long distance running is a popular sport because it does not prejudice height, weight, physical shape or size, age, gender, social background, race, and disabilities. Some of the incredible success stories from around the world come from long distance runners like:

  • Harriette Thompson san diego marathonHarriette Thompson – a 92 year old cancer survivor from North Carolina who completed the 26.1 San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon last June 2015 and finishing first in the 80+ category. She loves being able to cross the finish line and says, “I feel so good … like I’m on top of the world.”
  • Xu Zhenjun – He holds the record for running long distance backwards!
  • Fauja Singh – From Britain, Fauja, or Turban Tornado, was the first oldest distance runner to participate in a marathon at 100 years old. He is now 104 years old and ran his last race at 101 years of age in Hong Kong.
  • Wayne Botha – Wayne holds the record for barefoot running.

These individuals are typical of the kind of wonderful people you can expect to meet when you start long distance running. And you can expect to one day also be an inspiration to others whether your reasons for trying long distance running is for health, a charitable cause, the desire to fulfill a dream or travel to different destinations.

Are you ready to start learning valuable tips on how to start long distance running? Here we go!

The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Long Distance Running

As a beginner to distance running, you probably have a gadzillion questions racing through your mind on performance, training, gear, joining events, and generally looking good, right? The answers to the most commonly asked questions are here for you.

Marathon tips for beginners

  • How often should I run? This would depend on your age, if you have had any injuries, your lifestyle, available time for running, and your commitment. Many beginners start enthusiastically and try running as frequently as possible.

    This is not always the right approach because you want to savor every run instead of burn out quickly. Assuming you have no physical problems, you should consider starting with twice weekly and building up to a maximum of 3 runs a week but only after 2 months. In between, you can try gym work-outs, cross fit training, cycling, swimming, aerobics, or Pilates.

  • Why is my whole body aching? Even though you don’t move your arms or the rest of your body as much as you do your legs and knees it is possible that the pain is coming from muscles not used to being stretched and exercised. You might also be short-cutting your warm-up routine which involved stretching the body in preparation for a run.

    Knee pain is very common but most beginners do not get runner’s knee (ITB syndrome) immediately. It usually happens after a fall, wearing the wrong shoes, or overrunning especially on a hard surface.

  • What should I wear? What should I eat before and after a run? Your clothing should depend on the weather, humidity level, and what makes you comfortable. The clothes should not be too tight and the shoes should fit perfectly with a little extra toe room for cushion.

  • What should I eat? Before your run, try to focus on the “Go foods” avoiding the ones with too much sugar. These are foods that are high on carbohydrates like bread, cereal, pasta, canned tuna, pizza, banana, and potatoes, among others. The best time to go carb-heavy is the night before the run and then 2 hours prior to going out for a run. Ve’ve provided some more in depth information on what to eat before running a marathon.

    After your run, try to stick to small snacks like an energy bar, lean protein, and water to replenish what you burned. However, keep in mind that what may work for one runner may not always work for you. Do experiment and find a diet that works for you.

The Beginner’s Stitch

Stitch when running

Many new runners experience this stitch or pain around the right side of the stomach area or the shoulder area. It’s very common but rarely serious. Don’t let a stitch change your mind about running.

There are ways to stop it from happening to you. According to Dr. Mark Wotherspoon, a UK exercise medicine consultant, a stitch is like a cramp and happens to those not physically fit who try to overload on exercise by trying too much too soon.

If you experience a stitch, it could mean:

  • You’re taking on too much of a challenge and you need to slow it down
  • You were not able to warm-up properly
  • You are running on a hard surfacev
  • To get rid of the stitch, you can try resting a bit, massage the area, do some deep breathing, and applying pressure on your stomach area. On the other hand, if the pain continues and moves towards your chest area, do have your doctor check it out as soon as possible.

Running Faster, Running Form

Like all sports, there is always the competitive nature and with running, it could very well be found in your speed. However, at the same time, the sport also calls for the right form. What is the right form?

Ideally, you should have a natural running gait but not everyone is born with this gracefulness. However, rather than focus on natural gait, here are the 5 most common running form mistakes to avoid. These mistakes can cause injuries which is why it is important to avoid them.

Running Form For Beginners: Finding Good Running Form

Running form for beginners

Trying to increase your stride length which reduces stride frequency. To get your ideal stride length, count the number of steps taken in a 15 second time frame then multiple this number by 4.

Try to increase the number of steps gradually within the same time frame. This will lessen the amount of time your feet touches the ground which should be one of your goals in running. You see, the longer your feet are on the ground, the more energy you will need to propel it up and forward.

Heel striking which places your hips behind your feet. To help you avoid this, try running barefoot on grass. Minimal mobility in your lower body is dangerous because it can cause injuries to your back and muscles

Eventually, you will get to a point when you want to start running faster. When this happens, you can focus on one of 3 strategies: run more but avoid abrupt changes in your routine, cross train for speed, or start joining events with time pressure. However avoid the mistake of trying to do all 3 strategies at once. Speed will come in time as long as you aim for consistency and proper form.

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