5 Critical Marathon Training Tips For Beginners
As a sport, the marathon is less than 120 years old yet it is one of the sports that has consistently grown over the years most especially after the half-marathon was introduced. Today, more than 42% of road races in the United States are half-marathons making it the fastest growing racing event in the world.
For beginners, the marathon is highly appealing because of the marketing that usually accompanies an event. There are numerous off-the-wall marathon events that welcomes beginners with open arms such as the 5K Color Run which is held in more than 30 cities across the US and the 12 Mile Tough Mudder event that is held in 12 countries including the US and UK. These fun runs are gentle introductions to marathon running and do not require the strict and oftentimes stringent training necessary to complete a full 40km run. Nonetheless, training is still needed to some degree and so here are some tips beginners will find useful.
Tip #1 Get Doctor’s Clearance
Your first step should always be to get medical clearance regardless of your age and physical condition. Running is a physical, mental, and emotional ride and at any time during the race, you can find yourself stressing about conditions, gear, hunger or thirst pangs, or even by the cheering and jostling that may occur among runners.
Tip #2 Training includes conditioning your body, understanding fluid intake, and watching your diet
Even on half marathons, you should give yourself enough time to condition yourself physically. This includes understanding how your body functions after you drink fluids and eat food. For example, if you are planning a special race day nutrition diet, get your body accustomed to it days before the event. Those gels and sports liquids can affect your digestive system on race day if you are taking it for the first time.
Tip #3 Don’t rush training
The ideal training time for a beginner’s first marathon is at least 14 weeks prior to the half marathon or 20 weeks if you plan on running a full marathon. During this time, you should gradually increase the intensity from 10 to 20% in mileage rather than brutalizing your body by trying to run the full length on your first week of training. This way you avoid stressing your cardio and respiratory systems, your neomuscular and endocrine system which when stressed will certainly lead to unnecessary injuries and pain.
In addition, the training program to choose should mimic your daily routine as much as possible. This means that if you normally do all your household chores over the weekend, then do not train on weekends or train less on weekends. The less you upset your normal routine, the higher the chances are that you will settle into the routine seamlessly.
Tip #4 Listen to your body
During the marathon or practice runs, you are alone even if you are running in a crowded park or with cars whizzing by. You should take this time to listen to your body – a feat not so easily accomplished but necessary if you want to finish the race well. Listening to your body will give you vital information about what you need, how to motivate yourself, and how to focus on your objective. You can do this by:
- Getting into the zone and deadening the sounds around you
- Practicing breathing properly while running
- Do not belittle nagging feelings of discomfort or pain because it could cause you to get injured to the point of having to cancel your first event and stay off your feet for months while you recover.
- Cross train so you work as many muscles groups as possible
Did you know that Kenyan long distance runners are known for their ability to stay in tune with their bodies? They understand that the body and mind will not always be in sync and it is always wiser to listen to the body especially during training so you do not injure yourself.
Tip #5 Warm down just as you warm up before a race
Training should also include what you should do after a marathon. It is not advisable to fall to the ground and rest. You should give your body 15 minutes to recover from the physical effort by walking around. This will normalize your circulation and regulate your lactic acid. After half an hour, take a bite of something nutritious although make sure it is something you can easily digest and limit it to 300 calories only. This will replenish your muscle glycogen which is the fuel your body needs to have energy.
Finally, do not get a massage immediately after a run. Wait at least 3 hours or risk being in more pain the following day. There is a lot more to marathon training than these 5 tips but adopting these tips is a great way to start.
Now remember, the majority of people who run marathons are not seasoned professionals. Use these marathon tips for beginners to get you started.