Marathon Training 101

So you’ve decided to run a marathon and you’re thinking, “where do I start?” Right here, as Marie Lim does the research and gives you the answers.


L
egend has it that around 490 B.C., Athenian army messenger Pheidippides ran from Marathon in Greece to deliver a message of victory over the Persin army. Over 40 kilometres later, he reached his destination in Athens, where he delivered his message – and then keeled over and died from exertion. Follow these tips so you get to crossing that finish line (minus a sad ending)!

1 PICK A DATE

Marathon training typically lasts between 18 and 26 weeks so try to give yourself at least six months before the marathon. Do your research and check out races online on websites that list running events for the whole year. Once you’ve chosen a race, mark it down in your calendar and start planning.
TIP: If this is your first marathon, you may want to avoid one that is hilly. If you’ve never run on a trail, you may want to stick to roads.

2 SHOP!

That’s right, ladies, you’ve permission to spend! Investing in a good pair of running shoes is critical. Also, purchase proper running clothes (which wick away moisture from the body) and a performancequality wristwatch with a stopwatch function to track your splits at each kilometre. If you feel like splurging, then add in a heart rate monitor.
TIP: Shop for shoes at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen. Bring the socks you plan to wear and any orthotic inserts.

3 JOIN THE CLUB

Talk to people who have run marathons and get their advice. Check out running clubs and organisations in your area. Many offer classes as well as provide the safety of running in groups. Training with others provides motivation.
TIP: Try www.pacesetters.com.my, Malaysia’s largest running club. It has groups in different localities so you can find running partners near your home.

4 STRETCH AND WARM UP

Muscle stiffness is directly related to muscle injury. Preparing your body for the rigours of prolonged running will lessen the chances of injury. Stretching increases the contraction and relaxation of muscles, improving economy of movement and increasing blood flow.
TIP: Stretch before and after every run to keep your muscles resilient. Give your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, groin and hip flexors plenty of attention, stretching each slowly for at least 30 seconds.

5 EAT YOUR

Carbohydrates are not the enemy. For someone interested in sustaining energy for long workouts or longdistance running, carbs are exactly what the doctor ordered. Carbohydrates get stored in the muscles as glycogen. The depletion of glycogen is directly responsible for fatigue. Sixty-five per cent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates.
TIP: When you’ve used up all the glycogen, your body begins to burn fat, thus hitting the proverbial ‘wall’. To maintain energy and avoid fatigue, eat before, during and after training/running.

6 STAY HYDRATED

Drink plenty of water, even on days when you’re not running. During your training, you’ll need to consume at least 3 to 4 litres of water a day. Carry a water bottle with you on the run or wear a hydration pack. Many seasoned runners eat small packets of easy-to-digest carbohydrate gel every 35 to 40 minutes during long runs.
TIP: Don’t mix sports drinks with other things during the race. For example, if you consume a sports drink and water during a marathon, you’ll end up with a very dilute solution in your gastrointestinal system, which will slow the absorption of carbohydrate and leave you short of energy in the late stages of the race.

7 PREVENT INJURY

Most running injuries stem from doing too much too soon. Your training should be gradual. If you fi nd your feet, knees and muscles aching too much, take a break and lighten your regimen. To maximise running efficiency and cut the risk of injury, make sure your body is aligned and you are in proper running form as you train.
TIP: Rest one to three days if you feel like you are getting an injury. You will be back on the road much sooner if you don’t aggravate the problem. If your symptoms pass, resume gentle running; if they do not, consult a physician.

8 TAPER OFF

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the month before your big race! Don’t burn yourself out before the race. Rather than squeeze in one or two long runs, this time is reserved for the tapering off period i.e. a gradual reduction in training.
TIP: As a woman runner, taking a simple iron supplement may help protect you from becoming anaemic.