As the legend goes, the Greek war messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the Battlefield of Marathon in Greece to Athens to deliver the wonderful news of the victory of the Greeks against the Persians at Marathon. Tragically, Pheidippides died only seconds after delivering the news to his fellow Greeks. Now the accuracy of the legend may be widely debated, but Pheidippides has entered the Greek folklore and indeed that of the world on the whole. And since the run has been pegged to be a major race in different parts of the world, and also an Olympic event, the question of how to run a marathon comes up more than once in a year! So how to prepare to run a marathon?
How to Train to Run a Marathon
Now let me warn you, local arrangements notwithstanding, a marathon race requires the participant to run an unbelievable 26.2 miles. So it goes without saying that the marathon is an unusually long race and requires optimal fitness levels, which can take months to achieve. So if your aim is to take part in the annual New York City Marathon which will be held in November this year, you need to start preparing right now!
A few caveats though. As wondrous as the human body is with all those exceptional cases, it is not advisable for people of an advancing age, with no prior running and jogging experience to participate in a marathon, or even train for it. Even people with heart related illnesses are better off not running the marathon. While it is alright to participate all for the fun of it, participating to win it may not be an achievable ideal. After all, safety comes first!
But for all those who are completely dedicated to the task of participating and completing a marathon, here are some tips for running the marathon.
Start Training Now
Even if you have run races before, or you are a sportsperson, or any normal fit person, you have to start training for the marathon well in advance. A marathon is a completely different kind of race which tests the stamina of the runner, to a different level altogether! Hence when you start training you need to train with long runs rather than short bursts of fast runs. Hence running a marathon requires a different type of training. Start with 2-3 miles and slowly increase the number of miles you run every other week. Don't focus on the time at this stage. Just focus on completing the run. You can also go the required exercises for your legs that will strengthen them and enable them to last the whole race Read on for the proper running technique.
To run a marathon you might have to completely overhaul your diet plan, unless of course you follow a similar diet already. It maybe a good idea to try losing those extra pounds 6 months before the marathon. After all, less weight means you'll be running with lesser baggage than usual, which will make it a lot easier. But 6 months before the race and onwards, you need to follow a diet plan which ensures that you have the energy to train for running such a long race. And energy means a lot of carbohydrate foods. Do not try and cut the calorie consumption during this period because running the marathon will require a lot of energy that a lo-carb diet will not be able to provide.
Well this is such an important point, that I'm devoting a whole paragraph to it! During the training, the race rehearsals and the race itself, your body will be depleted of its water resources to a whole new level. Your body will need all the water it can get to keep itself hydrated, to keep you moving, and to keep itself from the evils of dehydration during the race. So ditch that 6 glasses of water formula and be prepared to drink a lot more.
Ideally you should be able to run the marathon at least a month before the actual date. You should have your tactics in place. Where to run fast and where to conserve energy. Different people have different strategies, like some like to go faster during a slight climb, and others like to accelerate in the long straight sectors of the race. Your strategy really depends on what you can do and where you can accelerate with best results. So you need to plan that out as well by practicing. Time yourself, identify the areas where you're not doing too well and learn to overcome those.