When I started training for my first marathon I was as green and naive as they come. Since I ran track in high school and college I figured how hard could a few extra miles be. I thought, “Hey, just add a few extra miles of training each week and get a new pair of shoes. After all, its running, not rocket science.” One would think that marathon training would not entail much. Boy, was I in for several trips to the woodshed during my training. After finding a good training regimen produced by Runner’s World on the Internet I was pretty stoked and determined until the 10th week of my marathon training when I suddenly stopped running for three straight weeks because I became extremely busy with my work and family. Therefore, my first attempt at marathon training was a failed one.
The second time around I took a different approach to marathon training. Since I have four children and we are on a tight budget I knew that if I went ahead and found a marathon to run in, booked a hotel, and paid the registration fee then it would force me to be even more committed to running my first marathon. I simply couldn’t afford to lose my investment. I tried to find a race that was within three hours driving distance. In my case I found The Sun Times Marathon in Richmond, Virginia which is annually run in November (perfect time in the South for a marathon).
The following are some tips that were passed on to me by another local marathon runner in my area as well as some things I figured out on my own along the way…and had I not, I would have no doubt suffered additionally:
1) Find a Marathon Training Regimen that Will Actually Enable You to Cross the Finish Line (one that actually has you running 24 miles at some point).
A friend of mine in the area that has ran in tens of marathons asked me one day, “How is your training going?” I replied, “I am struggling getting past mile 18.” He then asked me, “You have heard of the ‘wall’, haven’t you?” Being fairly knowledgeable of the race I said, “Yeah, it happens around mile 20 or 21. Your body starts shutting down and refuses to let you move on. That’s when you have to fight through it and wait for your second wind.” He then told me that the real reason people hit “the wall” is because the farthest people train to run is around 18-20 miles. He told me that on my long day I needed to make sure I worked my way up to at least 24 miles. Most marathon training schedules last 18 weeks with one day being reserved for the day where you run the longest. Many marathon training regimens start your long day at 6 miles for week one and then add 1 mile to each week thereafter, but never going higher than 18 miles. Your marathon training needs to go beyond 18 miles if you want to avoid “hitting the wall.” Here is what my schedule looked like.
Monday (3 miles) Tuesday (6 miles) Wednesday (4 miles) Thursday (6-8 miles) Friday (rest)
Saturday (*long day= start at 6 miles) Sunday (rest, light jog).
a) Remember, It is important that you continue to add 1 mile to the long day each week and continue adding until you reach 24 miles around week 16.
b) On weeks 17-18 (two weeks before the race) you should not do more than ten on your long day. Running almost the equivalent of a marathon two weeks before you actually run it will fatigue your body and not adequately rest it.
c) To break the monotony that comes with long distance running you can do “variation drills” on Tuesday and/or Thursday. This is where you run harder than normal (7-8 minute mile pace) for one mile and then alternate the next mile with a 9-10 minute mile pace. Continue to alternate for the entire day’s run.
d) Runner’s World offers marathon training regiments for the novice, intermediate, and advanced runners. I went with the intermediate.
e) It is vital that you let your body rest on small mileage days and rest days. If you feel like an injury is coming on you need to back off.
The bottom line: Find a marathon training regimen that has its long day reach 24 miles before your last two weeks of training to avoid “hitting the wall.”
2) Use lots of Vaseline on your arm pits, inner thighs and nipples to avoid painful chaff.
I came home “raw” in these areas before I figured this one out during my marathon training. Make sure you trim your toenails if they have any length to them at all. Those bad boys become like knives in cutting into the toes next to them. I was dumb on this one as well.
3) Set up a drink station every 6 miles while running.
You will need to drink lots and lots and lots of water (yet, without ever over drinking) during your marathon training. My friend told me to make sure I set up a drink station (canister of water place at every 6 mile mark). This seems obvious but believe it or not I was only stopping by my house between 12-15 miles before I was taking my first drinks and felt terrible after my runs. I was dehydrating. What I did was to convert my mailbox into a drink station before I would run a 6 mile loop that passed by my house and I would make sure I was properly hydrated (I’m sure my mailbox looked funny to the mail lady with the 3-4 canisters sitting on it). She probably thought I was a boozer. One time I had to stop in at a gas station and use their bathroom to get water out of their sink to drink and to pour over my head.
4) Eat a sufficient amount of pasta (carbohydrates) the night before your race as well as properly hydrate.
Practice doing this on the days before your long runs to get in the habit of doing it and to give you a feel for the difference during your marathon training.
5) Walk when you have to. Don’t press yourself into an injury.
Even during the race day don’t force yourself to think your marathon doesn’t “count” if you don’t run every mile.
*Avoid using sunscreen on your face. The sweat will run it into your eyes. Use a hat for protection.
*Never, never, never buy new shoes before the race.