By Suresh Doré
So you want to run a marathon? Completing 26.2 miles is an awe-inspiring accomplishment that requires commitment and dedication and that provides many rewards, not least of which is joining the .5 percent of the U.S. population who have run a marathon. Most training plans
call for 16 to 20 weeks of training. You’ll run three to five (or more) times per week, and your weekly mileage total will gradually increase as you get closer to the big race day.
.... A marathon is an awe-inspiring accomplishment that
that provides many rewards....
The key to successful marathon training is consistently putting in enough weekly mileage to get your body accustomed to running for long periods of time. Newer runners may start with 15 to 20 miles per week total and gradually build to a peak week of 35 to 40 miles. More experienced runners may start at 35 or more miles per week and peak at 50 or more miles. When you select a training plan, avoid those that would increase your volume by more than about 10 percent in the first week. (For example, if you usually run 20-mile weeks, avoid plans that have you running much more than 22 miles in week 1.) Find a training plan here.
The most important part of your training is a weekly long run at an easy “conversational” pace that gradually increases in distance, week over week, to build your strength and endurance. Spending the extra time on your feet helps prepare your muscles, joints, bones, heart, lungs, and brain for going 26.2 on race day. Most training plans build to at least one 18- to 20-mile long run. Most coaches do not recommend completing the full marathon distance in training because they believe the risk of injury outweighs any potential benefits.
.... Most coaches do not recommend completing
the full marathon distance in training as
the risk of injury outweighs the benefits.....
Your training plan may also feature weekly or biweekly speedwork, tempo runs, or miles at marathon pace. Common speed workouts for marathoners include mile repeats (usually at about 10K pace) and Yasso 800s (repeats at somewhere between 5K and 10K pace). “Tempo run” most often refers to a sustained effort at comfortably hard (about half marathon) pace, meant to build speed and endurance. And segments at marathon pace—which may be done as part of a long run or as an independent workout—help you to ingrain that pace in your mind and body before race day.
Select a couple of long runs in the month or two before the race to use as “dress rehearsals.” Get up and start running the same time you will on race day. Eat and drink what you’ll eat on the day before, the morning of, and during your race the day before, the morning of, and during the dress rehearsal run. Wear the same shoes and clothing you plan to wear in the marathon. This gives you the opportunity to troubleshoot any problems, and to respect the cardinal rule of marathoning: Never Try Anything New on Race Day.
.... Never Try Anything New on Race Day......
What to Eat and Drink
What you eat before, during, and after you run can make or break your training. Eat too little and you’ll bonk—that is, run out of energy to finish your run. Too much and you’ll find yourself running to the bathroom. Midrun fuel—from sports drinks, gels, gummy bears, etc.—helps you sustain energy to finish the effort.
Before you run: To sustain energy, you need to eat something before any run lasting more than 60 minutes. Ideally, you should have a high-carb, low-fiber meal three to four hours before you plan to run. That time frame gives your body a chance to fully digest and reduces risk of midrun stomach issues. However, if you’re running in the morning, it’s not always possible to leave that much time between your meal and your run. If you have at least an hour before your workout, eat about 50 grams of carbs (that’s equal to a couple pancakes or waffles with syrup or a bagel with honey). If you’re doing a really long run, consider adding in a little protein, which will help sustain your energy levels. A PB&J sandwich or a hard-boiled egg are good choices.
.............. If you’re doing a really long run,
add some protein to sustain your energy levels.............
During your run: Taking in fuel—in the form of mostly carbohydrates—during training runs that exceed 60 minutes will help keep your blood sugar even and your energy levels high. Runners should consume about 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour of exercise (it’s best to spread that out over time intervals that work for you, such as every 20 minutes). You can get the right amount of carbs from sports drinks (16 ounces of Gatorade provides 28 grams of carbs), one to two energy gels (GU Energy Gels provide about 22 grams in one packet), or energy chews, like Clif Shot Bloks, which provide about 24 grams of carbs in a three-block serving. Real foods, like a quarter cup of raisins or two tablespoons of honey, also provide the right amount of easily digested carbs that will energize your run. Everyone’s tolerance for fuel is different, however, so the key is to find out what works for you during your training so you know what to take in on race day.