Runners have plunged headlong into the longer distances. With numbers for marathon finishes hitting a record-high 518,000 in 2011 and still a whopping 487,000 in 2012, it's becoming more and more common for runners new to the sport to make their debut race a half or even full marathon. Not to be overlooked, the 13.1-mile distance has actually overtaken the marathon in being the fastest-growing distance of choice across the nation.
This enthusiasm is wonderful for our sport, but there are some things that newer runners can overlook by skipping past the more traditional 5K/10K race progression. When training for and racing a half or full marathon, keep the following six key elements in mind.
New runners who jump straight past the shorter races miss out on building up their speed. Some runners neglect speedwork all together, and focus merely on volume. Even for a marathon, you want to include some faster-paced interval training. Including 200- and 400-meter intervals in your training works on your leg turnover, and gets you accustomed to running fast.
The faster you can race, say a mile, the "easier" your marathon pace will feel comparatively. Come race day, you don't want your marathon pace to be anywhere near your top-end speed.
Rule of 10
The other problem that comes with being too volume-focused is injuries. Jumping up in mileage too quickly will often leave new runners hurt; that's where the rule of 10 comes in. Only increase your total weekly mileage by 10 percent each week.
For example, if you're comfortably running 30 miles one week, bump your total miles for the next week to 33. The next week you can safely add another 3 to 4 miles, and so forth. Spread those miles out across the days and be sure that after your hard workouts and long runs, you follow up with either a rest day or an easy recovery run.