Like mariners drawn to a rocky shoreline by the enchanting sound of mermaids, many runners can’t resist the lure of the epic marathon. This spring, thousands of runners will line up across the country for a chance to experience the agony and ecstasy of running’s premiere event.
The marathon strips away pretenses and reveals truth. It’s merciless and unforgiving. If you have a chink in your armor, the marathon will find it. Nagging injuries, lack of sleep, poor diet, and inconsistent training can result in a terrible race experience.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare your body for 26.2 miles.
Mileage1 of 5
The first piece of the marathon training puzzle is mileage. For most runners, the marathon will be the longest run of their lives. A good training plan will build endurance over a period of months until a training run of 18-20 miles can be comfortably completed.
Your mileage will dwindle in the final weeks of training. This period, called the taper, helps your body recover and store fuel. On race day you'll be rested, confident, and eager to run.
Health2 of 5
The primary training goal of any marathon runner is to arrive at the starting line in good health. Even minor running injuries should receive your full attention. A therapeutic massage a couple of weeks before the race can help relax tight muscles and remove adhesions and knots that limit flexibility and performance.
Sleep is your number one recovery tool. If you're training for a marathon it should come as no surprise that you'll be tired all of the time. Try to get 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Marathon training is a great excuse for Sunday afternoon post-run naps.
Read more about why you should schedule your sleep.
Hunger3 of 5
The ravenous hunger of marathon runners is legendary. Bill Rodgers, 4-time winner of the Boston and New York City marathons admitted to eating chocolate-chip cookies, olives, pickles, potato chips and even mayonnaise straight from the jar to satisfy his enormous appetite during marathon training. There are definitely more nutritious foods to fuel your body, but don't feel guilty about eating more when ramping up your mileage.
Read more about managing your hunger.
Mental Strength4 of 5
The marathon is not simply a test of your physical endurance, it's also a test of mental fortitude and grit. To run a marathon, you must believe in yourself. Every long run builds a bit more confidence. For that reason, staying committed to your training as your long runs become even longer is paramount for reasons beyond physical benefit.
As coach Bill Squires once said "the long runs puts the tiger in the cat."
Read more about improving your mental toughness.