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How to run a Marathon

Running long distances can be challenging, but running a Marathon is a totally different ball game. So how do you prepare for a marathon? And how do you deal with the marathon during the race?

When I started running I thought 10K was an amazing distance to run. Still now when I do a training run, even though it’s not uncommon for me to run 10K, it still seems like a great distance to run. Now a marathon is more than 4 times that. Running 42.2 km is an amazing achievement and is a gruelling distance to run. So how do you prepare for that?

Number one, the biggest thing you need to do to prepare, is training. You need to train and work at it to be able to run that distance. Now this might seem obvious, but still I meet people that say: “O, it’s just a mind of matter thing, you just keep running and make yourself get to that finish line.” And yes, there have been people that ran the distance without much training, but this is an exception to the rule, not the majority. If you don’t train and your body says: “I’m not going any further”, your mind can want to go on all it wants, but your body will stop you from going one way or another. So you have to make sure you prevent this.

So we train, we build up our long runs, do strength exercises and work our way to being comfortable running for longer periods of time.

To start out you want to see what your starting point is, you need to calibrate, see what distance is comfortable for you to run and start building up from that. This could be 5K or 15K, whatever it is you need to start adding distance to your runs slowly from that point and keep adding every time you are comfortable running a longer distance.

You also need to alternate your training runs. Don’t only go for long runs, you want to mix it up by doing Fartlek runs or interval runs or just do a shorter distance at a faster pace. This is good to work on your speed, but it also mixes things up so it doesn’t get boring, you are less likely to overdo it during your training and it will help you to stay clear of injuries.

When you are well prepared for your marathon it can be and most likely still is a tough race. A marathon is not just a physical challenge, but a mental challenge as well. It’s a long distance to run, your body will want you to stop running at some point, but you’re prepared, you’ve trained and you can do this, so visualise yourself getting to the finish and know that when you start this race you will be done in a couple of hours with a medal around your neck.

To give you the best experience during your race, make sure you have good gear. This goes for everything you wear and everything you cary with you. Keep everything light and comfortable. Make sure you wear good shoes and don’t wear anything you’ve never worn before. You don’t want to be half way through your race and find out that the tag in your shorts is cutting in your back or the chafing of your new shirt is causing discomfort during your run.

That being said, there are some things you might not notice during your training runs, but after a much longer distance it might become an issue. chafing issues will become worse the longer the run lasts. I normally don’t have any problems with this, but after 42km it can really start hurting between my legs or my arms. So to help with this you can use something like Body glide, this takes away the irritation and makes it a lot more pleasant after the race.

Don’t start out too fast on your race. I know this is a problem for me a lot of times, specially when I start at the front of my wave. You should try to start out at the right pace so you can keep up that pace and sustain it for the entire distance.

Drink water during the race. Now you might not drink anything during your training runs, but this also may be something you need to train. At first I couldn’t drink while I ran either, I felt the fluids slosh around and it was uncomfortable, but especially for longer distances, you’re body needs the fluids. I normally take the water and power drinks they offer at the race. Most marathons will have plenty of water stations, so I don’t cary my own water with me. I do bring energy gels and make sure I refuel during my run. You might be out there 3, 4 maybe 7 hours on your run, your body is going to want to refuel, so make sure you account for that and bring something that you know works well for you. For this also goes, don’t try something new on race day.

It’s a race and you might want to get to that finish as fast as you can, but there is no shame in taking a walking break once and a while if you need it. Specially if your race day ends up being during a really hot day, make sure you don’t overdo it and get overheated. Better to take a walk break and lose a minute of time during your race than to collapse from heat stroke and not be able to finish the race at all.

Those mile markers on the side of the road can have a psychological effect on your race. When you see a sign that says 28K it can make you think of how much that is and how far you still have to go. A thing I do during my race is I count up half way and count down the second half. The first half of the race you’re still feeling good, so that you have a lot ahead doesn’t matter. Once you get half way you count down and it’s only 20K left, only 15, only 10K. You know you can run 10K that is that ‘easy’ training run now. 8K 6K 5K, running a 5K is that short run you do when you don’t have much time, but still want to get a run in. So you’re almost done. It just sounds a lot better then I’ve done 37K already and still have to do 5. Now the distance is the same, but thinking about it in a more positive way I find helps during the race.

Positive thinking goes a long way, so focus on getting to that finish line, see yourself crossing it and receiving your medal. Don’t give up, just keep going. You’ve trained for this, you’ve got this and you will make it to the finish line.

You are probably not finishing the marathon in 2 hours, very few people can. You might have set a time goal for yourself or maybe you just want to finish the race. Most important thing is that you train for your race, that you are prepared to run the marathon. Then all you can do is your best and push yourself to reach the goal you set for yourself.


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