The Ins and Outs of Marathon Running

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Tips for Surviving a Marathon
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What you need to know before you consider running a marathon

One of the most respected types of athletes is the marathon runner. Even other athletes are often astounded at how someone can run non-stop for over 26 miles.

Whether it's for a personal feeling of accomplishment, health, a love of running or some other reason, you need to prepare yourself before attempting to run your first marathon. You need to know that marathon running requires more than simply a love of running and the right running apparel. You need preparation and time.

Training Schedule

Some recommend that an inexperienced runner begin training for a marathon six to seven months before the event, others say you shouldn't attempt it unless you've been an avid runner for over a year.

Whatever the case, running a marathon is not something to take lightly. It is certainly not something you can do with a month or two of training. You need to prepare properly and that takes months. The general line of thinking is that you should start off with smaller amounts, running three days a week and gradually working your way up.

Start off with a 5k or roughly 3 mile jog.  Work that up to 10k, or around 6 miles. Once you're up to 10k, you can start working to increase your speed, progressing in small increments. You should not make any dramatic increases to speed and only around a 10 percent increase in distance each week.

Generally trainers will tell you to stick with 10k or less during the week and only do longer runs once a week on weekends. Over weekends, slowly work your way up until you can consistently achieve 16 to 18 mile runs. You should complete a 20 mile run at least two or three times before the marathon, but the last one should be around a month before the race.

During the final month you should begin tapering back and running less in each run.  Cut it down around 25% each week.  Do not do any long runs (half a marathon or longer) the last couple of weeks beforehand.  Don't run at all the last few days.  This gives your body time to fully heal itself from the months of intensive training and allows your body to prepare itself for the big run.


You need to eat properly for this training. You should be on a low fat diet, but that doesn't mean a no-fat diet. Fats are essential and you should still have some, just not much. Take in plenty of complex carbohydrates and a sufficient amount of protein. Pasta and nuts are common, especially sunflower seeds. The carbs will give you energy stores and the protein will keep you from losing too much muscle mass while you train.

Try not to start eating any kind of new foods anytime near the race. Your body needs to be fully adjusted and know exactly what to expect from you when it comes time to run the race.

Be sure to eat the day before the race, but don't gorge yourself or overdo it. Also, have a banana just before the race and during the race if offered. The potassium will help more than you think.

Take Your Time

It's not a race! Well, okay it is a race, but if you're a beginner it's not about getting a good time. It's about finishing. Don't worry about keeping up or being in front at the beginning or anything like that.  Keep a smooth, even pace and don't overdo it. The idea is to finish, not to beat anyone else.

Most people start off too fast, so try to keep your pace slow at the beginning of the race so some of that energy will be saved for later. One way to slow it down in the beginning is to be near the back of the crowd. There are so many people running in a marathon that it takes a good while to actually get started, and then the ones at the back are forced to go very slowly as the ones in front of them begin to spread out.

Being near the back will force a slower pace on you at the beginning of the race. It may feel like you're going too slowly and you want to go faster, but that's a good thing.

Later on you'll find yourself passing plenty of people who were in front of you, even though you haven't sped up. They've run out of energy and hit a wall, while you've saved up. In marathon running as the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.

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