Running a marathon (or half marathon for that matter) is no easy feat. Can you imagine having to run for 42 kilometers (26.2 miles) or 21 kilometres (half marathon) in one go? Wow, right? Well, if you’re used to running then you know it is do-able, but if you’re fairly new to the running scene, it would be best if you gave yourself time to train and prepare for the big event.
If you’re prepping for your 1st marathon – or long distance run – here are some tips to remember:
1. Have a training programme
Obviously, you need to train for your long-distance run – more than speed, you need to increase your endurance. Start slow. Run 3-4 times a week, gradually increasing your long-run by a mile each week. Continue to build up the distance until you are able to run a significant distance at a slow and even pace - about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower than your long-distance run pace. Ideally, you would finish your training run tired, but with enough energy to push on a bit more.
Begin by increasing your long run by only one mile each week. Continue to build this way until your long run is up to 12 miles at a slow and even pace. This pace should be one-and-a-half to two minutes a mile slower than your 10K race pace. Finish feeling that even though you’re tired, you could have gone further if you had to.
2. Prioritise your “Long Runs”
Your training programme (especially if it’s been prepared by a coach) will include “long runs” which – as the name suggests, runs which are longer than your regular weekly bouts. If you’re planning to run a full marathon, you should (in your 20-week training period prior to the big event) have completed at at least two 20-mile runs. Why should you focus on your long-runs? Because these are the runs that build your stamina.
3. Eat and Drink Properly
One thing you must remember while training for a long-distance run is that you should eat properly and keep yourself hydrated. While training, include a lot of complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, nuts, fruits, seeds and grains in your daily diet as these food items increase the glycogen supply in your body. For long distance runners, your endurance is only as good as the level of glycogen in you the body. If you don’t have enough glycogen, you’ll end up feeling quite exhausted before you finish the race.
In addition to consuming complex carbohydrates, you should remember to always hydrate. While training, and most especially during the event itself. If you can run with a water pack, do so. Otherwise, take advantage of what is available during the run. Water stations are usually set at three-mile intervals. Try not to pass up on the chance to drink water.
Finally – Have Fun!
Train with other runners, join a running group or club so you can have some moral support and encouragement (in case you need any), change your route, change your running schedule. Basically – just have fun. It’ll make your training for your first long-distance run a lot more enjoyable.