For losing weight and gaining fitness, few sports are as effective as running. It is also known to have a positive effect on mental health and the immune system, and many people see their complexions, anxiety levels and sleep patterns improve as a result of regular running. For anyone with a keen interest in running, the marathon represents a significant milestone – a life-changing achievement that marks a person out as a serious runner, able to take on of the toughest sporting challenges there is. Here is a brief outline of some of the things you will need to consider when preparing for a marathon. (image source: www.dailyrecord.co.uk)
The time factor
Most people only start to consider entering themselves for a full marathon after already taking part in a few 10km runs, or even a half-marathon. It will certainly help with your personal training if you start from a base in which you are comfortable running 10 km or further. Even then, you will still need to give yourself between 12 to 16 weeks to prepare for the marathon. This will involve running at least four times a week, including a long run at the weekend. Overall, this represents a considerable time commitment, so before entering a marathon make sure you will be able to afford the time needed to get yourself ready.
Stick to the plan
If possible, it is a good idea to train with someone else, or even in a group. Having others around you will help to spur you on, and reach faster times and greater lengths. It also helps to listen to other more experienced runners’ advice. For each week and month that you are in training, make a schedule of the runs that you will go on and stick to it. Remember, not every training run needs to be long distance; it helps to have sessions in which you work on your sprinting and hill climbing as well.
Go for brown
In order to be able to run long distances you will need to build up your body’s stores of glycogen – this is known as ‘carb loading’. In a recent webchat on RunnersWorld.co.uk, ASICS Pro Team Nutritionist Ruth McKean said that all meals taken during training should be based on wholegrain versions of carbohydrates like rice and pasta, as well as other carbs like potatoes and cereals. (http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/nutrition/marathon-nutrition-qanda-with-ruth-mckean/9409.html) Other general advice is to eat comparatively little but often, never skip any of the main meals, and to take in plenty of water. (Image source: www.mlive.com)
Running a long distance like a marathon requires mental as well as physical strength. As you reach the final third, and your legs really to start to feel the strain, it can be very difficult to go on if you haven’t conditioned your mind to prevent you from ‘hitting the wall’. According to Stuart Holliday, a Sport Psychology researcher at the University of Central Lancashire, “not only should you try and work at your speed, distance and physical conditioning, training runs should be used to sharpen up mental strategies in preparation for the race day.”
Keep on running
At over 26 miles, there is no doubt that this race is a huge challenge, and an incredible achievement. Reaching the finish the line of your first marathon, you are likely to feel a sense of elation, and relief, quite unlike anything else. Providing you have planned your training properly, taken care to eat the right things and prepared your mind as well as your body, there is every chance your first marathon will be something you can proud of for the rest of your life.