Posted by: Joe Nuss on Nov 08, 2011
By Dr. Angelina Stevens
Anyone can run 20 miles. It’s the final 6.2 miles that will test your sanity. More people are running marathons than ever before, including your pregnant neighbor and your grandma. This past October, a 27-year-old gave birth to a baby girl seven hours after crossing the finish line of the Chicago Marathon. A 92-year-old woman finished the 2010 Honolulu marathon in just under 10 hours.
Not only are more of us running, but we are running faster! Many of us who were trying to qualify for the 2011 Boston found we had to wait until next year as this year's race filled in eight minutes.
So whether you are a tried-and-true marathon maniac or running 26.2 for the first time, heed these marathon-running and -training tips to make sure your 20-mile marker is not the beginning of a slow death march.
Start Off Super Slow
I have never heard anyone say they started a marathon out too slow. Most of us will give in to the nervous energy on the start line and rip off four or five miles faster than we have ever run in our lives. A good rule of thumb is if you think you are running slow in the beginning, slow down a little more. You will need to draw on this conserved energy at mile 20 of the race. This applies to your training runs as well. If you burn rubber out of the starting gate, your reserve tank will be empty when you need it most.
Follow a Super-Healthy Diet
Training for a marathon is another stress on your body. Rather than using your mileage as a junk-food ticket, eat simply and healthfully to reduce digestive stress from heavy meat proteins, dairy, saturated fats and refined carbs and alcohol. High antioxidants from colorful fruits and veggies neutralize free radicals produced during long runs.
Early morning caffeine can increase starting line anxiety and cause dehydration and leg cramps later in the race. Lately, I have been saving my caffeine buzz for later in the race, when energy and concentration levels have tanked. Beware of taking Nsaids before or during the marathon. They can alter blood flow to the kidneys and cause dehydration as well as tax the liver.
Follow a Balanced Training Plan
I am less concerned with the running plan and more concerned with the overall life plan during the 16- to 18-week training period. Every running program has its basic structure but it is what you do when you are not logging miles that will help you recover and avoid getting injured. My personal marathon plan components include: ice baths after hard workouts, strength training, stretching and foam rolling, cross training (swim, bike, yoga) and a lot of good sleeping and eating. I also get weekly adjustments, along with acupuncture, energy work and massage every two to three weeks.
Create a Race Day Plan
The race plan is your personal visualization for how you want the race to go. I like breaking the marathon into segments of 10. I run the first 10 minutes slow, then break the race up into 10k, 10-mile, half-way, 20-mile, and last 5k. Figure out what you are going to eat and drink during the race and what supplements you will need to take and when. Wear comfortable clothes that do not bind or get in the way of your stride.
Roll With It, Baby
The marathon will bring out all levels of emotions, feelings and bodily sensations known to (wo)man. Mindset and emotions can make or break our performance so it is good to go into race day with a “game on” attitude. One of my best girlfriends’ advice is, “Let the easy miles be easy.” In other words, relax and let the easy miles roll by and don’t stress about what is to come.
As in life, during the marathon, you are going to go through some ups and downs. If you start to feel bad, first try eating or drinking something and walking for 10-20 seconds. My mantra, “This too will pass,” can be repeated while focusing on breathing in and out.
During your race, take time to remember why it is you run. Give gratitude to your incredible body and your loved ones that helped you make it to the start line. Running will push your limits like no other sport because it is all about you, your body and your mind. The love of this challenge and the journey on our two feet makes this love-hate relationship feel like it was meant to be.
See you at the finish line.
Top 5 Marathon Mistakes
- Overtrain or run injured
- Try something new during the race
- Run the first 13 miles like a bobcat is chasing you
- Listen to anyone else’s training plan and let it influence you
- Think you are almost done at mile 23
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