Movies usually portray training for a marathon one of two ways. First is putting a gorgeous woman on the screen in designer training gear running along a coast line with theme music playing. The second is a bulky guy with a “body builder physique” running up the side of a mountain then dramatically letting out a Tarzan like victory scream once he gets to the top. There are several different ways to train for a marathon but unfortunately most of them don’t consist of the above scenarios.
Marathon running might be all about about muscular and cardiovascular endurance, however its all about the training prior to the event that matters. Most of the time pure ability won’t get you over that line in first position.
A very important thing to take into accounts is the elements. Being a purely outdoor event, marathon runners face the elements. Heat, cold, rain, wind and other forces of nature can create a big mental barrier on a runner of any calibre. Really the only way to prepare yourself for these natural enemies is to train outside in preparation for the race. However, there are some amazingly simple short cuts that can be taken in this process. Take wind for example, a great way to teach yourself to run into strong winds is to do Parachute Runs. Attaching a resistance parachute to yourself and running (either on a flat surface, up a hill or both) will simulate the extra resistance that marathon runners face while running against the wind.
Training intensity is another topic that must be taken into careful consideration. Intensity must be increased gradually over time. If you start your training only being able to run 3km without stopping, there is no point running a half marathon length in one training session. Intensity in marathon training is all about pushing limits. Set yourself a goal of how far you can run in 45 minutes. Once you hit that goal, set yourself another goal that’s even higher and start working towards it. As your results get better, so will your chances of finishing that marathon strongly.
When people decide that they want to run a marathon they usually stop weights training thinking that its only going to be a hindrance. This is not necessarily true, lightweight resistance training can benefit long distance runners more than you would think. Endurance training through weights will increase your muscular endurance. This, accompanied with cardiovascular fitness will be the key to your running success.
The reason most people stop doing anything is usually due to a lack of motivation. For an activity like long distance running, this is especially important. The voices in your head get very loud in an endurance event telling you that you cant do it. Without a very strong motivation or inspiration source it can be easy to give in to your subconscious. One way of keeping yourself motivated is to train with a training partner, a training partner can give a runner a sense of urgency to pick up their game as to not let their partner down. If you still struggle to keep yourself on track try material motivation. If you’ve been looking at those new Nike Airs, cute heels, suit, etc; let that be your source of motivation. If you complete the marathon in the time you were aiming for you will treat yourself by going out and getting that item that you have been wanting for ages but couldn’t justify.
The Day Before
When you come to the day before the actual race, make sure you have packed everything the night before. You will sleep better that night knowing that everything is ready and that you wont have to worry about forgetting anything and consequently running late. Right there is your last stress reliever before the big day. The day of the event, remember to have a decent sized breakfast. Even if you don’t feel like it at the time, you will need the energy. Low GI carbohydrates would be ideal to have 1-2 hours before the race as it releases energy at a lower but more consistent and longer rate than High GI carbs.
During The Event
During the event, remember to eliminate those voices telling you that you are struggling. Get into a rhythm and stick to it. Sometimes singing songs in your head can help to minimise your perception of exertion. If you are going to drink any “performance enhancing drinks” such as Powerade and Gatorade, make sure that you have a source of water nearby to flush your mouth out afterwards to avoid your mouth getting sticky and uncomfortable.
When you finally see the last straight before the finish line make sure you turn on the after burners. By the end of the race your Creatine-Phosphate levels should be reasonably replenished, use this to your advantage and power through the last straight and over the finish line leaving nothing out there on the racing track.
After the Race
Once you have finished your race make sure that you eat something and slowly increase your fluid intake. It is crucial to not drastically increase your fluid intake over a short amount of time but more so slowly over the afternoon. Your body will need some time to recover, make sure you give yourself enough recovery time after the event but also between training sessions in your preparation for the race. Once you feel like your body has fully recovered from the marathon, look for another one in your state. Chances are you’ll have just enough time to start the entire process again.
Good luck with your training and happy running from the Australian Institute of Fitness.