Some runners start a race with plenty of enthusiasm, run with maximum effort, pushing themselves through pain barriers only to end up in bad shape. It doesn’t have to be like that for you. This post details all you need to know before running a marathon.
A marathon is a full-body exercise for general health and well-being. Deciding to run a marathon is great, but if you’ve never run before or have not for a long time, you need to approach the sport the right way. How?
What to do before running a marathon
1. Schedule an appointment
It is tempting to get into your running shoes and hit the road to run a marathon. It is, however, highly advisable to visit your doctor for a general health check. You may feel fine, but underlying health problems could spring surprises.
Being fit does not equate to being healthy. Before you decide to run a marathon, schedule a visit to your physician and cardiologist to talk about the risk and benefits before hitting the road.
Your body is the most important equipment required to run a marathon and it’s only wise to ensure it’s in great shape. Knowing the basics of how it works will also enable you to become a better and smarter runner.
2. Train your muscles
The human body has about 650 muscles and runners use most of them. Your body contains three different types of muscle. You have the cardiac muscle, smooth muscle, and skeletal muscle, which includes all your running muscles.
Skeletal muscle accounts for more than one-third of your body mass. To run a marathon, you need to train those muscles to withstand the pressure of running long distances. Five main groups of muscles are used when running—quads, hamstrings, gluteals, hip flexors, and calf muscles.
Having a strong, well-coordinated body is essential for perfecting your technique. When it comes to training your running body, slower is faster. If you run too hard, you’d likely have an injury, fall ill or burnout. If you’re a beginner and you want to run a marathon, it’s better to start with walking long distances and then adding speed.
How to train your muscles
- Brisk walking
Brisk Walking helps to prepare muscle spindles for longer strides. Begin with 10 – 15 minutes and then gradually increase to at least 30 minutes.
Beginners who are ready for the next phase and experienced runners who have taken a break should go for jog workouts. Jogging should be at a comfortable pace. As soon as your breathing increases noticeably, slow down to a walk. Do this for about 30 minutes
- Easy run
An easy run means running at a light pace. Before you run hard, you need to ensure that your muscles are strong enough to endure more intense training. Your workout should last about 40 minutes.
- Easy distance run
This is an extension of easy running. It is above jogging but you shouldn’t be breathing so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation with a running partner
3. Build your tissues
Connective tissue connects your body’s muscles, organs, blood vessels, nerves and other parts to one another. Put simply, it is the glue that holds you together. Connective tissues adapt more slowly to exercise than muscles so it’s crucial to not injure the tissues.
Once you damage your connective tissue, it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to undo. A good set of bones requires a constant and adequate supply of protein, phosphorus, vitamin K, magnesium and fluoride. The following foods are great sources.
- Soy products
- Canned sardines
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
- Spinach or broccoli
- Orange juice
- Wheat bran
You should drink enough water before you run. To do this, drink 500mls – 1 litre of water between 60 – 90 minutes before setting off time. This allows time for the body to excrete excess fluid and avoid fluids sloshing about in your stomach while running.
Also, carry a bottle along with you and sip at regular intervals. Your running performance deteriorates when you are dehydrated, so it is vital to drink enough water throughout the day. Counter the diuretic effects of coffee and tea with an extra glass of water.
5. Load on carbohydrates
To run a marathon, you need carbs. Avoiding or not eating enough causes decreased strength and sluggish runs. Carbohydrates fuel training efforts. Try to maintain a daily consumption of about 9g of carbohydrates per 1kg of your body weight in the days leading to the race.
When you eat carbohydrates, any of the glucose that is not immediately used for energy is stored in your muscles and liver as a substance called glycogen. Glycogen provides the body with easily accessible energy when you exercise.
Once you use up your glycogen, you may suddenly experience extreme fatigue. To avoid this, make sure you are properly fueled before the race and top up with sports drinks if necessary.
Considerations before running a marathon:
● Embark on at least an 8-week training program which consists of stretching exercises, resistance training and running workouts. Incorporate practice races into your program so you can work on your pace and strategy.
● Avoid overtraining as this will be counterproductive. Each time you overload your body, it needs time to recover, adapt, and rebuild. Over-training weakens the body and leads to an accumulation of fatigue.
Eventually, you will burn out or suffer an injury. Persistent muscular and joint pain, insomnia, lack of appetite and decreasing body weight, frequent injuries and decreased performance are all signs that you’re pushing things too hard.
● Take a break from running for a week between your training and your run. In this transition period, rest completely or cross-train. Cross-training includes any form of training that improves your fitness, performance, or recovery that isn’t running.
● If you’re new to distance running, consider running a half-marathon first.
Your race approach
Whether you’re running a marathon to complete a specific distance, compete for a medal, or simply to share the community experience, you’ll need a strategy. The best way to achieve this is to plan a realistic strategy and pace, then follow through during the race.
Working out your pace, setting a target, and then sticking to it is a smart way to ensure that you achieve your planned race time because it will help you conserve your energy. Running too fast, too soon, can lead to a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles and a sense of fatigue before you’ve even had a chance to get into stride.
With a proper race approach, you can prepare your body and mind for race day. All that’s left is to run.