GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO PREPARE! You can just wake up one day and be like "Hey, I am going to run a marathon in 4 weeks". That's nuts! You can't do that. Your body needs to change and it requires time. It is generally recommended that a newbie should give himself a time of at least 6 months (best if it’s a year). Before attempting a half or full marathon, it is smart to have attempted 3k/5k/10k a couple of times to get the feel of the sport and understand your body. An intermediate or advanced athlete should invest at least 16-18 weeks training before they plan to run.
Recommended days of training
- Half marathon - 3 to 4 days/week
- Full marathon- 4 to 5 days/week
Know your Cadence:
Cadence is a term associated to running and it means 'steps/strides per minute. This can be measured using a metronome device. The recommended cadence for a good run is ranging between 170 - 180 steps per minute. This can be achieved by targeting a pace of 3 steps per second. Cadence is not just a number but it has real world significance. By maintaining a good cadence (recommended range of 170- 180steps/min), you also make sure that you stay injury free. The reason being, the time of contact of your feet with the ground is considerably reduced and thereby reduces the time of reaction force from the ground.
Your body should be upright, eyes looking forward and not on the ground, the point of contact of your feet with the ground should be your mid sole and your body should be relaxed, not stiff. Remember, this is a long distance endurance running and not sprinting. The running form that you see sprinters use is a different science altogether. Do not try to copy them.
From crawling on all fours to walking to running, we evolve in our physical abilities just as a function of nature. From a baby to a child who can now run at his top speed, is no interference of a fitness lifestyle that assists us to be more functional and stronger. As we grow up, it becomes increasingly challenging to lead a healthy and fit life.
Marathon is one such athletic sport that requires peak level of fitness and of course a heart to complete. Millions of people around the globe run marathon. Some run a 3K, 5k and scaling up to 42k.
Everybody has a different reason to do a marathon. Upon doing a survey among a small group of marathoners locally, we realized that there are people who run a marathon with the hope of losing weight, some want to get fit while some people are passionate runners and just want to finish the race. But there are some who are competitive and aspire to win the race.
Let me start off by telling you guys that marathon is not for you to lose weight. If you are just running endless hours without giving your nutrition, strength training and recovery much importance, you are not getting fit as well. Research has proven that a lot of endurance work is counterproductive.
But, is there a better way to train for a marathon without doing your body much of a damage? Yes! Science finds it way into everything known to mankind. Let's go step by step and understand how an elite marathoner does it.
A lot of marathoners either don’t know about this or they completely overlook the fact that a weight training regimen can do wonders to your overall performance in a marathon. It can improve your body composition and keeps your metabolism good. But, is that all? Not really. Weight training is your shield that protects you from getting injured. Our skeletal system is supported by the muscular system and hence the name given to it- musculoskeletal system.
With each stride that comes in contact with the ground while running, our body experiences anywhere between 2-3 times of body weight worth reaction force from the ground. That much force can easily injure us if the muscular system is not well trained and developed as the bones alone aren't capable of withstanding such impact. Weight training also helps maximize muscle volume which helps you store more glycogen to be used as fuel.
IDEAL WEIGHT FOR MARATHON?
There are various sources that recommend a certain weight range but we believe if your body composition is good, weight barely matters. One should always aim at being lean if planning to run a marathon as the sport demands a lot of endurance work and has recurring impact from the ground. Heavier the person (read fatter), more is the risk of injury. If you are overweight or obese, give yourself the time to improve your body composition and then start your marathon training.
On training days you should aim to consume at least your maintenance calories. Protein intake should be set at around 1g per pound of body weight, 30-50gms fats and remaining calories coming from carbohydrates. Before the days you plan to do a long run, load at least 7-8g carbohydrates per kg of lean body weight. This is applicable to the final 2-3 days of race as well.
Race day nutrition:
This is the day you have been dripping sweat for! Things have to be just nothing less than perfect for you to finish the race strong. It is recommended that you have a meal with some complex carbs and protein at least 2-3 hours before your race. 1 hour before your race, drink at least 0.5 liters of water. Just before the race drink around 2 cups of water and during the race keep sipping your intra run drink. Intra run drink must ideally consist of electrolytes and simple sugars to replenish the lost electrolytes and glycogen. Every 10kms you should have a carb rich drink like dextrose/glucose/etc to give your body readily available source of fuel to burn.
Rest and recovery:
After finishing the marathon, feed your body some calories majorly coming from carbs and protein. You could also add a little fats to this meal. Give your body enough time to rest and recover. Take at least 2 weeks off from training and invest time in therapies such as a deep tissue massage, ice bath etc to initiate recovery. It is also recommended that you consume enough antioxidants post race weeks to buffer the free radical damage in your body.