BUCKET LIST... Number 1: Run A Marathon

By Susan S. Paul, MS Training Program Director for Track Shack Fitness Club

Running a marathon is a popular Bucket List item for many people. Why, you ask? Because running a marathon is no small feat. According to recent statistics, only half of one percent of the population has run a marathon. Some even say running a marathon is life-changing and I would agree, with this caveat: It is not crossing the finish line that changes you, it is getting to the start line that changes you. It is the journey rather than the destination that fosters change. 

Marathon training can change you. If you are considering running a marathon, here’s how to assess your readiness for training: 

1. How long have you been running? In general, before training for the marathon distance, you should have been running consistently for at least one year; preferably two years. Running consistently provides a base level of fitness conditioning that helps prepare you for long-distance training. This prior running conditioning makes increasing mileage easier on your body and reduces your risk of injury. Running conditions our heart and lungs; and toughens our bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles which allows us to pound the pavement for longer miles. If you’ve already run for a year or two you may have participated in some shorter distance races, like a 5k or 10k, that will give you some idea of what a longer race is like. 

2. What’s your current weekly mileage? There are a wide variety of training plans available for the marathon distance. There are plans for the novice runner to the advanced marathoner. Pick your plan wisely! More importantly, remember 12 to 16-week marathon training plans assume you already run 20 miles a week, with a long weekly run of 8-10 miles. If you run less than 20 miles a week choose a plan that is at least 20-24 weeks which will give you the proper base miles. 

3. Are you injury-free? If you have any aches or pains, recurring injuries, or old sports injuries think twice before beginning your training. Check with your health care professional before beginning any exercise program, but particularly before beginning a marathon training plan. Discuss your marathon plans with your doctor and consider having a physical before you begin training. A physical can provide you and your doctor with some interesting metrics to keep tabs on during your training like blood pressure; resting heart rate; cholesterol levels; triglycerides; weight; and blood sugar levels. These should improve with training, so it can be motivating to follow the numbers during the training process. If you have an injury or suffer from recurring injuries, consider addressing those issues before beginning your training. This means following a structured strength building and flexibility program or getting physical therapy. Everyone should consider using a training plan that includes cross-training. For example, run 3 days a week and cross-train 2 or 3 days a week. Swimming and cycling, are non-weight bearing and will improve your aerobic endurance while weight training can improve your muscular strength and yoga, Pilates, or stretch classes that can help with muscular flexibility. 

4. Do you have the right gear? Number one on your gear list is the correct shoe. Be sure to have a shoe fitting by a Track Shack professional so you start your training in the right shoe for you.  Having the right sports bra and tech clothing is important for those long training miles too. Tech clothing wicks away moisture and keeps you cooler (or warmer, as the case may be!) and much more comfortable than cotton for training. If you like to track numbers, a GPS watch is very handy for measuring mileage, run pace, and heart rate. Be prepared to periodically replace your gear; especially your shoes which should be replaced every 250 to 350 miles. 

5. Will your lifestyle support your  training? Marathon training is a big commitment. Training often means running in the very early morning hours to get the miles in before work or other commitments. Early morning runs mean early evenings for most runners; early to bed, early to rise! So, your training may lead to a whole different lifestyle that may affect those close to you. Another consideration is your work life: do you travel often? Are there busy times of the year? Will you be able to fit in your training around your work? Timing your marathon training and goal race around important business trips, family time, or other busy times of the year is best when possible. No one said marathon training was going to be easy but, hopefully this assessment will help you determine if you are ready for the commitment. Having a support system is always helpful, so if you are looking for community, goals, friendship, and coaching, group training can help you achieve your goals!  Track Shack Fitness is proud to offer a variety of Training Programs to assist you along your journey to attaining better health and fitness. 

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