Tag Archives: training - Page 2

Meet My Personal Trainer: Muna Rodriguez

Why do I have a personal trainer if I am already an expert in my sport of choice?  Good question!

I have made so much progress in the last 4 years.

  • I have gone from an occasional runner, to a racer, to often winning my age group.
  • I have gone from barely finishing a marathon to qualifying for Boston by more than 11 minutes.
  • I have gone from unhealthy eating habits to a very healthy lifestyle.
  • I have published two books on running.  (well, the 2nd one will be out soon!)

Why would I seek help?  Because I am smart.

Michael Jordan had team coaches AND a personal coach even when he was clearly the best player in the game.  He wanted to work on his weaknesses.  He wanted to turn his weaknesses into strengths and elevate the level of his existing strengths.  The same is true with many people at the top of their sports.  Peyton and Eli Manning hired a special coach this summer to sharpen their skills as quarterbacks even though they are proven winners. Top golfers have coaches to improve their swings and caddies to help them to the next level.

Me too.  I want help getting to the next level.

I pay attention to the advice of two particular dieticians because I want my body and mind to be the best they can be.  I read the books of other running experts to gain additional insights, add to my own understanding, and improve myself as a runner and a running expert.

I am now listening to the advice of a personal trainer, Muna Rodriguez.

Muna understands a lot of important things that help people at all levels of fitness.

me and muna 8_18_2013

  • Muna understands what is like to be very out of shape.  She struggled with her weight as well as having a few bad habits that hurt her health.
  • Muna understands what it is like to improve.  Over time, she lost the extra weight and gradually became a competitive athlete as well as a well-respected personal trainer and fitness instructor.
  • Muna understand how to coach others into fitness.  As a personal trainer, she holds many different types of certifications and continues to educate herself.  She has helped many people to improve the next level of fitness.

There is more to say, but the most important thing to know is that I trust her expertise.  She is an excellent personal trainer.  She knows how to find an individuals weaknesses and how to overcome those weaknesses.

I know.  Since I started working with her, Muna has pointed out several weak spots in my overall fitness.  I am just at the beginning of this phase of my journey, but I am looking forward to making it to the next level as a runner because Muna is challenging me in ways that will help me become even stronger and faster.

I have my sights set on several state age-group records.  By identifying my weaknesses, and helping me to turn them into strengths, Muna is going to help me get to that next level.

As always, I will share with you what I have learned and the stories behind my progress.

Muna Rodriguez will also begin to share her stories and advice on this web site. 

Feel free to ask a question of Muna and/or me any time.  We are coaches and fellow runners.  We love this stuff, but we also know what it means to struggle.   We want to help you meet your goals.  :)

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12

My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013

 

running form 7_25_2013

Putting the Stopwatch Away: Running Bliss

I’m putting my stopwatch away.  Not forever, mind you.  I will get it out for track workouts a couple of times each month.  Other than that, I don’t want to know.  I run for fun.  I run because I enjoy running.  Paying attention to the stopwatch is sometimes fun, but more often than not it has been the source of stress and disappointment.  This was not the case a few months ago.  I have trained for two marathon in the last two years and my times at all distances are gradually improving.  All of that was done ignoring the stopwatch and enjoying the run.

stopwatchSo how did I get into this negative cycle of setting my sights too high and having them torn apart by the reality of the stopwatch?  Success.  I have not won anything recently (not in the last 25 years), but my times have steadily gone down.  In large races, I am now “in the hunt” for age-group glory.  I may be 46, but I am kind of fast for a 46 year old.  I have gotten close a few times and started craving more success.  Worse than that, I started craving it faster.  I want it now!  This is NOT a healthy mindset.  It is not the kind of thinking that allows for enjoying a good long run.

I am going back to:  “Enjoy the run and the results will come.”  This is what brought the meager success that I have had recently.  I will still wear my stopwatch at the track and try to get faster, but not on the long runs.  Not on the pace runs and tempo runs.  Not on the hill training.  No.  I will listen to my body.  I will enjoy the freedom that running offers.  I will bask in runner’s high.  I will run with friends and family without pushing too hard.

I still expect to get faster, albeit very gradually.  If the results don’t get drastically better over time, then so be it.  At least I will have enjoyed the ride.

Happy Running!

Park

Health and Exercise vs. Fitness and Training

There is a significant difference between concepts of health and fitness.  Health refers to the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being.  A healthy person tends to live longer and have a higher quality of life than an unhealthy person.  It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and healthy eating are two critical parts of being healthy.  Your sense of humor and your stress management techniques are also critical features of overall health.

sprintingFitness, on the other hand, is not about general health.  Fitness is about the level of fit that your body has in relationship to a specific task or set of tasks.  The measures of fitness for a baseball pitcher are quite different than the measures of fitness for an offensive lineman in football.  There will most certainly be overlap, but there is a big difference between extremely fit players in these contexts.  If you try to place a baseball pitcher on the offensive line, you are likely to end up with an injured pitcher.  He is fit for one task and not fit for the other.

Everyone should have the goal of being healthy.  As a runner, however, you want to make sure that you are fit for the task of meeting your running goals.  This requires all of the aspects of general health, but also includes running-specific measures of fitness:

  • How fast can you run a mile?
  • Are your core  and hip muscles strong enough to stabilize you during a run?
  • If you plan to run a marathon, have you practiced processing your calorie intake quickly and efficiently?
  • Can you maintain a certain pace for a certain distance?

The specifics of your goals will help you determine the measures of fitness that you should be tracking.  Your training should keep you healthy, but it should also move you towards measuring up to the specific fitness to the tasks set forth in your goals.  Accordingly, you can’t just exercise and expect to move towards your fitness goals.  Swimming is good cross-training, but will never replace specific training runs in moving towards your specific running goals.

Stay healthy.
Set goals.
Determine your level of fitness.
Train to improve your health and your fitness.

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Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!

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The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

A Word to the Newbie Runner

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
                                                              –   George Sheehan

I recently sent out a message on Twitter asking what questions my fellow runners had.  I received a few interesting topics that I will blog about, but this one struck me.  The tweet from Tricia was this:

 @Wise_Running “what i want to know is how to start from scratch at 40yr old woman”

I followed up by asking, “When is the last time you ran 1 mile?  2 miles?  more?”

Tricia responded, “ummm….. college 20 yrs ago :0) I walk couple miles day and elliptical – I really did mean from scratch (correct shoes etc)”.

Wow!  That is a big request.  Moreover, this is an absolutely critical juncture for Tricia.  She wants to transition from a walker to a runner.  Her experience in the next month or two will determine whether she likes running or not.  No pressure, right?

So here it is.  This blog post is for all of the newbie runners out there.

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Step 1:  Realize Who You Are

You become a runner when you take that first bouncy step, that first longer stride.  You don’t have to be fast.  You don’t have to run forever.  If you start running, you are a runner.  Welcome to the club. :)

Step 2:  Get Good Shoes

Running can feel torturous if you have the wrong shoes.  Do not begin any serious attempt at running until you have shoes designed for running.  Everyone has different needs, but I will not leave it at that.  Go to your nearest running store.  Do not go to a sporting goods store, a department store, or a discount store.  Go to your nearest running store.  The workers there run.  They are runners.  They want you to enjoy running and they have a way of analyzing your needs and helping you select a good shoe to get you started.  You can go discount or online AFTER you have found your good running shoes.  For the first round, have the experts help you choose and reward them for their effort by buying the shoes from their store.

What other running gear do you actually need?  Not much.  There are many kinds of clothing and accessories available, but if you are just beginning there is no need to get it all.  Let your needs arise and inform your purchases.  If the weather is nice, all you need is shorts, a t-shirt, and supportive undergarments.  As your needs become clear, your local running store can steer you the right direction on the gear that address these needs.

Step 3:  Set a Goal

If you aim for nothing, you are bound to achieve that.  You have to determine a goal before you can decide how to proceed.  A good goal is specific, measurable, & just a step or two ahead of where you are today.  If you have not been exercising at all, your goal will be much lower than the newbie runner who has been seriously walking, using the elliptical machine, or doing aerobics.  If you have lived a sedentary lifestyle, I strongly urge you to become a walker first and gradually graduate to becoming a runner.  If you have been vigorously exercising, then you may be more prepared than you think.  If that is the case, then plan for your first 5k.

Important Note:  Signing up for a 5K or other road races does not mean that you are committing to try to win.  Most runners are racing themselves; they set goals and use a race to check their progress.  It is also a social occasion to meet fellow runners and celebrate each others’ progress.

Step 4:  Get a plan

Do not just run what you feel like running on the days you feel like running.  Get a plan.  If you try to make the plan yourself, there are two major mistakes that newbie runners commonly make.  One of these would be going too far and/or too fast.  That leads to injury.  The other mistake would be to go too short and/or too slow.  Since everyone has a different level of fitness at the beginning, I can’t say in this blog what will be right for you.  Carefully find your level of fitness and get a plan that fits.

There are several training plans that you can find out on the internet for free.  I like the free plans on http://www.halhigdon.com/training/, but there are plenty more out there. Some of these will fit your stage of development as a runner.  Find the one that makes sense to you.  You can also have a tailor-made plan developed for you by a running coach.  A running coach is like a personal trainer, but specializes in running.

Step 5:  Follow the Plan

Once you find or purchase a plan that fits your particular needs, it is time to step out and do it.  As a newbie runner, your main goal is to just get running.  It is not to be speedy; that can come later.  For now it is enough to go forth and run on the days that your plan says to run.  Just follow the plan.  You can tweak it later, after you build some experience.

REMEMBER:  Fast progress leads to injuries!  Slow progress leads to health, happiness, & achievement!

Step 6:  Join a Club

Fellow runners are your greatest source of encouragement and knowledge.  Track clubs and road runners clubs have members of all skill & experience levels.  It is a great place for newbie runners to get connected with other newbies as well as some veterans that can help guide their journey.  My club has several weekly running groups that meet and run anywhere from 7 minute miles up to 12 minute miles.

Step 7:  Have Fun

Yes, running is hard work, but you should enjoy the ride.  Run with friends, laugh, joke, share.  Enjoy the bonus of endorphins.  A good workout will reward you with this form of natural high.

Don’t beat yourself up over a missed run, a bad run, or an injury.  We all have bad days.  Running is no different.  If you have more good days than bad days, eventually you will accomplish your goals. You will begin to build confidence as you gradually become a better runner.  Enjoy the process!

Stay safe.  Stick with it.  Get connected to other runners.

 

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Ask P. Mark: Finding Your Running Form and Stride

Today’s question comes from a newbie runner who has just started using the “walk to running a 5K” plan from your book The Gift of Running.

Question:   How do you find your perfect stride?

P. Mark’s Answer:  I will give you the same answer that I give to experienced runners.  It is a bit unorthodox, but it is very effective.  In fact, I have to work on my form from time to time and I always use this method.

Remember This:

The quickest way to find good form is to run barefoot.

No, don’t run your entire workout barefoot.  Just find a nice clear path on some concrete or asphalt/blacktop and jog a few hundred feet.  Don’t sprint.   That might do some damage to the bottom of your feet.  Just start to jog and gradually pick up the pace – just for a few hundred feet, relaxing your body as you stride.  That relaxing is highly critical.  This will not work if you are not relaxed.

We choose a hard surface for a reason.  Your body will naturally tend towards moving in ways that protect your feet and knees, absorbing the impact as best that it can.  We are counting on that.  Its called Good Form.

As you begin to pick up the pace, pay very close attention to your barefoot form:

1)  How is your foot is making contact with the ground (footstrike)?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you should find that your foot will begin to contact the ground very lightly on the front of your foot, as if you were testing out the ground.  As you shift your weight onto that foot, however, you will gradually place your entire foot flat on the ground.  This distributes the weight to ALL parts of your foot:  a little on the front,  a little on the heel, and a lot on the middle part of your foot.  You should find that:

  • Every part of your foot made contact with the ground in a gentle way.
  • No part of your should foot take more weight than it can hold.

2)  How long is your stride?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have shortened your stride.  The majority of runners have strides that are too long.  The consequences of overextending your foot too far ahead of your body are large:  sore knees and other joints, heavy wear and tear on your body, and a slower pace.  Yes, sticking your leg to far forward actually puts the brakes on.  You can run faster with the exact same amount of effort and a shortened stride.  You will find yourself moving to a faster cadence as well.  In perfect form, with your new shorter stride, the number of steps you take during each minute of the run will tend to be somewhere close to 180.  That is true of newbie runners and elite runners.  You can actually find playlists of songs for runners in which every song keeps the beat at 180 beats per minute.  :)

3)  How is your body positioned in this relaxed running state?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have very erect posture.  The most common mistake made by runners is to lean forward at the waist when they are trying very hard.  This actually slows you down and takes more effort.  You do need to lean forward a little to run faster, but you lean at the ankles, not the waist.  In other words, you don’t lean the top half of your body, you lean your entire body.  From your ankles to your head, your body should be fairly straight.

I have found myself doing short barefoot runs at least once a week, either on rest days or just before a run.  It reminds me of good form, saving me energy and saving my body from injuries caused by bad form.

Check your form frequently.  Be good to your body and it will be good to you.

Enjoy the run!

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The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

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Barefoot Running: Why, Where, and How

I have started running barefoot again.  For the last few days, I have run at least 1 mile each day with no shoes or socks on my feet.

Why am I running barefoot?  Because I want to improve my form.  The logic is this:

    1. We were created to run.
    2. We were not born wearing shoes.  We added that later.
    3. Hence, our natural running style will emerge if we run in bare feet.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up shoes.  Shoes were created to protect our feet from a variety of things that can cause pain.  Shoes are good.  The problem is that it has been so long since I ran without shoes, that my feet and legs have adapted to running in them.  Too much support and protection has allowed my naturally active foot and calf muscles to relax and take it easy.  My form has suffered.  Eventually, I became less efficient.

This was not always the case.  When I was 8 years old, I would play outside for hours with no shoes.  I specifically remember sprinting down a hot blacktop street in the middle of summer.  I could make it as far as Johnny Williams’ house before my feet were too hot to continue on the pavement.  I clearly remember the relief of stepping into the cool grass and eventually into the shade under the big tree in John’s yard.

How is this relevant to my current goal of running a marathon under 3 hours?  Simple.  When I sprinted down the street at 8 years old, my form was natural.  I leaned at the ankles, not the hips.  I didn’t put my foot too far in front of me.  My strides were short and efficient.  I landed near the forefoot.  None of these things were true of my form when I turned 44 a few months ago.

After decades of running in shoes, I knew that I needed to get back.  For the last few months I have studied books, web sites, videos, and anything else to find out what the best form for running would look like.  I tried to emulate the best ideas that were consistently in the most trustworthy resources.  Nothing felt natural.  It all felt forced.  I ended up pulling muscles trying to force myself into an efficient stride and footstrike.

How can I return to my natural, efficient running stride?  As I studied, one of the themes that emerged was that the most efficient stride is our natural barefoot stride.  Once I gave up the fight and accepted that I needed to try barefoot running, I stepped out on to the hot blacktop.  That is when my memory was triggered.  I could see that bright summer sun back in my old neighborhood.  I could feel the heat coming up from the driveway of my old home in St. Louis County.  I could feel myself start into a sprint, driven by the intense heat as I stepped onto the blacktop surface of Fairmeadows Lane.  I remembered the thrill of accelerating to a full sprint and being in wonder at how fast I was passing the mailboxes that lined the path to Johnny’s house.

At that moment, as this memory overwhelmed me, all of that running research made a lot more sense.  Run like a barefoot kid on hot pavement.  Don’t worry about form.  Just take your shoes off and run.  I realized that I do not need to work on my form.  I need to run barefoot and allow my form to emerge.

How do you run barefoot without pain?  I don’t.

Skin:  My eyes guide me around big rocks and other dangers, but I can’t avoid the tiny rocks that scrape my feet.  Over time, my feet are getting acclimated.  There is less pain every day.

Joints/Muscles:  As for the support that shoes provided, I am a pronator and always enjoyed soft cushioned shoes with motion control.  Barefoot allows for none of those things.  What pains have I experienced because of that?  Very little.  That is the point.  Shoes actually caused the need for all of that support.  My natural stride and footstrike have emerged as I run barefoot and try to avoid these pains.  My muscles are getting stronger.  I do not pronate because I have no shoe to lean on.  I have to stand up on my own.  If I run barefoot with poor form, a pain will start to emerge.  I naturally begin to tweak my form based on the feedback from my body.

In short, better form means less pain and more gain.  This is the reason to adopt barefoot running as a part of your training regiment.  I am not forcing myself into good form, I just listen to my body and naturally move towards good form.

My transition was made much easier because I have been running in Vibram Five-Fingers shoes.  I started using these for the same reason that I run barefoot.  Vibrams are very thin and have no support, so training in them has moved me towards good form.  I am adding barefoot runs to keep me moving in that direction.

It is worth repeating:  Better form means less pain and more gain.

I am using barefoot running to move me that direction.  If you can manage to improve your form without going barefoot, then do it.  If you are struggling to find that good form, then think about trying some barefoot running.

Important guidelines for Barefoot and Minimalist running:

  1. Start slowly.  VERY slowly.  Many experts suggest going barefoot 3 times a week to start.
  2. Start short. VERY short.  Your first few weeks should go from 50 yards gradually up to a quarter-mile.
  3. Build lower leg & foot strength.  Exercise your feet by picking things up with your toes.  Do calf raises.  Stretch your calves and feet regularly.

I have worked on  these three things on and off for months before I worked up to doing a daily mile in bare feet.

I have not decided how far I will end up running in bare feet.  I may build up to doing a few 5k races, but I have no intention of doing my long runs in bare feet.  My goal is better form, and that is starting to work.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  :)

Happy Running!

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The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

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Runner’s High: How, When, and Why

It is a feeling like no other.  I recall floating along a 6 mile run one time just about 30 years ago.  I don’t have a very good memory, but I remember that run vividly.  I had slipped into a zone where running was more like floating.  I ran fairly fast, but felt no effort.  I felt happy and my body felt happy.  I was as high as a kite!  I never wanted that run to end.

Although I hadn’t been smoking marijuana, the same receptor in the brain that is triggered by marijuana was, in fact, triggered during that run.  I really was high.  I was high on running! Until recently, many scientists actually believed that runner’s high was a myth, a self-fulling prophecy based on a misconception about endorphins.  Endorphins, after all, cannot actually produce the kind of high described by runners.  The scientists were right about one thing: endorphins do not cause runner’s high.  Even so, runner’s high is real.

What causes runner’s high?  A fatty acid called Anandamide.  It triggers the same receptor in the brain that marijuana/THC triggers.  Not only does anandamide make you feel high, but it also dilates your bronchial tubes and the blood vessels in your lungs.  End result: you feel great, run better, and run longer.

How do you get anandamide?  Run!  As you run more regularly and intensely, your body tends to produce more anandamide.  If you want to increase your likelihood of getting runner’s high, you run at tempo pace, just a little faster than your 10K race pace.  This pace adds just enough stress to cause the body to produce anandamide but not so much stress as to overwhelm your body.  It is the “just right” pace for a great workout and a trip to La-La-Land.  :)

You can read more at Runner’s World:

http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-243-297–1102-0,00.html

Enjoy the run!!!

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The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

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Ask P. Mark: The Difference Between a Tempo Run and Intervals

This was the first question posted to me via the Ask P. Mark page.
Please visit that page to post a new question.  Thanks!

Q:  What is the difference between a tempo run and an interval?

A:  The short answer is that in an interval workout, you speed up and slow down several times.  In a tempo run, however, you gradually build up to the target pace and hold it until it is time to slow down for a cooldown.

There are a few people who will do more than one tempo run within a long run.  This is an advanced maneuver that I do not recommend for the average runner.

Here are the definitions for the Tempo and Intervals that I gave on the Getting Faster post:

Intervals

Intervals are a lot like repeats, but have a different goal in mind.  While repeats are about increasing raw speed, intervals are more about maintaining your new speed over a distance.  Because of this, intervals should be at a little bit longer distance.  Aim for a distance that you could complete in less than 5 minutes.  800 meters (1/2 mile) is a common distance for interval training.

  • Run your intervals at race pace, but no faster.  Remember: Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Instead of being fully rested as you did in repeats, interval training does not allow for full rest.  The time between intervals should be about the same time as you took to run the last interval.  Unlike repeats, you jog during the recovery time between intervals.
  • Since the distances are longer than the distance for repeats, the number of intervals that you complete in one workout should be less.  You can do 3-8 intervals as long as you continue to maintain your relaxed form.

Tempo Runs

If you are racing longer distances, then you will want to practice running faster for even longer periods of time.  This is the goal of a tempo run.

  • Run your tempo miles a little slower than race pace, about 80-90% of the full effort that you would use in a 5k race now.
  • Tempo runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness and goals.
  • You can choose to do one or more tempo runs as part of a longer run or have it as a stand-alone workout.  In either case, make sure that you run a warmup and a cooldown in addition to the tempo miles.
  • To get faster, seek the combination of distance & speed that pushes you consistently near the limit of what you can maintain.  If you can’t maintain relaxed form, you are pushing too fast or too long.

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The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

 

 

 

Tips for Your First Marathon

There will never be enough advice in the world to prepare you for what is coming.  Running your first marathon is an adventure in the truest sense of the word.   It is both exhilarating and exhausting beyond your wildest imagination.  Lots of people will have tons of advice, but I would like to focus mine around one basic idea:

Do all of your experimenting in training. 

There should be exactly one thing that is different on marathon day: the distance. Beyond that, every little thing you do during your first marathon should be something that you have done many times before.  Anything that you do, wear, eat, or drink for the first time on marathon day can ruin your race and possibly hurt you.  26.2 miles is a very long way.  I know that you are aware of this, but you need to think about what that means.   If you make a mistake, you may have to live with while running for the next 3 to 7 hours!

Now that I have scared you enough, let’s begin our talk about experimenting!  If you do all of your experimenting ahead of time, then you have little to worry about.  On marathon day, you can simply go out and do what you did in practice.  No big deal, just a little farther than usual.

Training Runs

You do not need to run a marathon in order to train for one.  It is smart, however, to run 16 miles at least two different times during your training.  It will take many weeks of training to build up to that distance slowly and carefully.  The last 16 mile run should be about 3 weeks before the race.  That will give your legs plenty of time to recover.  Thankfully, at the end of that three weeks the rest of your body will still remember your 16 mile runs and the lessons about efficiency that it learned during them.

Clothing & Shoes

What works for a 5K or even a 10K may not work in a marathon.  Make sure that as you are gradually building up mileage, that you are paying attention to what you are wearing.  You are not just training, you are road-testing different outfits and shoes to see which are the best for the really long runs.  Clothes that give you mild chaffing on a 13 mile run will cause bleeding on a 16 or longer.  Lots of marathoners cross their first finish line with blood stained shirts and/or shoes.

In addition to good clothing, it is smart to get some extra help against chaffing.  Body Glide and other products exist to protect parts that seem to chafe no matter what you do.  There are other things like nipple guards, although a band-aid often works just as well.  With all of these clothing-related issues, practice and routine is the key.  If you find what works in your longest training runs, you are much more likely to avoid this dilemma during the marathon.

Food & Drink

Most of us have no interest in going 3-7 hours without a snack and something to drink.  Now figure in the calories burned running and liquid lost sweating.  Thankfully, you do not need to consume as many calories as you burn.  You do, however, need to prepare to consume anywhere from 400 to 1,000 calories on the run.  It varies by your weight, conditioning, and how much time you will take.  Here again, you must experiment on your long runs.  Most runners consume packets of energy gel or some gummy equivalent.  Go to a running store and ask what choices they have.  Try several early in your training program.  Make sure you find the one that best suits you before your 20-milers.  You will want to practice that one source of fuel for all of your long runs in the last 6 to 8 weeks of your training program.

Always start fueling early in the race, specifically before you have gone two miles!  If you don’t start by then, you are very likely to have low blood sugar late in the race.

Drinks are even more critical!  Dehydration can be a huge problem with rookie marathoners.  The current wisdom being shared by running experts is “drink to thirst.”  That means drink when you are thirsty and not when you are not.  Personally, I have to drink a little more than that to be okay.  Guess how I found that out?  Through experimenting, of course.

On the marathon course, plenty of water and sports drinks will be available.  On your training runs, however, you will need to think carefully about how to get your drinks!  Will you carry enough drink to last you 20 miles?  Not me.  I carry enough for ten miles and make sure my running route circles back so I can get refills for the next 10 miles.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are the minerals that keep your nervous system and your muscles running.  You lose electrolytes through sweat.  You sweat a lot in a marathon.  I know that I have run out of electrolytes when my muscle start threatening to twitch. The next stage is full cramping. It often starts in the hamstrings, but can begin anywhere.

While sports drinks offer some electrolytes, many runners find that they run out of electrolytes on a long run.  There are electrolytes in some energy gels, but I have to supplement beyond that.  I live in Knoxville, and I have to take electrolyte supplements throughout the sweating season (April through October).  It IS possible to get too many electrolytes, so find a source and use them sparingly.  Figure out how much you need through experimenting.

Routine, Routine, Routine

Routine is important.  Warm up for a marathon like you warm up for anything else.  Do your stretches and any other part of your running routine the same on marathon day as any other day.  Drink what & how you drank in training.  Wear what you wore in training.

Break-Time

On marathon day, you will still be human.  Plan your potty break before the race, but also be prepared to go during the race.  No body should have to go four, five, or even eight hours without a bathroom break.  There are bathrooms along the route, I promise.

Going the Distance

You may need to walk.  You may have gone out too fast, you may just be legitimately tired.  It is okay to walk part of the way.  Walking will not exclude you from the rank of marathoner.  In fact, there is at least one major marathon expert that touts walking as an important part of his marathon racing strategy.  Personally, I walk through the aid stations.  The Powerade goes down much more smoothly.  :)

The first twenty miles should be just like in practice.  The last 6.2 miles are tough, but you can do this.  If you have taken care of all of the above details, then you can do this last 6.2 miles.  There is no question about it.  You will be pushing longer, but you have been replenishing your supplies of energy, liquid, and electrolytes.  It works the same as the previous 20 miles.  Just put one foot in front of the other.  Do not think about how far you have to go or how far you have gone.  Instead, remember your training runs.  Remember how you pushed yourself to go just a little farther each week.  You know what it is like to challenge yourself and succeed.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and the finish line will find you.

You can do this.  Experiment, practice, and follow your routine all the way to the finish line.

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“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life