Physical Activity/Running a Marathon

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Welcome![edit]

As legend has it, the ancient Greek messenger Pheidippides ran from the plains of Marathon, Greece, to deliver the good news that the Greek army had successfully defended Athens from the invading Persian army. He successfully delivered his message, but at the cost of his life, collapsing no sooner than he had uttered, "Rejoice! We conquer!"

Since the first modern-day marathon race was run in the 1896 Athens Olympics, the marathon has earned an air of mystique. It's the classic distance, and the ultimate test of endurance (although some runners run even longer than that). Before the running boom of the 1970s, only the truly athletic or foolhardy would dare take on the 26.2 mile marathon course. But since then, the sport has truly grown, and marathons that drew only a few hundred runners in the early 1970s draw tens of thousands today.

And now, as more people complete marathons, many people make it a goal to run one at least once in their lifetime. That you're reading this Wikibook means that you've decided to take it on, or are considering it. What's stopping you?

In this Wikibook you'll learn the basics of how to plan for and complete a marathon, learn time-tested tips that will keep you going to the finish line. If you're a seasoned veteran, this book will also outline some tips for getting faster, so that your next marathon can be your best.

Once you cross the finish line of your first marathon, there's no turning back. So, prepare to go on the journey of your life. Rejoice! You're about to conquer!

Getting Off The Couch[edit]

  1. Stick both legs out.
  2. Rise from seat.
  3. Go up to your bedroom.
  4. Stick on some kit.
  5. Open front door.
  6. And off you go...

Wasn't hard, was it?

Plotting Your Course[edit]

It's worth it to give some thought as to what you want to accomplish in your first marathon. Making a plan gives you something to aim for as you train.

Choosing your marathon[edit]

When choosing your first marathon, you'll probably want to take several things into account.

  • Size. Marathons generally range in size from a few thousand to about 40,000 runners. Some are so popular that there is either a first-come-first-served limit on entries (in the case of the Chicago Marathon and many others), or even a lottery (in the case of New York and a few others). Running in a small marathon may appeal to many people, but in general, many first-time marathons choose larger marathons with full amenities and crowd support. When doing your first marathon, crowd support will prove to be critical.
  • Climate and season. In general, choose a marathon in a climate that you're used to. In general, warmer courses are more difficult than cooler courses. Also take in to account the season. Most marathons are held in the spring and fall when temperatures are moderate; running a summer marathon may not be a good first choice.
  • Lead time. As you'll see, you cannot just jump into a marathon and expect to be successful. You'll need about four to six months to train for a marathon.
  • Homecourse advantage. If your local marathon is a large marathon that meets all these requirements, it probably would be an ideal choice. The Honolulu Marathon is a warm tropical course with several hills making it rather difficult. But a resident of Honolulu who knows the city and is fully acclimated is likely to be at an advantage over a mainlander, all other things being equal.

Starting Out[edit]

While much attention is devoted (understandably) to the actual running of the marathon, the training and preparation before the race is even more important for a runner to successfully complete a marathon. The training for a marathon can be broken down into three stages:

  • Base Training Base training, also known as pre-training, involves building solid fitness. As the name implies, base training is the building of an athletic base that leads to the actual marathon training. Often overlooked, it is important because it makes prepares the body for additional training and lowers the likelyhood of injuries.
  • Marathon Training The marathon training is the actual training regimen that prepares a runner to run 26.2 miles. It involves increased mileage, long runs and speedwork, to name a few components. This is the heart of the training, and it generally lasts from 15 to 25 weeks. This stage can be further broken down into additional parts:
    • Long Runs Long runs are runs, generally done weekly or bi-weekly, that prepare the runner for 26.2 hard miles by building endurance. The longest long runs in a training plan generally range from 18 to 26 miles, though for elite marathoners, they may be over 30 miles.
    • Easy/Recovery Runs Though training is done by repeatedly stressing the body, runners must allow themeselves to recover and heal. This is done by either taking complete rest, or by doing short runs of only a couple miles.
    • Speedwork Though the marathon is certainly an endurance event, many runners will benefit from doing speedwork, that is short, high intensity intervals.
  • The Taper The taper lasts from approximately 3 weeks before race day to the race itself. It involves a deliberate decrease in training volume to allow the body to recover from training and become stronger, a process known as "peaking". The goal of a taper is to peak on race day.

The first action an marathoner must take is to announce to their family and friends that they intend to run a certain marathon. Not only does this let them know that they should be supportive and encouraging, but it also commits the marathoner to complete their training and the race.

Creating a Training Plan[edit]

Be careful not to increase your mileage more than 10-15% Per week during training.

Having chosen a marathon and made the commitment to run it, the runner should create an organized, written plan that defines their training, in detail. Though this doesn't have to define every daily workout in advance, it should, at minimum, give weekly mileages for the three stages of training, the distances of each long run and the duration of each stage.

Tapering[edit]

Preparing for Your Race[edit]

Be sure to go to the toilet (and do both types of business) before the race. Eat lots of carbohydrates which will add energy needed during the race.

After Your Marathon[edit]

Be happy! But also be cautious, your body is going to be extremely exhausted after running 26.2 miles. Make sure to stretch out and drink a ton of water/sports drink. The most effective way to recover after a run like this is to have a big glass of chocolate milk, it will help you muscles recover much faster.