Marathon Running Tips

Read these 15 Marathon Running Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Running tips and hundreds of other topics.

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When the Race Gets Cancelled

Marathons don't get cancelled very often. It takes a real act of nature. But if your race does get cancelled, some options:

-Look for a smaller race around the same time. If your big city marathon was cancelled, you might be able to find a small or midsize race within a few weeks of your original marathon. You may not have the huge crowds, but small marathons are often as well-organized and well-supported as large ones, with plenty of folks to point you along the course, even if there aren't bands on every corner and thousands of runners surrounding you.

-Plan your own. If you are really ready to run 26.2 on your appointed day, just do it! Take one of your long training run routes, and figure out a way to add enough mileage to make the marathon distance. Chalk it up to a training run, and look for another marathon to race.


Take Inspiration from the Best

Marathon running is not for the faint of heart, but it can be for anyone who wants to work hard, As the Olympics take place in London, get inspired by the Olympic marathoners. Yes, they can train full time and have coaches and massage therapists, etc., but the distance is still 26.2, and all marathoners out there have completed the same distance, whether they do it in just over 2 hours or just over 6 hours. The marathon is a personal race, and anyone who finishes one deserves their medal.

If you are watching the Olympics, don't be intimidated. Be inspired!


New Research on Runners' Metabolism

An interesting, but preliminary study in the a journal called Science Translational Medicine, identified changes in 20 different metabolities associated with exercise--that means that body chemistry by which exercise turns stored fuel (those pre-race carbs) into energy.

The researchers assessed individuals after a 10-minute stress test and after running the Boston Marathon, and they found, not surprisingly, that the fitter the individuals, the lower their oxidative stress and the higher their fat-burning metabolism.

Which of these metabolites are really related to health? More research is needed. But the study supports what we runners know every time we put on our shoes--running is good for you!


Personalize Your Post-Marathon Recovery

Recovering from a marathon is as personalized as training for one. Some marathon programs advocate taking a week off from running after a marathon, or doing a "reverse taper" to build up your mileage again.

As with marathon training, no single marathon recovery plan is right for everyone. If you are a beginning marathoner, give yourself a few days of easy walking and some short runs during that first week.

More experienced marathoners who know what to expect might take a day or two off and get back on the road. Some people will go for marathons on two or more consecutive weekends, with a few shorter easy runs during the week between, but I recommend getting a few focused marathons under your belt before trying that.

The bottom line: Marathon recovery is about doing what feels good, whether it is walking, running, swimming, yoga, sports massage, or all of the above, so you feel good about the marathon and maybe even think about another one!


Hydration During a Marathon

Dehydration is probably the single greatest cause of marathon-related health problems, especially among first-time marathoners. The rule of thumb is “If you wait until you're thirsty to drink, it's too late.”
Drink about eight ounces of water 20 minutes or so before the race begins. Always drink at every water stop – even early in the race – during a marathon. If you'll be out on the course for three hours or more, carry your own water bottle, too. The slower your pace, the longer between water stops.


An Alternative Marathon Training Program

Jeff Galloway, 1972 Olympian, coach and motivational speaker, has designed a “run-walk” marathon training program that has taken many first-timers to success. Take note, though: While Galloway's training method reduces your risk of injury and increases your chances of completing a marathon, it's not designed to produce maximum speed. But for those who wish to complete a marathon for a charity team, and not as a serious competitor, this may be the ideal training program.


Marathon: the Aftermath

Many a first marathon is also a last marathon. And the reason is often not the race itself, but what the runner does in the hours and days following the race. Here are a few tips to help make your first marathon the first of many:
• Don't stop and sit or lie down immediately after the race, unless you're injured. Instead, keep moving. Walk… gently stretch… but don't stop moving.
• Eat, drink and be healthy. Don't guzzle and gorge, but eat a little something (perhaps a bagel with peanut butter or some yogurt) and drink water or a familiar electrolyte solution shortly after the race. Keep drinking more than usual (water, that is) for at least a couple of days after your race.
• Get a massage. Take a bath. This is the time to splurge on your muscles. They've worked hard for you, and deserve a little pampering. Both a massage and a warm bath will help you and your muscles relax and recover.
• Don't take a few days – or a few weeks – off. While you certainly don't want to go for a 20 mile run the day after a marathon, walk a few miles, or jog lightly on a soft surface such as grass or a jogging trail paved in wood chips.
• Set your next goal. If you don't already have a next race in mind, get one. Write it down, and begin planning your training for that next race. Focusing on your next goal helps keep you going.


What to Wear for Your Marathon

What may be a minor inconvenience in a 10K – or even a 10-miler – can become a major issue over the course of a marathon. When selecting what to wear during a marathon, always choose fit and function over fashion. It's a good idea not to wear anything new during a marathon. Be particularly aware of the following:
• Seams. Be sure seams don't chafe. With socks, seams can create pressure points where blisters erupt.
• Binding. Anywhere your clothing is tight could create a chafing problem during a long race.
• Bunching. This can be a particular problem with shorts. Be sure the fabric won't bunch up at the top of your thighs.


Get the Right Running Shoes, Part 2

Longer training runs - and the marathon itself – cause greater fatigue than your body is accustomed to. In the later stages of long training runs and races, your gait becomes sloppier, and your chance of injury increases.

Stability running shoes can help prevent the injuries that are all too common in the last miles of a marathon.


Refuel on Your Long Runs

26.2 miles is a long way to go without eating. A 120-pound woman burns about 2,500 calories running a marathon – equivalent to more than 11 plain (2 oz.) donuts. A 160-pound man burns about 3,300 calories – or about 15 plain donuts' worth. The occasional orange section that's typically offered on the course doesn't put much of a dent in that deficit.

While nobody would suggest you eat a dozen donuts during a marathon, you'll probably find the last few miles of the race easier if you've eaten something during the earlier miles. But it's not a good idea to wait until your race to discover how your stomach will react.

Practice eating during your training runs. Many long-distance runners use energy gel. It's readily absorbed, and generally sits easy on the stomach. Some runners prefer raisins or other foods that are easy to carry and pack a decent energy punch.


Get the Right Running Shoes, Part 1

The shoes that serve you well when training for and running 10K races probably aren't adequate for the marathon. The marathon puts much greater stress on both runner and running shoes than shorter races.

Your long distance running shoes should provide greater cushioning than the shoes you wear for shorter training and races. The force exerted on your legs at each footfall is greater than twice your body weight. Only greater cushioning can help prevent damage to your ankles and knees – and keep you in the race for the long run.


Should You Run an Ultra-Marathon?

An ultra-marathon is any race longer than the 26.2 miles of a regulation marathon, and their popularity has exploded in the last 10 years. Race lengths vary from 50K to 100 miles or more.

Before you consider training for and running an ultra, have at least two – preferably more – successful marathons under your belt.
Here are a few important considerations:
• Time. Training for an ultra requires even more time than for a marathon. Can you devote the time required?
• Team. Successful completion of most ultras is dependent on your having a support team. For most competitors, this means your spouse and/or one or two friends must be willing to give up significant amounts of time to devote to your race.
• Travel. Today, there's a marathon or two in nearly every city of any size. Ultras are fewer and farther between. Can you afford the time and money necessary to travel to a race site?
• Terrain. Many ultras are run primarily off-road, and a race is not the place for your first off-road experience. Is there adequate similar terrain in your training area?


Another Alternative Marathon Training Program

In "How to Train for and Run Your Best Marathon," Gordon Bakoulis Bloch advocates for a time-based training system. A four-time Olympic marathon trials qualifier and member of the 1991 US World Championship marathon team, Bloch lays out timed training schedules based on your fitness level and goals. If counting mile markers isn't your cup of tea, you may find this marathon training program works for you.


Your Bare-Bones Marathon Survival Kit

You'll need more than just a good pair of marathon running shoes to run 26.2 miles. Unless you're a fairly fast and serious competitor, wear a small waist-pack style water carrier – one with a zippered pouch. Virtually all marathons provide multiple water stops – but they don't come often enough for the average runner. Before the race, fill your bottle with cool water or an electrolyte solution that you're already accustomed to drinking.

In the pouch, carry the following:

• A couple of packages of energy gel. Twenty-six miles is a long time to go without nourishment.

• At least four 3/4” round adhesive bandages. These are to prevent “runner's nipple.” This painful complaint results from the fabric of your running top chafing the nipple raw.

• An anti-friction product, such as “Runner's Lube” or “Body Glide” for thighs, armpits, etc.

• Two or three adhesive bandages in both 3/4” and 1” widths for quick blister patches.


Be Prepared for the Weather

Many marathons are run during the times of year that weather is most unpredictable. A race may start with temps in the 40's and end with temps in the 70's. Bring inexpensive gloves and a long-sleeved t-shirt or light sweatshirt you won't mind losing. If need be, you can start the race warm enough, and shed the extra layers as the day warms up. A light, crushable hat will not only help keep your head warm, but can help prevent sunburn.

Rain creates its own special considerations. Your body chills more quickly in a cool rain. A waterproof and breathable suit – such as those made with Goretex treated fabric – can help keep you comfortable. Be particularly aware of the socks you wear during rainy weather. Heavy socks – especially those made from cotton – can sag and bunch when wet, causing serious blister problems.

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Heidi Splete
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