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Marathon Novice Advice from Dr Crane

Most people get hurt running too much, too soon, too fast. The marathon is just that….a marathon. The training should be done over a 4-6 month period. Put in the time, put in the mileage, and be smart so you will get to the finish line (and be able to walk the next day). Marathon running is like everything else worth doing in life, nothing comes easy and nothing comes free! You have to put in the time and sweat or you will feel the effects of your under-training at the famous “wall” between 18 and 22 miles. I’ve been there, and it’s not pretty….at Chicago in 2004 I thought I was going to perish on the street at 24 miles due to lack of training the last few weeks before the marathon (and a stomach bug the week before)…that was the most painful 4:07 I ever ran….

So what is good training? What program should you follow? Take my advice, if you have never run a marathon before and your goal is to finish your first; join a training group. It’s amazing how much easier those long runs are when you have a group of like-minded (usually completely insane) people to run the distance with. Several national groups are available in most cities and in my personal experience, the Galloway walk-run program and Team-in-Training from the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society seem to be the two best at getting novice runners to the finish line. Local running stores often have good support groups as well. In the DFW area, both Luke’s Locker and Run-On have good training programs. The worst thing you can do is download a program from the internet and try to follow it without any support group. Most people don’t have that much will-power and tend to either quit or get hurt following a half-hazard schedule. Individual training is fine for those of us who have been running marathons for years, but I even like getting my group together and finding a common goal. It’s like group therapy….when you’ve been to hell and back with a group of people, that bond is amazing…I’m closer with my running peeps than most of my family.

Having trouble getting started? Buy a book on marathoning or one that is particularly inspiring. My personal favorite is Jeff Galloway’s Marathon. He gives good advice for the novice runner and helps you to have realistic expectations of your projected finishing time. My most valuable tip on getting started is to find a goal. Pick a race that is 6 months or so in the future. Enter! Write a goal time down on a business card and then write intermediate goals for local 5K’s, a 15K and a half-marathon along the way. Put this card is your pocket or purse and carry it with you everywhere. Look at it daily! Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror asking “Did you run today?” And keep a detailed log of your running. Either on the computer or handwritten, nothing is more motivating than not wanting to fill in a zero!

So now you’ve started…the first few miles are under your belt and you no longer feel like you are going to throw up after running just a few miles. You have your program, your log started and goal card in your pocket. And two pair of shoes…oh yeah…we forgot to talk about shoes (see Shoe Advice from Dr Crane). Now you are ready…oh yeah, what about stretching (see Stretching 101 from Dr Crane). Truly, you must be ready to go now….oh yeah, my foot is starting to hurt me when I first get up in the morning (see Injury 101 from Dr Crane). I guess there is more to this running thing than just getting out of bed in the morning and lacing on the shoes….but they do say that the hardest part of a marathon training program is the first few steps out of bed or off the couch! Good Luck and Happy Marathoning….need more tips, peruse the website (my favorite is “The top ten things people do to hurt themselves” or send me an email…..and remember, don’t try anything new on race day…same food, same socks, and shoes with at least 50-75 miles on them…