How to Train for a Marathon (cont.)

Feb 8, 2010
Outside Magazine

A running log keeps you honest, which helps you stick to your plan and avoid overtraining. By writing everything down, you'll also start to appreciate your progress. "You've got this huge, long road, and the first step is often the hardest step," says Hall. "But you get your momentum going—it's just step after step—and before you know it, you look back and it's miles and miles." If you're not using software to record your runs, keep a notebook or Excel spreadsheet. And watch the mileage on your shoes. After 300–400 miles, the foam cushioning will be dead. Even if they still feel comfy, visit your local specialty running storeand get a new pair (check the Store Finder at

Injuries caused by overtraining stop more marathoners than any other obstacle. The best prevention: Run less. Don't run more than three times a week to start, and don't go longer than your plan calls for. Be just as committed to your recovery days as you are to your workouts. "You need to balance the workload with optimal rest," says Kastor, an Olympic marathon bronze medalist. "Consider your training an excuse to get into bed an hour earlier than normal." If pain shows up, an immediate visit to a sports physical therapist can keep you on track.

Training partners are the most powerful tool you can have short of a pricey personal coach: You'll learn a lot by talking with other runners, and they'll help keep you on target= through the long months of running ahead. "Running partners keep you accountable," says Keflezighi. "You need someone who can help get you to work out. That's the hardest part." Most cities have a running club; start by asking around at your local running shop.

Every marathon training plan involves a weekly long run. Don't miss it. "It's the most important workout that you do," says Kara Goucher, who finished third in New York in 2008, her first marathon. This long run prepares you—both physically and psychologically—to handle three to four hours of pounding. "The long run is important so you don't get intimidated by the marathon distance," says Keflezighi. The key is not to go too far, too soon—and to start each long run slowly. Run off pavement to go easier on your legs. And since NYC has a hilly course, get used to the feeling of running gentle grades toward the end.

How to know you're ready? When you can do a 20-mile training run with confidence. You'll reach this distance about three weeks before the race, when your mileage volume is peaking (usually no less than 40 miles per week). But remember—peaking is the hardest stage of training, so don't put too much stock in how you feel on any particular run as you approach the race. "Running has ups and downs," says McMillan. "You can't give up. Just like in the marathon, things can turn around. They usually do."

Filed To: Running

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