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Marathon Basics: Training, Gear and More

by Karl Gruber
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If you are getting ready for your very first full or half marathon, you should review the basic tenets of running long distances before you take your first step. And even if you’re an experienced marathoner, it couldn’t hurt to review the marathon basics once again. I have seen far too many runners with a few marathons on their running shoes unable to figure out why they hit the wall during the race or fail to achieve their race goals.

So let’s start with…

Basic Training Principles
Find a solid training program that resonates with you. 
Does it fit your work and lifestyle? Is it too advanced, not hard enough, or is it just right? Just because your running buddy uses a particular program doesn’t mean it will work for you, so check out all of your training program options. Chat up the coach of your local running club or talk to an expert at your local running specialty store to get some recommendations.

Gauge your current fitness level before you take the plunge of training to run 26.2 miles. 
Far too many wannabe marathoners skip the common sense of doing a long, slow, progressive mileage build-up over a long period of time. Instead, they dive in headfirst, (over)confident they can just do it, and instead they end up injured, disillusioned and not having a good time. Consequently, they become a “one-and-doner,” never to set foot again on a marathon race course. Maybe a half marathon might be a good stepping stone before you advance to a full marathon?

“Slow and Steady” should be your marathon training mantra. 
By slow and steady, I don’t necessarily mean your pace. I mean you should run to your ability. It’s all about training patiently over many weeks and months, as you progressively build up your weekly mileage total by incorporating longer and longer weekly runs and throwing in some harder workouts such as hill repeats and intervals. 

Running Gear Basics
Running with the right gear is absolutely essential, especially when running longer distances! Running with the wrong gear can mean injury, constant irritation and dissatisfaction.

Shoes are the number one running item you need to get right. 
Considering that every foot strike exerts three to four times your body weight upon impact as you run, you need the right running shoes on your feet. The best thing you can do is go to a running specialty store, where a running expert can analyze your foot type and get you into the shoe that is right for you. 

Remember, your feet are your foundation when running. Take care of them first with the right running shoe, and many other things will fall in line for your running.

Clothing is another key component that will help you to run freely and without irritation. 
When I worked in running specialty retail, we used to have a saying that “cotton is rotten!” While cotton may feel comfortable and soft to your skin, it is water loving, which means any cotton clothing will retain all moisture as you sweat. Once cotton clothing gets wet, it stays wet and can become heavy, causing chafing and chills once the cold temperatures and wind pick up. 

Instead of cotton, choose from the vast array of “technical clothing” that is made of mostly polyester fibers. It will wick away the moisture from your skin and is very comfortable to wear, plus it will allow you to stay warm and dry in the winter and dry in the summer. 

Bottle holders and nutrition belts are an easy and practical way to stay hydrated and fueled-up while on the run. 
There are numerous bottle holders that allow you to carry a water bottle in one or both hands while running, plus waist belt bottle holders that are great for very long runs when you need to carry more liquid. 

As for convenient ways of carrying energy gels and chews, there are also many varieties of super lightweight carriers that go around your waist or even your wrist. This allows you to have plenty of fuel at the ready anytime during your run.

Basic Goal Setting
Set your running goals prior to or at the start of your training. 
I cannot stress enough just how important it is to do this. Even after all of my years of running and racing, I find that I aimlessly run without focus and consistency if I don’t have a goal lined up a few weeks or months down the road. While running just to run is certainly fine and can be enjoyable, any gains in your overall running fitness and pace will usually flounder. 

Most runners I encounter generally want to improve and therefore have some goals. Do you want to run a 3:45:00 marathon at the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on May 5, 2019? Or perhaps move your pace per mile from 10:00 per mile to 9:00 per mile by the end of next summer? Whatever your goal, take the time today to sit down and map it out.

Whether you’re new to the marathon distance or a veteran of many road races, it pays to go back to the basics of long distance running. They will ensure you are on the right path!    

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