Welcome to running on the road to marathon success, in this case, 26.2 miles of it! Hi, my names is Karl Gruber, and over the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2017 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, I will be guiding you along the path to successfully complete your marathon – whether you’re a complete newbie runner or an experienced one, you can learn something every step of the way as you head to that finish line.
Just to establish my credentials with you, I have been a runner for the last 35 years, and have successfully run and completed a total of 78 marathons. While that is certainly nowhere near a world record; I did, however, become one of the few (at the time) to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks in 1996–’97! I called it my Super Run for the Cure in which I used the 52 marathons as a vehicle to promote awareness and fund-raising for leukemia research. I do not tell you about my marathons to show you how cool I am, but instead to establish the fact with you that I have been there and done that with the marathon distance – from running a trail marathon around the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i to a marathon on a high school track in Dayton, Ohio (105 ½ laps) So let’s take the first steps toward your successful completion of the marathon, together. Ready? Let’s run!
#1 – The First Step: Set Your Goal
It is very easy to fall into the trap of using well-worn inspirational running quotes when writing and talking about running. I am not adverse to this, although I will try not to overdo it. So the first overused phrase about what it takes to run a marathon is, “Put one foot in front of the other a whole lot of times!” I couldn’t resist using this simply because it is true! Consider that you take approximately 1000 steps per mile when running at 3 to 4 times your bodyweight in impact per foot strike – there’s a lot going on there! First, let’s take a look at training plans as a good place to start.
In the book Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas, they suggest using a marathon training plan anywhere from 12 to 24 weeks. Most marathon training groups usually focus on a 16-week training program to get you up to the 26.2 miles of race day (12 weeks for half marathoners). Personally, I want to be as prepared as possible, and use a 26-week program when I train for a spring and a fall marathon. Something like this would be productive for an experienced marathoner who wants to compete and perform as well as possible. While a 26-week training program takes an awful lot of dedication, so does any length program.
I also really like what Pfitzinger & Douglas suggest in setting goals and tracking your progress. According to them, there are three goals for marathoners:
In regards to tracking your progress, I suggest using a daily running diary/log. I may be a little obsessed with this myself, as I have logged almost every one of my runs since I started running. By taking the time to review where you have been with your training over the past few weeks, it will give you an excellent idea if you are on track with your goals and where you are with your fitness level.
From raw beginner to the experienced racer, the marathon holds an incredible experience and accomplishment for everyone!
In my next installment, I will give you a couple actual training program examples, so you can see which one is a good fit for you.