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So You Think You Can Run a Marathon

Marathon running race, people feet on city road

Running a marathon is really tough, but also really rewarding. However, there are a few things you should know before setting out to run 26.2 miles.

First, marathon training is a lifestyle change. Many programs involve running three to four days a week, with a cross training day (or two) and a recovery/rest day. It is a big time commitment, and it may impede your social life, including brunches and after-work happy hours. The good news is: running can give you a new and different social life, especially if you join a running club or team. The best place to find out about clubs near you is by going to your local running store.

Next, training for a marathon does not simply involve running. Cross training, stretching, strengthening, foam rolling, and recovery are all just as important as the mileage you put in to make it to the finish line. Before undertaking a marathon, consider speaking to a doctor, physical therapist, or even get a Movement Assessment/ Running Analysis to determine your strengths and weaknesses with the help of a professional.

Much like the training, marathon day itself requires planning. Make sure to plan ahead for meals the day before, and the morning of, the race. Ask your doctor or nutritionist what is right for you, but think along the lines of sustainable energy and complex carbohydrates. Dress for the weather. Layer up with thin layers if it is cold out, and do not be afraid to shed layers as the race goes on. Unfortunately, unless you have a friend in the crowd, it isn’t uncommon to lose a garment or two along the way if you don’t want to carry it. Do not wear your favorite pullover!

Bring your own water and fuel, especially in warmer or more humid climates, and remember to drink small sips even if you are not thirsty at the time. Practice with fueling options such as supplement gels, chews, etc. Race day should not be the first time you use your selected fuel. Think of your longer training runs as rehearsals to feel how your stomach reacts to the fuel.  It may take a bit of experimenting to find the right fuel for you, but when you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes at a time it’s vitally important that re-fueling be part of the plan.

Try to schedule some practice runs on the course so you don’t run into any unexpected hills or surprises. If this isn’t possible, research the course and plan some training runs that mimic the topography. This means that if there are hills in the race you should train running hills as well!

Lastly, a marathon can be tough on your feet and other sensitive areas of the body. Double layered socks are a great way to avoid blisters, as are anti-chafing gels for areas such as underarms, thighs, etc.

Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy the run and the experience. Training for and completing a marathon is a huge accomplishment!

This running playlist has a variety of genres to keep the runner guessing and entertained. However, most of the songs have a tempo around 180 bpm. Running at 180 bpm has been shown to increase efficiency of running by decreasing stride length and increasing cadence. Running at this pace promotes a shorter, quicker stride, which helps the runner land with feet under the body, absorb shock, and continue forward momentum.

Lauren Alix is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery Rehabilitation Department. She has run two marathons and numerous other road races, and enjoys helping runners become better at their sport through running analysis, training, and rehabilitation when needed. Lauren is passionate about injury prevention in athletes, and specializes in treating orthopedic injuries.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.