Marathon is a 26 miles and 385 yards (42.2 kilometres) road race that is considered as one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The race is steeped in lore, and is believed to be an ode to the heroic, but ultimately fatal run of Greek soldier Pheidippides (or Philippides) who sprinted from a battlefield near Marathon, Greece to the capital Athens to announce the defeat of an invading Persian army in 490 B.C. While historians are unable to confirm the veracity of Pheidippides’ exploits, which was immortalised in the 19th century by English poet Robert Browning’s 1879 poem, the present-day highway between Athens and Marathonas measures at approximately 26.7 miles!
In recent years, marathons have become a popular recreational sport. Although the training is strenuous and time-consuming, finishing a marathon race, regardless of the time taken to complete it, gives an amazing, life-changing sense of accomplishment. However, marathons are not for novices. Prior to undertaking a marathon training regime, one must already spend at least a year running about 20 miles a week. Otherwise, the body will likely suffer injuries due to physical, cardiovascular and psychological strains. It is also important to consult a doctor before starting a marathon training program, which typically lasts between four and eight months.
While there are variances between marathon training programs, the key elements are the same:
1. Run on alternate days, at least three (preferably four times a week). Give the body plenty of time to adapt and recover.
2. For the first three months, each session should be between six and eight miles.
3. Do not strain yourself. Switch to walking to when you are gasping for breath. Only resume running once your breathing stabilises. If you feel any joint or muscle discomforts beyond ordinary level of pain, stop immediately. It is very easy to develop lifelong chronic injury by regularly injuring your muscles and joints.
4. After the first three months, increase the distance of your daily run by a mile each week.
5. Pick one day during the week to run a longer distance. Increase the distance by a mile every week until you are able to complete the full marathon distance of 26 miles. Remember, just one long distance run a week. Otherwise, you run the risk of injuring yourself as the body requires time to recover itself.
6. Monitor the temperature during your training. Reduce your running speed if temperature increases. When exercise, the body cools itself by increasing blood flow to areas near the skin. This allows heat, using sweat and condensation, to be transferred out of the body more efficiently. However, blood is also required to deliver oxygen to your muscles and organs. When temperature increases, the body will be strained between trying to give you sufficient energy to run and cooling your body. The risk of cramps, muscle injuries and loss of consciousness becomes steadily higher in direct proportion to temperature increase. As such, play it smart and slow down when it gets hot.
7. If you experience fatigue and muscle soreness after a day’s rest, that means you are pushing yourself too hard. Scaled back a little until you reach the sweet recovery spot.
8. Test yourself on mini and half marathons first before registering for a full-marathon. The crowd, unfamiliar tracks and competitors might trigger adverse effects, so you need to familiarise yourself with the change of environment.
Also, invest in a good pair of shoes that fits and breathable attires. Blisters on your feet and chaffed nipples are not signs of a serious competitor.
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