Planning for a Marathon

A mystique surrounds the marathon, a 26.2-mile race that some people view as an exotic journey that only a few runners can take. Any healthy individual can complete a marathon, though — provided that you’ve got the will and the way.

Before you go charging out of the gate, remember that you need a little time and seasoning first. Beginning runners should wait six months to a year before moving up to marathon training. This period gives your body the time to adapt to running. Gradually working up to a marathon gives you the chance to adapt to your new running lifestyle, making the kind of healthy changes that will help build a foundation when you’re ready to take on the ultimate challenge.

Before you begin to plan your marathon training, you need a marathon to train for. More experienced runners, those looking to run a good time in a race, often choose smaller races because they’re concerned about getting across the start line quickly. Other runners look for races with flat courses or few turns.

As a first-timer, you shouldn’t worry about the number of participants or the race course. You’re in it for the experience and the sense of achievement. A mega-race can enhance that sense of adventure. It’s also an opportunity to visit a new city or to see a familiar city from a new perspective.

So choose your marathon and then begin working backwards. You need four months to prepare. Also keep in mind that most marathons are held in the fall or spring. Cooler weather is generally better for a marathon because you’re burning 2,000 to 3,000 calories and generating plenty of body heat over the course of 26.2 miles.

For specific information about training for a marathon or other running events such as a 5K or 10K, check out Wiley Publishing's Running For Dummies, by Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jon Hanc, or Marathon Training For Dummies, by Tere Stouffer Drenth.

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