When I tell people I run marathons (and that I run at least a half marathon on a daily basis), they usually respond along the lines of, “Wow, I can barely run 3 miles,” or, “I couldn’t ever do that.” And I usually reply with something like, “Hey, 3 miles is good. And I think almost anyone can run a marathon.” I truly do believe most people can run a marathon—as long as you follow some best practices and have the desire. Whether you want to run a marathon or are just interested in pounding out a few miles a week, read on for some key elements that will set you up for success.
Shoes. Shoes have the greatest impact on how I feel during and after a run. When I’m running in the wrong style of shoes or my shoes start to wear down, various muscles in my legs and feet start to hurt. Usually runners should get a new pair after logging 300–500 miles. If you’re feeling some aches from running, start your troubleshooting by considering the condition of your shoes. As another note, if you plan to run every day, get two pairs of running shoes (preferably different styles), and alternate the days you wear the pairs so the midsole foam in each pair has time to recover before you wear the pair again. As an added benefit, if you alternate pairs, you’ll be able to log more miles in each pair before needing to replace your shoes.
Slow and steady. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but don’t try to add too much too soon! When I was training for my first marathon, I added 1 mile to my long run every other week. Even if you feel like you could go longer, restrain yourself a little bit (it’s good for you physically as well as mentally).
Variation. Even if you really enjoy running, if you never vary your workout you’ll likely become bored, you won’t achieve your potential, and you may become injured. So mix up your runs. Here’s an example:
Monday: Intervals (After warming up, run a short distance at a high intensity, followed by running at a slower pace for a few minutes to recover. Then repeat the fast-slow cycle several times.)
Tuesday: Slow recovery run or cross-training
Wednesday: Hills (After warming up, find a hilly path or use the incline function on a treadmill.)
Thursday: Slow recovery run or cross-training
Friday: Tempo run (After a 15-minute warm-up, run for 20 minutes at a challenging—but not your maximum—pace, and then cool down with 15 minutes of slower running.)
Saturday: Slow long run or cross-training
Sunday: Rest and recover
Running for a purpose. While I’d always thought it would be cool to run a marathon and I’ve always been very disciplined, when I was preparing for my first marathon it helped to have an extra motivation to keep me going: I ran as part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program, which involved raising almost $5,000 for the society and training for and then running a marathon with other fundraisers. Even on the days when I felt tired and wasn’t as eager to run, I was motivated by the many people I knew who were battling leukemia and lymphoma. Plus, friends, family, and coworkers were always asking how my fundraising and training were going. I couldn’t let them down.
So, why not run for your own health as well to help others? In my area, it seems there’s a race every weekend from April through October, and many of the races benefit nonprofit organizations. Sign up for a race that supports a cause you believe in—it might just be the motivation you need to persevere on the days you’d rather watch TV than lace up your shoes and pound the pavement.
What goals do you have when it comes to running?