Marathon Running: What You Need to Know

marathon-headerFor all my accomplishments in the world of running, running a marathon is not one of them. But I do have an incredible of amount of respect for all distances and know full well what marathon running entails.

AVATAR-3 Even though I may not have run a marathon, but I have many friends and massage clients who have. I am lucky to have been involved in marathon running on many different levels — I have trained with friends who have tackled the 26.2 mile distance for the first time and for the tenth time. I have had clients on the table who were exhausted from all the miles and just wanted race day to arrive.

Boston: The World’s Oldest Annual Marathon

Most people, runners and non-runners, know of the Boston Marathon. If a marathon is the measuring stick for running credibility, the Boston Marathon is the most credible of them all. Getting to the starting line takes more than putting in the miles – it requires a qualifying time, and many have to race at a top marathon as a stepping stone to Boston.

In 1990, I had just signed my contract with Nike, and was invited to watch Boston from the Nike store in Wellesley. As the runners approached where I stood, I started to cry. When Grete Waitz ran by me, I cried even harder. Watching the thousands of people running a marathon – doing the sport I love more than anything, and by which I defined myself for years – was overwhelming.

What to Eat When Prepping For Marathon Running

Running a marathon is so much more than most people can comprehend. It means more than just pushing your body 26.2 miles on race day – it means training your body for at least sixteen weeks or so as you prepare. It also means figuring out what to do during the race and the days leading up to maximize your performance and your experience.

According to Jim Fischer, marathoner himself as well as former track and field coach at the University of Delaware and personal coach to many marathoners, there are some guidelines to follow as you taper into race day. Fischer recommends eating solid meals in the three days leading up to the race. As runners taper, activity levels will be less than they have been, but do not restrict calories because of that; but also do not gorge on food in hopes that the extra calories will help at the end of the race. If anything, the extra food will be upsetting to the digestive system.

Avoid meals high in fiber, hydrate well, and eat your favorite meal the night before the race. Do not eat too late, especially if the marathon is early in the morning. Wake up in time to eat a light breakfast of digestable carb-laden foods, preferably 3-4 hours before start time.

Finally, and probably most importantly, make sure you have a nutrition plan for during the race. Most successful marathoners use gels, Gu’s, jelly beans, special drinks, etc… at definite points during the marathon. Don’t rely solely on the provided water stops to get you through.

Post-Marathon Recovery

Prepare to feel sore for at least a week following the marathon. Some studies have been done on runners to see if there are any ill effects from covering a distance of over twenty miles, and although there is some inflammation of not only muscles, but also of some of the internal organs, this inflammation proves to be temporary and the body is back to normal within a few days.

Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment, especially when taking into consideration the training that is involved in getting to the starting line. As I said, I may have never run one, and I may never will, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who have and who do!

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