MARATHON, a word that amazes those who have never thought of running it, fantasizes those who are into long-distance running and wish to do it someday and, gives a sense of satisfaction to those who have mapped this distance on their feet.
A marathon is a long distance, it is a journey that your body, mind, and soul travel together. It is the true test of an individual’s endurance and willpower. Your body goes through various different phases and once you cross the finish line, you realize that your body is capable of doing much more than you think it is.
Running your first marathon is an out of the ordinary feeling. To me, it was like clearing the exam for which I had been preparing for a long time. I still remember when I first decided that I will run a marathon someday. It was 2 years back, that time I had not even started running 5KM and my first 10KM felt like I had achieved something humongous. While these distances, 10K, 15K and 20K can be done with few months of training, but a Marathon requires more than just training. It requires discipline, it requires dedication and courage to attempt it, because the real game starts after 30KM and training for the last 12km requires much more efforts than the efforts required for initial 30KM. It will always look impossible until you decide and do it. In the words of Eliud Kipchoge, “No human is limited. With a strong heart and good mind, you can do it”.
Basic Training Approach:
Training for a Marathon is a life-changing process. It is not something that will happen like a flash, it will take time but the result would be worthy of all your efforts. While preparing your mind to go for a marathon is one part of training and preparing your body for it is another equally important part. Although a strong willpower can do anything it would be even better if you can render a helping hand to your willpower by keeping your body fit and strong. To prepare our body, we need proper food and physical training.
While one may train under a coach as well, but if in case that is not feasible for you, because of your daily life commitments, that cannot stop you from running your dream distance unless and until you keep your foundation strong and follow the golden rule “One step at a time”. Foundation for a marathon is the small distance run with which one must start. Our body is like a growing baby, if you expect a baby to learn difficult words and make beautiful sentences without even giving him the knowledge of alphabets, you know what the result would be. Similarly, until and unless you make short distance runs your muscle memory, your foundation would not be strong.
Below are a few points that I experienced and learned from fellow runners in my journey of marathon training and which actually helped me in preparing myself for this mammoth distance:
- Start small: This is the first step of the ladder. Start with the training for 2.5 or 3 KM distance. Make running a habit, get used to it, learn how to synchronize breathing with your steps. Once you are comfortable with this distance, go for 5KM. Add some fun to your running, go for speed runs, slow 7-8 km runs (these would be your long runs). Do not think of too many technicalities, keep it simple.
- The next step: The next step would be to train for 10 km run. Till now you would have gotten a very good idea about your body, how does it react to pain and how do you recover. Follow the same routine, just increase the distance. Try and go for little longer runs, say 13 to 15 KM.
- Build the endurance and go long: The best way to build endurance is to run one or two kilometers extra once your body starts to get tired. Add strengthening workouts, mix them with fast and short distance runs. Try some different schedules for one or two weeks. For example, try running 10 KM daily for 5 days, or mix interval runs and speed-running sessions. These sessions will help you build your endurance which is needed for your first Half Marathon.
- Make slow long runs a habit: Make a routine of going for one long run in a week, with long, I mean 25KM and more. Do not bother about the time, just run to see how much your body can take, slowly increase the distance. Ideally, you must increase 10% distance every week. You may go for more than that as well if your body permits. Throughout the week, keep doing speed runs and strengthening as well. Stick to the plan and within a year you will be a Marathon Runner.
Importance of Nutrition:
Till now we talked about physical training and how should we approach a Marathon distance. The other equally important part of Marathon training is, how do we fuel ourselves to keep our body up and running. What are some important things we should keep in mind while taking the diet?
While there are many fancy kinds of stuff related to the balanced diet. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber-rich food and whatnot. It’s not that these things are not relevant, but it is also not an obligation to focus too much on the mathematics that how much of what should I eat in the morning and in the evening(Of course unless and until you are training to participate in world championships or Olympics, in that case, you would be having a dedicated dietician). To be honest I never bothered about taking all these things into account. All I did was, ate simple food. Right from my childhood, I have been eating chapati, daal, vegetables, and rice. My body is used to these things, so I did not change the basic fuel of my body. I firmly believe that one should not force their body to adapt to completely different food, other than what they have been having throughout their lives. But there are few changes that have to be made, and those are:
- Cut the oily or fried stuff: If you can not completely stop eating junk food, at least try to minimize its intake, your body will lose a lot of energy in burning that oil. To kill your craving for fried food, you can enjoy homemade vadaas.
- Have mercy on your lungs and stop smoking: Nothing affects your performance and stamina more than a cigarette. Unless and until you want to be an ultra-legend like some of my friends, you must stop or at least minimize your smoking.
- Eat seasonal vegetables and fruits: Eat those fruits and vegetables that nature is providing and are available as per the season, do not rush for those that are not available but some article says that you must eat this particular fruit.
- Drink water: The single most important drink for your training is the combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Drink as much water in a day as you can, no matter how many times you have to visit the restroom. Your training will squeeze water along with the salt, out of your body very quickly in the form of sweat, you must fill the water tank and keep it ready. To make it even better, include lime water as well to keep the salt level in check.
These are the few basic and necessary steps that any Marathon aspirant must take to train for it. Marathon or running, in general, will give you the best version of yourself. It will give you more than just health, it will make you a strong person both physically and mentally, it will give you self-confidence and most importantly it will give you the company of many good people whom you will meet during your training. It will make you a disciplined person and as per a saying, that one of my friends told me, Marathon makes you humble. It is actually logical because after covering that distance you will not have any energy left to show any kind of aggression.
Marathon is a journey, not only distance-wise but also personality-wise, the training for a marathon will change you as a person, which only you would understand when you will compare your present self with the one who started the training one year back. You will always cherish each and every step you take to finish your first Dream Distance, just like I did.