Proper preparation is crucial for conquering those miles. So we’ve asked our friends at Run United to prepare a guide on how to prep for the long run to help you do things smartly. Let’s get started!
Ensuring a Proper Training
Define your goal and be realistic
Setting a clear objective for your marathon, such as finishing within a specific time or simply completing the race, will give you direction and motivation throughout your training. Be realistic with your goals and consider your current fitness level, available training time, body limitations, and injuries (if any).
Get a proper training plan
Choosing a structured training program that aligns with your experience level will ensure the right balance between increasing mileage, intensity, and recovery periods. Be patient with your progress, and remember that improvement takes time. Preparing for a half marathon typically takes a novice 3-6 months, while a full marathon requires even more time. Build strength, endurance, and cardio gradually, and avoid straining yourself initially.
There are various plans available online or through running coaches that cater to different skill levels. Aim to run three or four days a week, including one longer weekend run. Don’t try to cover the full race distance during training – marathoners often run the full distance only on race day.
Get the right running gear
Selecting cushioned and supportive running shoes for long runs is crucial, as the right pair can significantly impact performance and injury prevention.
Our friends at Run United suggest Hoka shoes. They offer maximal cushioning, which helps reduce the impact on joints and muscles during long runs while maintaining a lightweight design. In addition to cushioning, Hoka shoes also provide excellent support and stability. Their midsole geometry promotes a smooth transition from heel to toe, enhancing your natural running stride.
Run slowly, taking smaller steps
Incorporating easy, slow-paced runs into your routine is essential for building endurance and avoiding burnout. Running at a conversational pace helps strengthen your aerobic base.
Focusing on maintaining a higher cadence (the number of steps per minute) and shorter stride length can significantly improve running efficiency. This technique allows you to distribute the forces of impact more evenly and promotes a smoother running motion. As a rule of thumb, try to adhere to a cadence of 170-190 steps per minute.
Mix things up with sprints
While long-distance races don’t involve sprinting, incorporating short sprints into your training can help break the monotony. Adding tempo runs, intervals, and hill workouts to your routine not only challenges your body but also boosts your fitness and keeps things interesting.
Find a runner’s community
Joining a local running club or finding a training partner can provide invaluable motivation, accountability, and knowledge-sharing throughout your training journey. Running with others can also make the process more enjoyable and help you stay committed to your goals.
Taking Care of Your Body
To enhance flexibility and minimize injury risk, include dynamic stretching before runs and static stretching afterward. Warming up your muscles and joints with dynamic stretches prepares them for the workout, while static stretches post-run aid in lengthening and relaxing the muscles.
Take walk breaks
Make sure to listen to what your body is telling you. As you begin your journey, feel free to take walking breaks during your runs. It’s a great way to keep from overdoing it and helps build a running routine that’ll stick with you.
Drinking water consistently throughout the day and consuming electrolytes during longer runs helps maintain optimal hydration levels. As you know, dehydration can negatively impact performance and recovery, so it’s vital to prioritize fluid intake during training.
Fueling your body with a diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats supports your energy needs. Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for endurance activities, while proteins and fats aid in recovery and overall health.
Pre-Race Day Preparation
Avoid pushing too hard before the race
Avoid strenuous workouts two to three days before the race. Allowing your body to rest and recover is essential; the hard work is already done! Use this time to mentally prepare and ensure you’re feeling fresh on race day.
Eat clean and don’t carb load
Long-distance races typically take place in the morning, so it’s crucial to be mindful of your last meal the day before, as it greatly impacts your race performance. Keep an eye on your fiber intake to prevent any unwanted pit stops during the race, and avoid fatty, greasy foods and alcohol the night before.
Here’s another essential tip: while complex carbohydrates are indeed a vital part of a pre-race day diet, carb-loading the night before might actually do more harm than good. Some runners resort to carb-loading as a last-minute strategy, hoping to store extra glycogen – the body’s fuel source – and avert hitting the “wall” (when the body runs out of glycogen). Unfortunately, short-term carb loading could leave you feeling sluggish and bloated on race day.
Get a good sleep
Prioritizing quality sleep in the weeks leading up to the race ensures your body and mind are well-rested for the big day. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and establish a consistent sleep schedule to optimize recovery and overall health.
Start your race day with an easy exercise
On race day, wake up early enough to allow time for light activity and stretching. It helps warm up your muscles, increase blood flow, and mentally prepare you for the marathon ahead.
Eat a good breakfast
Although you might not usually eat much in the morning, it’s crucial to fuel your body before the race. In the days leading up to the event, experiment to find out what foods work best for you.
Get a big glass of water within an hour before the race. Staying moderately hydrated will keep you in good shape throughout the run. Don’t forget to grab a sip at water stops along the way – but remember, balance is key. Too much H2O will slow you down. Also, check beforehand if there are hydration stations along the route, and if no, gear up with a hydration pack.