I was going to type a blog of my first marathon experience. Then, I figured that it doesnt make an exciting story. It wasnt an experience where I went through tough times before I came out with flying colors. Infact, I think I performed below my expectations. Anyway, when people talk about marathon, it is usually construed as an impossible target to achieve. I beg to differ. I think it is about consistent training and discipline. I would like to state my thoughts on what I think as the hard/easy part of running a marathon and my fellow running buddies can update their thoughts.
First of all, it is the distance “shock and awe” factor. Well, when you look at it as 26.2 miles or ~42 kilometres, it is breathtaking. In my experience, I think, it is the first 5-6 miles that is most crucial. If you start running and are able to run 5 to 6 miles without any problem, it is just a matter of time (~3 months) before you can run your full marathon. It is as simple as that. The only factor to be kept in mind is “training”. It is important that you run atleast 3-4 times a week. You could follow any training program that’s out there in the web (e.g. Hal Higdon).
The second thing, from my opinion, is the pace. Since I started a little late for my marathon training, when I started training, the only way I looked at marathon running was that, if you can walk 26.2 miles at 15 minutes a mile, you should be able to finish the marathon in 6 hrs 33 minutes. So, if you run slightly above your walking pace, you are going to be limited only by your body capacity than running out of breath. So, finishing a marathon is not as hard, provided you dont worry too much about your pace. The converse holds true as well. If you increase your pace, you will get tired exponentially sooner and your average time could get screwed big time. So, it is all in the pace. I personally think that injury proneness is proportional to pace. Also, if you think you have pain during your run, run slower or stop running based on the pain. But, remember that it is not going to be pain-free when you train long distance running. When I talk about avoid injury prevention, I am talking about the “real” pain, which you will know when you get it..:)
The third most important thing, to me, was the discipline. If you are training for a marathon for 3 months, you better follow some training guideline and stick to it. Trying to skip runs and making it up is not a good thing. Also, running long distances without hydrating yourself with electrolytes and fluids is a bad strategy. Our body needs to be replenished with water and minerals (salt) since they get lost during the run. Also, assuming that a miracle would happen on race day and running faster than your regular trained for pace is very very BAD.
Another general perception is that you will lose a lot of weight when you train for a marathon. Whenever I called my parents, they thought that I was getting thinner by the day because of my marathon preparation. It is only true for people who are overweight. If you are about the right weight, by fueling your body with a lot of carbs, you might infact, put on some weight as opposed to losing it. Also, given that your body knows that you are going to expend a lot of calories, it gets into a cycle where it stores a lot of glycogen and carbs. So, eat well and eat smart. Again, once you start training for a marathon, you will google yourself to death by visiting a lot of websites which offer free information.
Another topic which is a debatable one is about running with groups. Personally, I have found that when I have a specific distance goal in mind on a given run, running alone has helped since I am not biased/affected by my running partner. When I run in a group, my competitive spirit takes over and I try to overstretch my goals. In other words, I dont prefer to run with someone who is extremely faster than me. It not only affects pace, but it affects your goal.
Keep in mind that, your mind starts playing games with you and can defeat you if you dont focus. Dont get bogged down by the enormousness of the run. It has more to do with your mind than your body. At times, you will feel like you should stop at 3 miles. At times, you can run 15 miles and still want to run. If you master your mind, you are definitely on your way to becoming a marathoner…