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You have goals. You’re a years-long runner who’s just spent the off-season taking it easy and adapting your routine to the colder conditions outdoors. Or, you’re more of a fitness enthusiast who’s dabbled with various training routines and you’re now set on becoming a runner. Wherever you fall along this spectrum, the arrival of spring not only means warmer days and clear sidewalks, but also the start of marathon training.
Unfortunately, many surge ahead in the season without a concrete plan about what to do and how to get there. The result, especially after a winter of taking it easy, is a diminished outcome — your times were better last year — or, worse, an injury that’ll keep you away from the pavement for the next few months.
As far as training for a marathon is concerned, one rule applies no matter what level you’re starting at: Building up strength and momentum takes time, and you’ve got to train for it, even if all you’re doing in the near future is a 5K or half-marathon.
Aside from disappointment, allowing yourself a period to prepare has a two-fold benefit. For one, even if you’re a seasoned runner, your body has to get back into the fold of things. Eventually, though, through consistent and gradual training, you reap the cumulative benefits and will likely surpass your past progress.
Secondly, you have to consider your body. We’ve already mentioned injuries, and when you go in too fast and too soon, you’re left feeling stiff and achy. This could be DOMS — delayed onset muscle soreness, which is to be expected — or you could be left with a tear or muscle strain that worsens the longer you train. Added to this, your whole body — heart and blood vessels, too — has to adjust as you begin or ramp up your routine.
As the spring season begins, get off to a steady start for that marathon with the following points:
You’ll get different answers here, but the general consensus is, you need to build up your strength. For seasoned runners, an eight- to 12-week plan is recommended up to your first half-marathon. Then, expect at least 16 weeks leading into your first full marathon. For a beginner, plan at least 24 weeks for your first full marathon. As a goal, you should be able to get through a 16- to 20-mile stretch with relative ease.
In working within this timeframe, you need to pace yourself while keeping your progress in perspective. It’s disappointing to not be where you left off, distance and timing wise, in the fall — but understand that everyone else is essentially in your spot. Through this framework, be sure to chart out a more gradual progress — some say no more than adding an additional mile or five-percent distance gain per week. Otherwise, your injury risk increases.
On this note, especially if you’re new to running, you don’t want to do it all at a sprint’s pace. If you do, you’ll tire out too quickly and won’t be able to reach your distance goals. Instead, develop an easier, more manageable pace as your baseline and up your speed in spurts from here.
Consider your first half-marathon as one in a series of goals for the upcoming season. Using our timing recommendations, you want to give yourself anywhere from eight to 24 weeks before you’re out there running to the finish line. Establish this as the culmination of your training, and get started well in advance to be adequately prepared.
Working with this point, you’ll want to map out a training plan to get here. For some, especially if your first event is a 5K or half-marathon, you’ll want to set aside at least two days per week for training, expecting to do most of your run at a slower, if not run-walk, pace.
Location in running outdoors encompasses two key factors — where you’re running and how you’re protecting yourself as you do.
If you continued to train through winter, there’s a chance you’ve been on a treadmill for most of it, with short excursions out into the cold. As such, your first real run on the pavement, complete with hills, uneven terrain, and their respective responsiveness, can make your body feel out of whack. Realize that this is normal, and especially as you mix up your routine with cross-training, the soreness will go away after a few days.
As you’ll be doing most of your spring marathon training outdoors, you’ll have to think about how you’ll protect yourself, both against attackers and any stray animals. Consider being a part of a running group, as there’s strength in numbers, and always ensuring you stay visible with reflective, high-visibility clothing. Furthermore, if you have to run alone, do so during daytime hours, in a location where others will be able to see you.
As a backup solution, equip yourself with an easy to deploy and carry pepper spray or gel solution. Sabre has you prepared. Our is tested in our laboratory to eliminate the typical 30-percent failure rate, and its formulation prevents blowback, affects only what it contacts, and provides a 20-percent longer range, giving you more distance.