With my next 26.2 just around the corner on April 30th, spring marathon training is in high gear. Not that I wouldn’t be running year round anyway just for fun, but there’s a certain added pressure from the mileage called for by a full marathon.
So, today I’ve compiled my totally non-professional wisdom about training for your next spring race.
Invest in the Right Shoes.
When I first started running, about five years ago, I simply laced up my cute little Skechers and waltzed out the door for my first run on a whim. I quickly learned that the right shoe makes all the difference in the world.
For anyone looking to up their running game, I strongly recommend going to a local running shop to get a proper gait analysis and fitting. Just because Joe Runner down the street runs marathons in Vibram Five Fingers doesn’t mean they will be good for you.
Personally, I have always enjoyed Mizunos and Asics. Right now I’m on my second pair of the Asics GEL-Cumulus 17, and they are phenomenal.
Don’t Skimp on Good socks.
There are some pros out there who will tell you that you need to always run in $12/pair elite socks like Feetures. And as much as my experiences with those super expensive socks is nice and all, I personally don’t find them to be that much better than middle-of-the-road running socks like these from Asics, that will run you about $4/pair.
That said, I’ve found that running in super cheap and/or super old socks is downright miserable for my feet, especially with any longer distances.
So my advice is to go Goldylocks on your socks: Not too cheap, not too fancy, just right in the middle!
Learn Your Body’s Hydration Needs.
It’s obvious enough that long distance races, particularly those in the spring and summer, require adequate hydration. But to me, the hard part was learning over the years what my body needs and when.
Too little water or sports drink and you put yourself in a dangerous situation, but there *is* such a thing as overhydrating. For long distance runners, this can actually be deadly.
I have personally found that I need about 1 litre of sports drink for every 18 miles I run, but I barely sweat, so I think most adult runners need roughly twice what I do.
The next question is to figure out what your body needs to drink most. Water alone just doesn’t cut it when you’re running a marathon, since your body desperately needs things like sodium and potassium replenished. But personally I find regular sports drinks to be far, far too sweet. It might just be because I virtually never drink anything with added sugar, but regular Gatorade or Powerade tastes disgusting to me and leaves me even thirstier.
That’s why my go-to drink is the low-sugar Gatorade in their G2 line. It’s got about half the sugar of regular Gatorade, but it still provides your body with a boost of glucose and electrolytes.
Hills, hills, hills!
Even if the race you’re signed up for is advertised as “fast and flat,” I am a personal believer that hill training is invaluable, no matter what course you’ll be racing. They are a great strengthening tool for your calves and Achilles tendons. Not to mention, training a lot on hills will make that fast and flat race seem like a breeze!
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Rest.
Sleep. We all need it, right? Well, articles I’ve read over the years suggest that it’s even more crucial for a runner’s body. I’ve read from so many Olympic runners that they religiously nap after long or hard training runs, because sleep helps their muscles regenerate faster.
I’m no doctor, but I do know that setting aside dedicated post-training nap time on long run days is vital to my marathon training.
Roll After You Rock.
A personal trainer was the first person to introduce me to foam rolling, and boy am I grateful! A giant foam roller like the one below is a fantastic post-run exercise. It can be used to massage out sore spots in larger muscle groups like your quads and hamstrings.
For more targeted therapy without the cost of a professional massage, I love my roller stick. It’s perfect for tight calves after a strenuous hill workout.
In a pinch, you can also use a (clean) rolling pin on your calves if you don’t want to invest in a stick. Just be sure to wash it well before using it again to bake! 😉