Marathons are very challenging, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner. You need to prepare yourself beforehand so that you don’t end up with an injury that could delay your progress or take you out of the marathon altogether. However, you also need to make sure you aren’t overdoing it, as that can also increase your chances of an injury.
Keep these tips in mind when preparing for a marathon to minimize your chances of an injury.
Give yourself enough time to properly train.
You can’t expect to be ready for a marathon in just a few weeks, or even a month. Actual training time needed will vary based on your fitness level, experience, and goals, but you’ll need to give yourself several months to properly prepare. If you’re in good shape and a regular runner, or you’ve already run a marathon and are looking to improve, Runner’s World recommends about 20 weeks of training. However, if you’ve been spending more time on the couch than in the gym, you’ll probably need closer to 10-12 months to properly prepare. Trying to do too much work in too little time will definitely increase your chances of overdoing it. There really is no “fast track” to getting ready for a marathon; you’ve got to put in the time and work, or you will very likely hurt yourself.
It’s important to be realistic about your goals for the marathon. Setting unrealistic time goals for yourself will only lead to disappointment and may lead you to push yourself too hard. You have to be able to pace yourself and realize that your pace will probably need to be slower than it is when you’re running shorter distances. You may even want to work with someone to help keep you on track, whether that person is a trainer, a fellow marathoner, or just a supportive friend. Endurance is important when you’re running a marathon, and setting unrealistic goals for yourself could make you overdo it. Wouldn’t you rather make it to the finish line at a slower pace than push yourself so hard that you hurt yourself and don’t finish the race?
When training, quality is more important than quantity.
When you’re running a marathon, you need to train yourself to run at a certain pace. Running longer distance at a slower pace just to log the miles isn’t helping you reach your goals. It’s better to run shorter distances and gradually build up to your goals than it is run more at a less-than-desirable pace. Marathon training is all about getting your body ready for the big race, and you may have to run shorter distances at first to get yourself to that point.
Rest time is as important as training time.
This is another reason to avoid overdoing it with your training. Your muscles need time to recover in between long training sessions. If you try to get back out there and start running before your muscles are ready, you have a much greater chance of hurting yourself. It is important to have days when you run longer to build up for the marathon, but it’s better to keep those runs to every other week at a minimum so you don’t wear out your muscles.
Train on more forgiving surfaces.
Pavement and concrete can be quite jarring on the bones and joints, especially if you run on these surfaces every time you train. Grass and dirt trails stress the joints much less, and may be helpful during your training. Gravel or a treadmill are also lower-impact surfaces. You don’t need to run on a low-impact surface every time you train, but you should try to do it at least some of the time when you train to reduce your risk of joint pain and injuries.
Running a marathon can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It’s easy to get caught up in training and overdo it, but you’ll be glad you paced yourself when you cross the finish line injury-free.