How to prepare for a marathon

Jan 13, 2012, 15:42 IST | Agencies

Running a marathon is not a simple task and cannot be approached lightly. Individuals planning to compete in a marathon must therefore have a basic level of fitness before they can even begin to train for a race. In the run-up to the 2012 Mumbai marathon, here are a few tips on how to train for a long-distance race

Mumbai Marathon on 17/01/2010. PHOTO/ATUL KAMBLE

Doctor check up
A marathon covers a distance ranging from 10 km to 42 km, which can take a toll on the body and so it is very important to visit a doctor for a checkup before planning to take up running.

Set a target distance
In a long and enduring race such as the marathon, it's very important for runners to fix the distance they plan to run whether it's a 10-km short marathon, a 22-km half marathon or full marathon covering a distance of 42 km.
Train early
To accomplish the goal of completing a marathon, one must start training in advance. Experts recommend at least 4 to 5 months of physical training for runners if they want to achieve their highest level of endurance. Training programmes will vary depending upon the kind of marathon one plans to run.

Smart diet
The types of food and the timing of these meals will have a huge bearing on the performance of a runner. A balanced diet should include essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.

 Dress light
A marathon often starts early in the morning but as the day progresses the temperature gets warmer, so one should not overdress to avoid increasing the body heat, which induces sweating, and thereby evading the risk of dehydration.

Pick the right shoe
Purchase a comfortable pair of running shoes, ideally the one that fits perfectly. A good pair of shoes is the best way to avoid preventable injuries.
Set your pace
Runners must always stick to their target pace, which means the ability to increase and decrease the speed of the run depending on the situation of the race. When runners start out too fast, they burn a higher percentage of carbohydrates, forcing them to drop pace and ultimately bowing out of the race. Target pace can be achieved with meticulous training.

Relax your mind
Running a marathon with a free mind makes your job much easier. Make sure you keep your running gear ready a day before the race. On race day, just keep your mind relaxed and avoid getting distracted by the runners around you.

Hydrate smartly
It has always been believed that runners should keep their bodies hydrated during races and so, drink a lot of fluids during a race or a marathon, but a new study has claimed that drinking too much could hamper their chances of winning.

According to experts, "Many athletes hold unscientific views regarding the benefits of different hydration practices,"
When runners drink in spite of not being thirsty, a potentially fatal condition -- exercise-associated hyponatremia, is caused, which can dilute the sodium content of blood to abnormally low levels. So the safest way experts suggest is to drink only when thirsty, as it is the safest known way to hydrate during endurance exercise.

After the marathon 
It is essential to take care of a few basic tasks prior to relaxing and celebrating right after the race:

Check the need to visit the medical tent for any muscle or joint pain if experienced
Pick something to drink like water or juices, avoid alcohol
Grab a bite to eat from the refreshment area
Stretch within 20 mins of completing the event
Don't lye down; keep moving to minimise leg muscle soreness

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