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Running a marathon: Advice from a veteran

Posted by: pshields on Friday, December 19, 2008 - 10:00 AM Print article Printer-friendly page  Email to a friend
Training

Running a marathon: Advice from a veteran

By Jeremy Cox

Dec. 16, 2008
Tips from experts should help you reach your goals in Sunday's Jacksonville Bank race

Mastering a marathon is more than just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.

Diet, training, mental toughness, hydration - all of these factors are critical to reaching your goals, be they setting a personal record or merely finishing in one piece.

With less than a week to go before the 26th running of the Jacksonville Bank Marathon, the Times-Union talked to a few experts around town and came up with this "quick" guide to running your best.


Where should I be in my training at this point if I'm running the marathon or the half-marathon?

"Done" was the succinct reply offered by race director and six-time marathon runner Doug Alred.

Long runs of 20 miles for marathon runners and 10 miles for those in the half-marathon should now be under their belts. The last few days should be a mixture of light runs and rest, Alred said.

According to national running expert Jeff Galloway's oft-cited protocol, runners during the week before a marathon should sneak in 30-minute runs today and Thursday, walk on Friday and rest on Wednesday and Saturday.

Should older runners train differently?

Yes, said Maxwell Steel, a marathon runner and physician with the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute. Runners in their 40s and up should consider integrating some cross-training into their prep work - activities like swimming and bicycling. This is intended to help you recover from the stress of daily running.

It's also not a bad idea to see a doctor before starting any fitness regimen to make sure your heart is healthy enough.

How do I avoid getting injured?

The banes of any runner are sore heels and "runner's knee," a persistent soreness behind the knee cap, said Stephen Lucie, a JOI sports medicine specialist. Some injuries may be prevented by adjusting your running technique.

As it happens, the institute offers video analysis by physical therapists and trainers to ensure you're running right.

Should I buy special shoes for the race?

Not a good idea, said Alred. This must really be important because, as president of the athletic supply store First Place Sports, Alred has a vested interest in convincing you otherwise.

Instead of breaking in a new pair, Alred suggests going with shoes that are at least a month old and have several miles in their soles.

"You don't want any surprises," he said.

How much should I drink during the race?

"Your body has to get used to the nutrition and when you're going to supply it," Steel said.

That means don't do anything differently from what you did in your training program. Volunteers will provide you with an option between water and sports drinks along the route. Grab the one you're used to.

The only exception to this rule is if it's hot outside. In that case, drink more. But beware of drinking too much, as this can flush your body of electrolytes, potentially leading to death in extreme cases.

How do I manage the pain during the race?

The Jacksonville marathon's flat course is designed to be as easy on your body as possible. (The goal is to allow runners to set qualifying times for the Boston Marathon.) Still, the 26 miles take their toll, particularly at around mile 20, according to Alred.

"Mentally, I think the thing you have to do is to think positive, then you have to be realistic about what you can do. You can't start out at a six-minute pace, when realistically you can only do an eight-minute pace. Payback is hell in a marathon," he said.

Should I feel bad about walking?

Galloway, the running expert, actually recommends alternating between running and walking, saying that this method actually shaves off chunks of minutes. He recommends that, on a cool day, runners accustomed to a 10-minute pace per mile should walk 1 mile for every 3 miles run.

What should I do after the race?

Don't resume your regular running schedule right away, but don't take a vacation either, experts say. Run a few miles the next day to keep limber. Give yourself a week, and then get ready for your next race.

Jacksonville

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