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Marathon Information Resources

Welcome to the Marathon Information Resource page. The purpose of this page is to provide a guideline of what to look for in a marathon training program. Some training and raceday tips are provided as well. Please be aware that this information is for completers and mostly first-time completers, not competers. If you are looking to take 5 minutes off your best time so that you can qualify for Boston, then try one of the sources listed below.

Setting The Goal

"Yup," you say, "I want to run a marathon." That is your goal. But you need to be more specific, as in which one. The running civilian may not realize the large selection of marathon races available. The fall and spring marathons are the most popular, but you can find a marathon somewhere in the country virtually every weekend. For first time marathon runners, whose concern is finishing the distance, the bigger marathons are worthy of consideration. They provide the built-in moral support to keep you going. The Marine Corps and New York City marathons are among the largest in the country, and you will be surrounded by your fellow competitors the entire way.

In contrast, the smaller marathons avoid the hassle of dealing with the big city. Many have a small town flavor, and as such, you can roll out of your hotel room and into the starting line. Many athletes combine the marathon trip with sightseeing, hobbling around to see the local attractions the next day. It may be a good idea to enter in a second race as a backup, in case injury, sickness, or something in the real world prevents you from making the starting line.


Once you've decided where you are going to go, you can then plan on how to get there. We're talking about training here, not the bus schedule to Erie, PA. There are many training schedules already published, and so one will not be produced here. A typical marathon training program will require somewhere around 8 to 10 long runs. The long runs are run every two weeks or so, and increase in distance by about two miles per week. Before you begin this series of long runs, you should be able to do a 10 mile run comfortably, and have a base of about 30 miles per week. Also, you should have good general health, with a recent checkup from your doctor to provide the formal ok. Look at the resources listed on the bottom of the page for a variety of schedules and advice.

The purpose of the long run is to condition your body on running distances approaching the marathon. This pace will be the one used during race day. S-L-O-W! It is best to practice drinking water during these runs, as you will need to do this on the big day. The same is true for eating before the race, to determine which foods can be tolerated and how soon before running. Most people do their long runs during the weekend, when time is available. Have we warned you that marathon training is time consuming? It will take three hours or so for some of the longest runs, on top of your normal weekday training. Running in groups is also helpful, as a group will keep you going, and someone to shoot the breeze with is better than thinking about how bad your legs may feel.

Race Day

The simplest race day advice is to keep doing what you have always done. This is not the time to introduce a new food, or a new sports drink. Breaking in a new pair of shoes on race day is also a bad idea. Similarly, a new (faster) pace doesn't fit into the plan either. Imagine this: you walk out onto the line, and all of festivities are going on. People are excited, music is playing, stuff is happening. There is always some clown talking about a race pace that happens to be 10 seconds slower than your fastest track mile in high school. All of these things function to get your adrenaline pumping, and risk blowing out in the first miles of the race. Therefore, you should check your pace for the first few miles, and then ease back, if necessary, into your planned pace. Of course, if you select a race in Canada, you may spend the first kilometer converting your race pace into metric, and the second kilometer measuring your pace.

The most common problem that runners have during the marathon is dehydration. The human body was not meant to run that far, especially without water. The first marathoner didn't have water stops, and look what happened to him. You must avoid dehydration in the days prior to the race, and continue to take water throughout the race. If you miss a water stop, go back and get it! And be forewarned about those unofficial water stops in the big races-- Not Recommended!

Another concern is warm temperatures, which can lead to faster dehydration. Runners need it to be cool. When you line up, if you are uncomfortably cold, i.e. slightly shivering, then you are properly dressed. Be prepared to shed layers as the race goes on. Winter marathons can often have the opposite problem, so use some common sense here. Hopefully, your support team can help you with this.

As you run the first miles of the race, you will, unfortunately, feel good. This leads to overconfidence, and then an increase in pace, and then as legend has it, at about twenty miles (the marathoner's halfway point), a bear will appear and make you carry a refrigerator on your back the rest of the way. My suggestion is to have an intermediate goal of reaching the 10 mile mark feeling like you haven't exerted yourself. And line up near the back of the pack-- what are you thinking?

It is always helpful to get a boost from the crowd, a cheer or a shouting of your name. In the large spectator races, if your pin a sign saying something like "Yell 'Go Joe'" on the back of your shirt, spectators will love to oblige. But if your name is Sam, then another, more clever slogan is needed. Wearing your Chargers singlet can be helpful in that regard.

Many runners still have the principle of running every step of a race. This is very admirable, but in my opinion, unnecessary. Consider this: you are at 22 miles, and you need to start walking. Do you drop out? In some races, there is no one around to drop out to. The procedure for dropping out is to walk to the finish line and tell the race officials there, or else to hop a ride in an ambulance called by the next water stop. So why not complete it? While not optimal, the first time marathon completer may take the Long Walk Home when necessary without loss of stature, and then make finishing non-stop a goal for a future race.

Once last piece of advice. A common mistake that first time marathoners make is that they often expend themselves throughout the course, and end up having a lousy finish line photo. Find out where these pictures will be taken, and make sure that if you are taking the long walk home, run with a good stride in front of the photographers. Then when you retell the tale of your marathon, your heroics will be easily portrayed with a good race photo.

For More Information. . .

There are many good resources available on marathon information. For a list upcoming events, take a look at the Chargers Event Calendar, which includes many popular marathons. Some other online sources are:

  • Marathon And Beyond - Running periodical that goes the extra mile
  • - Opinions about various marathons and lodging information
  • Cool Running - Marathon training schedules and advice for various levels of runners
  • Marathon World - Race Calendars plus Training Information
  • Runner's World - Many articles on different aspects of the marathon
  • Marathon Training - Various resources for marathon training (use IE)

  • Some books on the marathon, in no particular order:

  • Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon

  • The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer by David A. Whitsett, et al

  • Daniels' Running Formula-Programs & Strategies:1500 to Marathon, by Jack Daniels,Ph.d

  • Marathon! by Jeff Galloway

  • How to Train for and Run Your Best Marathon by Gordon Bakoulis Bloch

  • 4 Months to A 4 Hour Marathon by Dave Kuehls

  • Road Racing for Serious Runners--Multispeed Training 5k to Marathon by Pete Pfitzinger & Scott Douglas
  • The Competitive Runner's Handbook by Bob Glover, Shelly-Lynn Florence Glover

  • Marathon Training: The Proven 100-Day Program for Success by Joe Henderson

  • The Essential Marathoner by John Hanc, Grete Waitz

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