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Do you marathon?

  1. Feb 8, 2006 #1
    I am interested in running in the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I want to be a completer, not a competer. I looked at some web sites that have training schedules for beginners, but I am so out of shape that I can't even do the first week schedule. I figure I need about 2 months of training before I can get to the beginner stage. My current goal is to run 1 mile without muscle pain in my legs. My best run/walk was 1 mile in 13 minutes, 17 seconds, with moderate pain. I have been stretching before starting and it seems the more I stretch, the less pain I experience. Although I am serioius about this, I have to consider the possibility that I will not participate until the 2007 race.

    Do you have interesting experiences, or helpful hints for me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 8, 2006 #2


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    I don't run marathons, but I ride 100 and 200 mile bicycle rides. (A 150 mile bicycle ride is generally agreed to be about the same subjective "difficulty" as a 26-mile run.)

    My advice is to listen to your body, not your mile markers. Very gradually increase your either your mileage or your intensity -- but not both -- by about 10% every week. If you're very out of shape, increase mileage or intensity by only 5% per week while you're still acclimating. It's very dangerous to overexert yourself when your body is not in shape. In my opinion, don't even bother trying to follow a training schedule until you're easily able to do a workout equivalent to the first or second week.

    Note that running is very high-impact, and can literally destroy joints and their supporting structures, particularly when your body is not prepared for such stresses. I highly recommend cross-training -- replacing a run with a bike ride, using a stationary bike, or a swim -- to improve your aerobic capacity without ruining your joints. If you feel any pain on the front or back of your knees, or along the outside of your leg between the knee and pelvis (the iliotibial band), you need to immediately reduce your training and give it a week or two to heal.

    Try to avoid exceeding your aerobic (lactate) threshold. If you're huffing and puffing, you are outside your aerobic zone, filling your muscles with lactic acid, and doing little to improve your fitness. You should be able to maintain a conversation at all times throughout most workouts. I highly recommend getting a heart-rate monitor and using it to pace yourself, at least until you become used to your body's "signals."

    - Warren
  4. Feb 8, 2006 #3


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    And you should have someone to maintain a conversation with. Running alone sucks - it turns into a workout. Of course, while I don't mind activities that require running, I can't stand running for its own sake (I felt this way when I was one of the city's best cross country runners in high school, believe it or not - the coach and the other people on the team made it worthwhile in spite of the running).

    They have an annual marathon here that's insane. I've never run it, but I know a few people that have. They run 13 miles from Manitou Springs up to the top of Pikes Peak on a trail through the woods and then back down (that's an elevation change of nearly 8000 feet). Coming back down is faster, but a lot harder on the toes.
  5. Feb 8, 2006 #4


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    I used to be a pretty good runner, though I've never run a marathon. I more or less agree with warren, though I'd recommend not increasing the intensity much at all until you reach some pretty significant milestones. Since your primary goal is just to finish, speed is not important and from experience I can tell you that when getting back into shape, speed hurts more than it helps.

    For the initial "getting in running shape" phase, the goal needs to be running 5 times a week, at a distance of around 4 miles - and being able to do that in relative comfort. After that, you can think about starting a marathon training course.
    My enemy has always been pace: I run fast and hurt myself, then can't run for several days. If you run fast and get sore and get shin splints, you aren't helping yourself gain any ground at all. Whatever pace it takes, initially, for you to be able to run for 20 minutes, two days in a row (then a day off) is how you need to try to start.

    If you are so out of shape that running even 1 mile is a problem, spend however much extra time you need on a bike to get you above 20 minutes (better yet, 30 minutes), otherwise you aren't doing enough cardio. If you can't keep your heart pumping for 20 minutes at a time, you're not doing all that much for your cardiac fitness.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2006
  6. Feb 8, 2006 #5


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    I do 10k to half-marathon races nowadays, 'still' quick enough to do the shorter distances. I think Russ summed it similarly to my own experiences on the basis of what have read from running related coaching books.

    Starter programmes have seen usually contain exercises 3-4 / week. Say you've 4 exercises / week. Typically, 2-3 out of these are running and one is a long walk (1-2 hrs)(or a run were you occationally run for some minutes, then walk etc.). The exercises done running are 20-40 mins long (distance at this point is totally meaningless). When starting, the point is to build aerobic endurance and overall make your body get used to the somewhat excruciating experience. During these runs it is very common, and actually recommendable, to walk in between .... you may for example run for a few minutes, the walk for a few etc. .... whatever works. The point is to not over-exert yourself but start building from bottom up slowly, but surely & consistently. Slowly the length of continous running will increase, and you are able to increase length, speed, etc., but those are all irrelevant at first.

    Alternate forms of exercising are recommendable, like biking, especially in the beginning (if you feel like it, have some pains or otherwise just bored with running). Just so you don't break anything like develop back problems or something related which can be truly troublesome. Occationally heading to the gym and pushing your legs and midriff a bit will do wonders to your running. When beginning your run, walk for a while at first, some stretching helps to get going (and especially after!). I for example usually run for 10-15 mins slowly (warm-up), and then stretch for about 3-4 mins after am ready to start doing the actual exercise. Most runners stretch about 15 minutes daily, and a one longer session / week (stretching is a pretty personal experience, experimentation is a good thing, but it is in any case a necessity).

    One important aspect is to 'control' your heart rate. If you've a HR monitor that's easy, if you don't, you should try to keep your speed at a level where you're still able to carry on a conversation (usual rule of thumb). This makes 'sure' you stay in the aerobic range and the runs don't become too consuming. Men in particular, when starting running, tend to do their exercises near the anaerobic threshold ... and following they never recover & the experience overall is a killer .... a classic rookie mistake. Better go slow at first, there is plenty of time to try to "kill yourself" later.

    Also, it is really difficult at first, but having some control over your running technique would be good. It develops with time, but especially if you're starting to have pains "beyond average" (running is a pain always no matter how much you work on it ... part of the appeal :biggrin: ). Good hints are to get a decent pair of shoes and when running, make sure the length of your step is such that your foot lands behind your knee (this way you're not striding, one good way to break places like knees, heels, back, etc. when fresh).

    The schedule should change in about 2-3 months, or in that time I'd believe you're fit enough to change it a step more demanding. Many people run the marathon after 6-7 months of training, some wackos even after 3, personally I think about a 1-1.5 years gives a good foundation to finish it with "honours".
  7. Feb 8, 2006 #6
    What you need to do is start off slow. For about three months just run, and try to add miles weekly. Example: week one run a mile a day, week two run a mile and a half a day, but do so at your own pace. You don't want to hurt yourself, especially this early on. By the end of this 'base' stage, you will want to be running around 12-15 miles daily, with one "long" run one a week, of about 20 miles. You want to be running these 12-15 miles anywhere from an 8 to a 9 minute mile pace before you can start the next phase. Once you reach this point, you can begin doing things like lifting, mile repeats, speed work etc. This might not work for you, however. I am a high school cross country runner, we run 5k races, not marathons, but this is, for the most part, what we do. I assume a marathoner will train differently than a CC runner. Oh, and your diet is also important, if you are serious, you will need a diet high in complex carbs (like pasta and rice). Don't try do diet and run 10 miles every day, because it won't work for you. you might want to google something like 'runners diet' to find exactly what is good. Also, If you get into this too hard at the start, you will get hurt.
  8. Feb 8, 2006 #7
    While speed work is crucial for much shorter races like 5ks, I don't think it is particularly necessary for marathoners... unless you are of course like the fast paced marathoners from Africa who can run 5 minute/miles :eek:.

    Concentrate on slow, long distance runs, alternating from easy days to the more difficult days (usually once per week should be a difficult day). I've always enjoyed the slower runs myself, less pressure to shave off seconds or worry about breaking a PR. Don't neglect the faster-paced training days though, as working harder and going faster over a shorter period of time will help condition your heart so that running the actual marathon at a pace you want will be easier (and more relaxing).

    I think marathoners need a slightly different type of diet than most runners who run shorter races like 5ks or 10ks. Runners (especially long-distance ones) need high-energy content foods like carbohydrates and protein. I am unsure of the particular diet needed the week or days before the marathon, however.
  9. Feb 9, 2006 #8


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    I'm not a runner at all (even if I didn't find it mind-numbingly boring, I have the same oddly put-together knees that my cousin and aunt have both had to have knee replacements for, so I'm hoping to avoid that fate myself by not doing things that hurt my legs), so I can't help you with training and pace and all that stuff, but the one thing that hasn't been mentioned that I noted when I read your question is with regard to stretching. When I tried weight-lifting for a while (until the knee pain started showing up and I gave it up), the trainers at the gym recommended warming up a bit before stretching rather than stretching cold. My friend who was an exercise science major recommended the same thing. Apparently it's possible to injure yourself while stretching if you haven't warmed up enough yet, so do a light warm up (something like fast walking), then stretch, then do the workout (running in your case), and when done, stretch again to keep your muscles from tightening up too much.
  10. Feb 9, 2006 #9

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    Ooh! Ooh! Runing thread! Running Thread!

    Jeez, everyone already said the good stuff.

    Ah, I heard a good rule of thumb and it seems to work. Sure you want to complete, but you still want to complete "with style" right? (not with dehydration and leg cramps and sitting in the medic tent at the end). For whatever distance the "race" is, you should be doing that number of miles per week. So with plenty of time before the MCM, increase your mileage per week to at least 20 to 25. Increase slowly with two rest days per week. Find a five mile run that has no "escape" route and do it slowly and often. Nothing beats "LSD" if winning is not an issue.

    If you beat my best time at MCM (3:14) I will take your completers medal.
  11. Feb 9, 2006 #10
    There is so much excellent advice here that I can't acknowledge all of it. I had heard about that "warm up before stretching" thing before. Last night I didn't do that, I just stretched "cold". But since I have heard the same thing from two sources, now I will finally take advantage of the advice.

    The best advice I got here was to de-emphasize the intensity. Last night I did my usual run/walk, but I ran much slower and tried to not get out of breath. I did get out of breath, but it took longer than usual to do so. I was able to increase the ratio of running to walking. As a result, paradoxically, by reducing the intensity, I actually put in my best mile at 12 minutes 52 seconds. Also, the pain was much less than previously. Still, if you multipled that pain by 26.2, I would probably divulge state secrets.
  12. Feb 9, 2006 #11


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    Echoing what the others have mentioned, I would emphasize stretching daily, and running different distances. Start out slowly, perhaps with a friend who has more experience.

    I spent one summer in Colorado (during junior and senior years of HS) where I met some fellow students who were long distance runners. I was more of sprinter who played soccer and cycling, so I didn't have the endurance, especially at about 5000+ ft, with up and down hills.

    Nevertheless, I joined these guys and started running 3-5 mile range. For the first week, it was hard. I couldn't eat after a run. But starting in the second week, my body became adjusted, and I could actually eat more than when I showed up in Co. After two-three weeks, with more running it just got easier, and I started running alone. After two months it was pretty easy.

    When I returned to high school, I continued running at school and after school. In addition, I did weight training. I contined running well into university. Sometimes I'd run distance and other times I'd run for speed.

    Good luck with the MCM!
  13. May 18, 2006 #12
    Yesterday, registration opened for this event. If you are interested, go to this site:


    It will probably only be open for another day or two.

    I am currently running 4 miles in 58 minutes and no pain. I need to run it in 56 minutes to finish the race in time. Of course, I also need to run at that pace for 6 hours straight, so I have a long way to go.
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