Sunday, February 19, 2012

6 Steps, 6 months to your first marathon! Guaranteed!

Six months to running your first marathon…from 0 to 26 miles in 6 easy steps!
According to Wikipedia, 500,000 Americans will run marathons in the next twelve months.  Even if you are out of shape as you read this, I know it is possible in six months to have you running 26.2 miles by September! 
You might be sitting there, your face all fake orange stained with a handful of Dorritos saying…
“Me? “
“Does he know I am reading this while washing down Dorritos with a 2L Pepsi?”
Yes, I am talking to you.  I can see you.  You can run a marathon.  Trust me
If you follow these six easy steps, I know you can be crossing a marathon finish line in September smiling ear to ear! 
How do I know? 
Because I started just like you back several years ago.  I made it from 0 miles to marathon in the span of six months.  You can to!

Step One:  Register for a race in September or October and tell 10 people who will razz you about it if you back off!
You may be saying, “Whoa, I am not sure I will be up to running a marathon in September.”  There are two reasons I am telling you to sign up now.  One, by signing up for the big goal now you will have something to aim for!   Why tell 10 people?  This ten person army of support or conversely embarrassment/peer pressure if you start to back away from the goal will be just enough to keep you running during dark days.  Secondly?  Races fill up and you need to sign up for your fall marathon early!

Step Two:  Go to a real running store and get the right gear. 
Start with a treadmill stride and foot strike analysis and buy the shoes the experienced folks suggest you buy for your running stride type.  Buy yourself a couple pair of running shorts, some good socks, a water bottle/belt and a running hat or two.  IF you have the cash, buy a GPS watch that can give you the basic info you need to track your progress.  Experiment a little on gear. Try a couple different manufacturers and fits until you find something you like.  (Hey Columbus, GA...go to Big Dog Running Company!)
Step Three:  Devise a training plan
There are a ton of places you can Google to locate a marathon training plan.  If you are overwhelmed with all the plans you see, try this one.  I know it will work for most people. 

You have 24 weeks roughly to build up to a long run of 18-20 miles. 

1)       Start with 10 miles a week by walking/running 3 times a week.  2 times short (2 miles each) and a longer run of 5-6 miles.  It is okay if you walk on the long run.  Don’t sweat it.

2)      Add 1-2 miles a week using the same pattern 2 runs short and 1 run long for the first 10 weeks.  By the end of 8 weeks, you will be up to a respectable 25 miles a week.  Your run pattern should look like 7 miles 7 miles and a long run of 11.   You should start to feel good by now and picking up some confidence!  Still, if you need to walk a bit, it is okay!

3)      Weeks 8-18, try adding one day and 2-3 miles a week to the total.  I would focus on adding to your long run.  By the end of week 18, aim to have three shorter runs and a long run a week.  I would suggest you aim for a 7-7-7-15 pattern.  If you can get to 13-15 miles long by your 4.5 month point, you are nearly HOME FREE!  (Don't over train.  Injuries will result.  I know!)

4)      Week 19-22?  Work a few more miles into your routine per week, by the end of week 22 if you are at 40-45 miles, you are well on target.   By the end of week 22, aim to have a pattern of 5-7-8-6-20 miles on your 4 day running schedule.   If you hit 20 Miles on your long run by Week 22, you will nail your marathon day!

5)      Week 22- to race time?  Keep up the 4 day pattern, but cut a few miles from the total every week, take a little off your long run each time.   Drop a day of running as you get to week 24 or so.

6)      Race week?  Run a few maintenance runs.  Don't go more than 6 miles.  The hay is in the barn.  If you have managed to get yourself to the 18-20 mile long run range, YOU WILL FINISH YOUR FIRST MARATHON!

Step 4:  Figure out what your body needs food and water wise at the longer miles through experience.
Over weeks 18-24 or so, you will have six long runs to help you dial in what you need nutritionally to make it 26 miles.  A few hints:  Your body stores roughly 1800 calories…enough for you to go 15-18 miles without hitting the proverbial wall where your stored sugar calories empty out.  The goal for you is to add 200-400 calories an hour as you run.  Don't over do anything!
There are a number of products on the market to sample.  Bars, gels, shots etc.   They all work.  The key is to figure out which ones won’t make you sick as you run.  Drinking?  If you can drink a few sips of water or electrolyte drinks every 15 minutes or so, whether you are thirsty or not usually will do the trick.  Aim to drain about 20 ounces for every hour you run.  If you can, eat/drink the same brand the race is using on race day.
Step 5:  Work in a half marathon somewhere around month 4
Find a 13.1 race sometime in month 3.5-4.5 if you can.  It will give you great experience as to what a race morning and start is like.  Secondly, it will give you a reward and be a confidence booster that you can do a longer race!

Step 6:  Read, run, read, run, read, run!
There are several magazines, books and websites devoted to running.  I suggest you go out there and learn a bit every week and try to incorporate a few things you learn each week. Try something you read every week.  Don’t be afraid to experiment!  Warning:  Don’t try anything new the last two weeks before you race.  You want everything you do to be tried and tested under long run conditions.
Bonus Step 7:  Enjoy the entire process. 
Listen up.  Unless you are 28 year old prodigy from Kenya or Ethiopia with a Nike sponsorship, you are not going to win your first marathon (or likely any other that follow).   Enjoy the process of training, the feeling of a great run workout, the camaraderie of other runners you meet, the fun of race week and the race itself.  It is okay to walk during the race…most people do.  There is no shame in walking a few miles here and there…the goal is to become one of the .16% a year of American’s who completes the task.  Don't quit.  You will make it!
I can tell you that I know many first time marathoners who have told me the feeling of crossing the line for the first time rivaled any happy moment in their lives.  The adrenalin.  The cheering crowds.  The sense of accomplishment.  It is worth the effort.
I guarantee you, if you follow these seven steps, you will complete your first 26.2!
If you are training for your first marathon and have questions…go to Facebook “MyRunAcrossAmerica” and ask your question.  I, along with a few hundred other runners, will be happy to share our knowledge!

Good luck!

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