The distance is 26.2 miles. Millions of athletes, and I use that term loosely, have now completed the distance. Teen-agers on a whim, overweight middle-aged men on a dare, and little old ladies hanging onto life have accepted the challenge and succeeded. I know this for a fact, because i've been passed by all of them at 22 miles. Honestly, it is increasingly difficult to pick out a "marathoner." We come in all shapes, ages, and colors. Maybe that is the true attraction of this pursuit. All are equal in the race with ourselves.
Can you finish the marathon? You bet your sweet butt that you can. Regardless of your current fitness level you can be a marathoner 4 to 6 months from today. Keep in mind, i said FINISH. Finishing by any means necessary, including of course, walking. You will not set any national age-group records. Sports Illustrated will not call you for an interview. But, you can take charge of your health, your fitness, and your life. You are the Master of this Journey. The King. You are solely responsible for your success or failure. Wonderful, isn't it?
There are dozens of books and hundreds of websites dedicated to every detail of how you can succeed in the marathon. I'm going to make it a bit simpler for you. I suggest there are just THREE BASIC TENETS that you need to know, to believe, and to practice. They are in order of precedence; you will progress through them as you progress through your training.
First, and most importantly, you need FAITH. And, lots of it. I don't care how hard you train, how many miles you run, or how many PowerBars you eat; you will still be challenged at Mile 20. Challenged in all you believe to be true. You will hurt. You will be able to think of a million good reasons to quit. So right here, and right now you need to decide that you can do it. You alone are responsible, remember. You will do it no matter what it takes. This may very well be the greatest physical challenge you've ever attempted. Any effort less than 100% is inadequate. You must believe in yourself, and your ability to continue through the mounting discomfort.
You have it inside you. This ability to overcome the fear of achieving what you are capable of. The human being is an incredible mixture of hopes, dreams, and flesh. This is YOUR time, and You can make it happen. Mentally, the preparation begins now!
Secondly, you need a training regimen. A program tailored to your fitness level that accomodates your lifestyle and the time that you have available. The more effort you put into this plan, the more comfortable you will be at Mile 20. You won't hurt less, but you will get to/past the discomfort more quickly. I won't go into specific details in this article, but am always willing to work with folks one-on-one to develop an individual plan. Basically, you are building endurance, and extending your ability to continue to move forward on your feet. It's really very simple. Remember, you are going for the finish. There will be other opportunities to improve your time. This marathon will serve to stretch your limits, allow you to gain some experience, and not inconsequentially, help you to make some new running friends. While it's often been written that long-distance runners are loners, i have found that sentiment basically untrue at the marathon distance. In fact, a group of like-minded folks are often able to accomplish greater things than the single soul.
So, we've looked at FAITH and TRAINING, the mental and physical preparations. Next you need a PLAN. A plan to race. Again, this must be tailored individually, but there are basic logistics that must always be considered. I always advise prospective marathoners to run a large first marathon. Surrounded by thousands of runners at the big city marathons makes it nearly impossible to get stuck in the late miles by yourself. And, it is much easier to keep moving when you are witnessing first hand the joint suffering of your fellow marathoners. The alternative to the large marathon is to find someone to run with you. While no two runners have the same pace, i've found many veteran marathoners enjoy the experience of re-living their own first marathon through the accomplishments of the rookies. Hey, whatever works!
Now you know which marathon you'll be running. What time of year will it be? Here in the USA on the Right Coast the marathons are generally held in the Spring or Fall. Try to mimic conditions. If the run is a hilly one, then train on some similar hills. Train on the course if possible! If the marathon has a 7 A.M. start, then do your long runs at 7 A.M. Experiment with fluids and snacks. Race day is not the right time to discover that PowerAid makes you nautious. Today high-tech fabric and running shoes are readily available and affordable. I've never outgrown Cotton, but would be the first to admit it sucks in cold rain.
Three Basic Tenets. Faith, Training, and a Plan. Is it really that simple? Well basically yes. The hard part is deciding to do it, and then getting out there every day. I promise you it is worth it. It may even change your life. While i have talked to folks out on the course at Mile 20-22 who couldn't remember what posessed them to try the marathon, i have never talked to one person who was not very proud of their finish. It is a worthy challenge with a tremendous reward. That is, personal growth and achievement.
I love the marathon and what it stands for. There are no excuses out there on the course. Nothing else matters but you and the elements. You are solely responsible for your success or failure. I wish you good luck if you accept the challenge, and certainly understand if you don't. Should you need any help, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.