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Keep Your Fall Marathon Training Realistic

How to train for a fall marathon successfully and injury free with tips by Kara GoucherBy Kristy Ojala
Registration for the 114th annual Boston Marathon opened yesterday, and swift-footed athletes from around the world are clamoring to qualify under the strict new time requirements. A field of 26,000 runs the elite race every April, among them our very own Kara Goucher, who last year beat her personal record and came in fifth among women. But for the rest of us mortals, fall marathon training is in full effect, and by now you probably have a few aches and pains—or even marathon envy.

I was lucky enough to get into the lottery for the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, but my training has been sidelined for two weeks with a squawking IT band and tight hip flexors. I worry I may have to defer, but I’m not yet ready to give up. Sometimes having a big goal like a race is motivating; other times it feels like a second job that you never quite get the hang of and are always struggling to clock in on time. This can cause a wave of self-doubt and worse, self-defeat. How can you be sure this marathon thing is right for you?

Find your mantra. When I run, I think of Kara, one of the most inspiring runners to come along in my lifetime. In her book Kara Goucher’s Running for Women, Kara recommends having a keyword (hers is “fighter”) or mantra that you can repeat over and over when things get tough. Mine is “Smooth, steady, strong.” These help bring you back to a positive mindset, overriding bad thoughts such as “I’m not going fast enough” or “I’ll never finish a half marathon at this rate.”

Avoid injury by mixing it up. Make sure stretching, strength-training and cross-training are a central part of your training plan. Sure, runners need to run—but you’re not going to do yourself any favors if you’re sidelined by an injury, or worse, surgery. Experts recommend cross-training activities (cycling and swimming are excellent for runners since they’re low impact and use different muscle groups) a minimum of twice a week. Stretching should be done before and after a run, but on your off days, you should keep at it, too. Stretch when it works best for you. Kara likes to do hers before bedtime for better rest. Foam rollers, The Stick, and a resistance band are all gadgets you can learn to love.

Don’t get stuck in a running rut. You need different routes, running buddies, and mileage to keep things interesting. Get Kara’s tips for keeping your runs fun:

If you’re not anywhere near your first race, never fear. Use these six simple tips for beginning runners and you’ll be on your way to a great 5K in time for Thanksgiving.

Are you training for a fall race? Share your tips!

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