From a year of new normal, we are gradually progressing towards restoring normalcy, a clear sign of which is that marathons are once again being held across the world. In a four-part series by marathoner and coach Tarun Walecha, we will cover how to train for a marathon and the journey between the start and the finish line. Read Part 1:
If running is meditation, then running a marathon can be easily named as the nirvana. We all have our journey, from the day we take up running as a part of our regime, to the day of running our goal distance. Be that a 5K or an ultra marathon, the euphoria and ecstasy at the finish line is the same. While the vagaries of this path, from inception to attainment, takes us through multifarious emotions, struggles, and resolves, culminating in the gratifying high, the sense of accomplishment is distinct and exclusive. In spite of it all, a marathon has a unique feel to it, those 42.195 kilometres are an inimitable journey and an incommensurable experience.
What makes a marathon unique?
The journey as a runner may start with a few steps, but as one discovers the love for it, the single biggest aspiration for all remains to be a marathoner. A lot of us may go on to run longer distances eventually, but running those 42.195km is one of its kind experience. There’s something about the distance which sets it apart from the experience of running a half marathon, and that of running an ultra which starts at 50km onward distance. It hangs in between the two in that sweet spot, where it tests physical and mental capabilities, both at its extreme. Biological reasoning of the same is that a human body is capable of storing roughly 2,000 calories in the form of glycogen, the preferred and easily accessible source of energy. With a consumption rate of approximately 100 calories for every mile, this resource lasts us for 20mile or 32km. That’s exactly the point where most of us hit the proverbial wall. And this is exactly where the magic of a marathon begins. While we want to run another 10km without hitting our lactate threshold, we also do not want to slow down, trying to extract our energy from the fat reserves, which is abundantly stored. This balance between running fast enough to extend the glycogen reserve till the entire 42km without having to hit the lactate threshold and slow down where our body has to run on the fat metabolism, is how the magic of a marathon unfolds.
While we will talk all about how to prepare for a marathon in subsequent blogs, let us first understand what does it take to get us on the road to the marathon.
5 essentials to run a marathon
Goal Setting: The first step to get the ball rolling is to set a goal. One must always aspire, but the game begins when you set a goal. Pick a day, or an event, giving yourself reasonable time to train well. Dreaming is good, but being realistic is equally important. There are hardly any shortcuts available on this route.
Discipline: This is the key to achieve just about everything in life, but for a marathon, even a slight slack can cost you much on the race day. As one discovers, marathon running isn’t just about physical or mental skills, it is about understanding your physiology, and being sensitive to so many little variables that pop up on race day. It’s the discipline that helps in experiencing it all before the big day.
Weekly Mileage: Weekly mileage is the cornerstone of the training plan that one follows, and it has no substitute. When training for a marathon, one of the basic rigour the body needs to undergo is running those long miles, or as they say, “spending time on feet”. There’s nothing that can fill in the void for the miles not run.
Training partner: Marathon training can be not just physically but also mentally daunting. Spending time on the track for long speed work, running crazy miles per week, and topping up the weekends with insane long runs can sap most of us. And then to go through this not just once or twice but consistently for over 14-18 weeks, can make anyone lose their mind. That’s where a training partner comes in handy, not only supporting and encouraging us but running along with those tumultuous sessions.
Marathon isn’t two half marathons: The most important aspect of understanding a marathon is that it isn’t a physical doubling up of a half marathon. The physiology of our body deals with a half marathon differently and a marathon differently. While the distance arithmetically does get doubled, the effort increases manifold.
Training for a Marathon
Once you’ve got the basics put in, your heart and mind in place with your decision, and you’ve accepted all the hard work that may come your way, then comes the real deal, training for the marathon. The next few weeks to come would bring a whole lot of surprises your way. As complex it may seem, they all can be converged into three essentials that you need to take care of.
1. Training Plan
2. Strength Training
These three aspects can help you touch upon the most concerns one may face, and the rest is all about the race day, as it may come. The magic of the marathon isn’t just to train for but to experiences it on the race day with all the newer things it brings along.
As each of these aspects would need many details, we will be dealing with them in a series of blogs to follow. So, while you may start planning your next marathon, watch out this space to read more about how to train for one.