Always check with your doctor prior to starting/modifying any exercise/nutrition program. The information presented on this site constitutes my opinions/viewpoints and should not be used as medical, personal, training, or professional advice.
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success
when they gave up." - Steve Prefontaine
Las Vegas Marathon 2006
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marathon training information
Disclaimer: The information presented on this site is based upon my opinions and experiences and should not be used as medical, personal, training, or professional advice or recommendations. "Individuals with underlying health issues are at increased risk for medical complications during the running of a marathon...The majority of serious marathon-related health complications are caused by pre-existing cardiovascular conditions...Discuss your plans for marathon training and participation with a professional health care provider...Your medical provider may wish to conduct some form of cardiovascular disease screening prior to participation."*1
Just as with running shoes, there is no "one size fits all" training plan. You can choose a custom training plan, a plan out of a book, or join a training program. The article on training programs and plans goes into more detail. I have tried the training programs offered by the Dallas Running Club, RunOn! Texas, FIRST (Run Less, Run Faster), Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning 2nd Edition, McMillan Running Custom Training Plan, and extracted pieces of other training plans (e.g. Brain Training for Runners, Brad Hudson's Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon, Hal Higdon Marathon Training Plan). This article describes my thoughts and experiences with each of these plans. This is one of the most important pieces of information I have learned about running. I wish I had known this when I first started running. It would have prevented some running injuries and allowed me to run faster and further with less effort. The interesting thing is that this information is often overlooked by many training plans and programs. Most programs have you go out and run a certain distance/pace but never tell you how to run or analyze your running form. Optimal Running Form is not intrinsic to most people. Many runners have a form which consists of landing on their heels in front of the body and overstriding. That increases the impact to your knees by as much as 50% and also effectively puts on the breaks with every footstrike. Even if you're not injury prone, having an efficient running form can allow you to run faster with less effort for a longer distance. By taking advantage of kinesiology (the science of movement), your calves/Achilles Tendon act like springs. The store kinetic energy on footstrike which is then released to help propel you forward. The article on Running Form describes this in detail.

There is no single brand of running shoe that will work for everyone. Depending on your arch type and gait mechanics, you may overpronate, oversupinate, or run "just right". The Shoe Dog from RoadRunner Sports can give you some idea on shoes that may be suitable based upon your answers to gender, terrain, arch type, mechanics, injuries, and other specifications. A good running store (preferably one that can do a gait analysis) may also help you select appropriate shoes.

After having tried just about every brand out there, I prefer two types of running shoes: (1) a flexible, lightweight trainer with the same amount of cushioning in the heel and forefoot (a level outsole); (2) minimalist running shoes. I have tried the Vibram Five Fingers, Saucony Kinvara, Newton Lady Isaacs, Nike Free, Ecco BIOM, and Terra Plana Evo.

My favorites are the Saucony Kinvara for my long distance runs and both the Vibram Five Fingers Bikila and the Terra Plana Evo for weekly trail runs.

Mimimalist shoes promote natural nunning and an optimal running form. They are designed for a midfoot/forefoot landing below the center of gravity. Because they are different than any shoe you've ever tried, you will need a very gradual adjustment period for these shoes. Gradually working into running with these shoes while maintaining an optimal midfoot landing can take several months.

In order to avoid injury, I prefer to vary running surfaces and running routes. This article describes the various types of running surfaces from sand, grass, and trail to asphalt and concrete. The advantages/disadvantages of each are listed. My take-away points from the article are: (1) Don't run all your miles on cambered surfaces. The reason for this is described in detail in the article. (2) It's generally not a good idea to run all of your training miles on the same route. Running is a repetitive motion susceptible to repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). If your running surface never varies, you are increasing the odds even more of getting a RSI. This article describes marathon workouts that I regularly integrate into my training plans. This includes strides, hill workouts, tempo runs, speedwork intervals, long runs, and fast finish long runs. This article describes the current recommended guidelines for nutrition before, during, and after an endurance workout or long distance race. It also describes some of the current sports drinks/gels and how I think they compare. And last but not least, supplements are covered. Many of the sports drink manufacturers have starting selling their own brand of supplements, everything from electrolyte pills to multi-vitamins. What does current research say regarding which ones really work? You have to be careful about which research to believe because (1) it may be funded by the manufacturer (which isn't necessarily bad); (2) their testing methodology may not be sound.

Most experts agree on the following two things regarding stretches: (1) Stretching a cold muscle can lead to injury. Always make sure your muscles and soft tissues are properly warmed up prior to stretching and physical activity. That is why I will always do at least 10 minutes of an aerobic activity at a gentle pace before doing stretching.

And that is why I always run my first mile as a warmup mile and I do my stretching at the end of my run (rather than before). (2) Ballistic (bouncing) type stretching can also lead to injury. It's better to either do dynamic stretches or hold the stretch for 25 to 30 second on a properly warmed up muscle.

Because running is a repetitive motion with movement always in the forward direction, continued mileage can not only cause repetitive strain injuries, but also muscle imbalances. Doing other activities, including stretching and strength training, will help work all the muscle groups and provide more of a balance. Many runners "just want to run". I used to be one of those. But I learned my lesson. If I want to run until "they throw dirt on me", I need to be smart about how I treat my body. Cross Training, strength training, and stretching are three ways to be smart. This is a page that is a culmination of questions I have seen repeated numerous times on many of the running forums and sites. Like most things there isn't one answer that is correct for everyone. I provide my opinion and viewpoint in answering the questions along with resources for further research. This article describes the training plan and strategies I used to qualify for Boston. Choosing the correct qualifying marathon can help you in your quest to Boston qualify.


References/Footnotes:

*1 Boston Marathon Medical Directors: Pierre d'Hemecourt, MD (Co-Medical Director), Sophia Dyer, MD (Co-Medical Director), Aaron Baggish, MD