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David Freeze: Gotta Run

Four of our local women, all experienced runners and marathoners, are going to their first New York City Marathon this coming November.

When I heard the news, I remembered about my own first marathon, in New York City. I also remembered how many mistakes I made in that first one but also how wonderful the experience was. A first marathon, for many a bucket list item, can be counted on for plenty of memories.

A good many runners who want to run 26.2 miles in the fall start to think about the possibilities during this time of the year. There is plenty of time to get the training in, even if you are starting with just 3-4 miles as your longest run.

Here is what you need to decide first to get the ball rolling. Check out the many marathon listings and decide which one you want to do, making sure the date works for you. My advice is to go to one that requires at least some travel which makes the race an even bigger event.

Once you have decided on which marathon you are going to do, then it’s time to figure out your training schedule. See how many weeks you have left until the target date. Then, decide on your best day for the long run, meaning which day can you spend the most time running and hold your life together otherwise. Most runners pick Sunday with Saturday the next most popular.

The last thing is deciding how many days a week you will train and what day or days will be the regular off days. Grab a calendar or look up one that you can use online and start filling in the workout distances all the way to two weeks before the marathon date. I like one that you can post in a prominent place. If there is enough time, I prefer a minimum of 18 weeks and 20 if available.

The simplest plan involves penciling in the long run in increasing distances, all the way up to 22 to 24 miles, just two weeks before the big day. The reason for going this far is because you’ll mentally know that you can complete the distance. That’s a big mistake that I made with my first marathon. The last two weeks involve reduced training, priming the body for the main event.

For most first time marathoners, there is no need for speed work during the training period. You can add a little speed work during the long run doing what are called pick-ups (slightly faster than normal training pace) for a mile or so. The success of the long run in training is the key to success in the actual marathon.

First thing, you have to be on your feet and running for a long time while teaching the body and yourself to manage fluid and caloric intake along the way. Your body will get used to it. Run on the same surface that your marathon will use. Long runs shouldn’t be on a treadmill or trails if your race is on the pavement. Get in the habit of starting you long runs at the same time of the marathon start.

The off days are important too. I usually schedule my clients for an off day before the long run and most have another off day from running per week. The body and mind should be ready for the challenge when you head out the door. It takes more sleep than your normal and an emphasis on recovery days.

Over the time of the training plan, the long run becomes easier and even enjoyable once you find the right training pace. A first marathon is possible on just 35-40 miles per week by the end of training.

Bottom line, the goal for the first marathon is to finish and learn from the experience. My first marathon was a huge learning experience and because of it, I met my marathon time goal on my second try just seven weeks later.

Several great races are coming up. Millbridge Elementary has its 5K on Saturday, April 29. Sunday, May 7 has the Buck Hurley Triathlon and 5K. The run course this year is new and much faster and the separate 5K has been added. On Friday night, May 12, the popular Teens with a Mission 5K runs out of First Presbyterian Church.

Plenty of information on all of these is at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org

Happy running!

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