The most inspiring words I have encountered about long-distance, marathon running is the author of Mile 9, Eleanor Brown’s, “You’ve climbed too many mountains and crossed too many rivers to stop and turn back now.’’ beautiful words. “Or when you feel life’s slow, run.” For most of us lesser mortals, the mere act of participating in a long-distance run is kudos enough. But a little bit of preparation, goes a long way, in creating that perfect awareness and focus to accomplish the run successfully on a high. Preparation for a long-distance run starts in your head.
How To Prepare For A Long Run
That how to prepare for a long run needs a treatise that may appear inane to a reader. You slip into your joggers, stretch and hit the road. The rest follows. Trust me, there’s so much more. Prepping is greatly underestimated at the expense of focus. I amplify:
Sort It Out The Night Before
Make a checklist, check them and lay them ready. In the morning, once you are up and raring to go, these are irritants, and irritants don’t contribute much. They sap focus. A sample checklist, one that you can customize can be like this:
- Shoes, the most important- in good shape. They were yesterday, sure, but check nonetheless.
- Shorts- fresh, good for tomorrow’s weather forecast.
- Upper wear- plain cotton T, warmer T, hoodie, etc. Conserving body heat is the aim.
- Hat, cap, or other suitable headgear
- Water bottle
- GPS watch charged.
Plan Your Route
A preparatory run is all about planning. Your route should be well monitored. The objective is to know precisely the distance you will cover and over what ground. Sit back and play this mind visual in your head. You will visualize you running strong and finishing well. A positive mindset is something that goes a long, long way. Break your run mentally into sections. If your intended distance is 15 km, think of it as 5 km slowly, the next 5 km a little pacier and the last five are finishing.
Go To Bed Early
Though this a norm for all ages and walks, those who are in training as to how to get ready for a race should know that one night of bad sleep is energy-sapping in itself. Take a walk after your supper, or a therapy that works extremely well is Yoga. Have a light high carb meal.
Get up Early
If you manage to rise early on your own, which is how it is supposed to be, that’s a great start. First, hydrate yourself. Give yourself ample time, an hour maybe an hour and a half to complete your ablutions and sync with the world. Do some meditation that sharpens focus and stretches to limber up.
Eat And Drink
The meal of choice is again a light hi-carb meal. We are looking at about 500 calories and plenty of fiber. A sample diet would be one or two bananas, a wholemeal toast with peanut butter. Oatmeal is a great choice. Bananas, oats, broccoli, peanut butter, plain yogurt, dark chocolate, whole grain pasta, coffee, potatoes, etc. are all optimal performers in providing nutrition. &-10g carbs per kilo of body weight is a good rule-of-thumb.
Visit The Bathroom…A Few Times
This is self-explanatory. Hydrate copiously and discard. It’s flushing the system.
Fueling is referred to as a mid-run booster to top up your energy needs. There are available gels, chews, and powder that are water-miscible or you can prefer nuts, and dried fruits. As you are practicing for the big day, remember to experiment with various combinations and get it right for yourself. Needless to say, hydration is a big factor. Roughly you will need to have some water every 20 minutes and food every 40 minutes.
After The Run
Reload. Eat a suitable meal covering proteins, carbs and fat to recover from the arduous run your body has been through. You will have to replenish all those minerals you have sweated out. Non-alcoholic beer is great for rehydration.
Take a nap.
Mistakes To Avoid On Your Long Runs
When setting up a training program for how to get ready for a race, all runners make mistakes. But we learn from our mistakes, putting them behind, correcting posture, step, and stride towards transformation into an efficient running machine.
Sticking to old shoes, shoes in disrepair is inviting running injuries.
Go to a professional sports shoe store. The salespeople here are professionals who will assess your running style, whether you are an overpronator or an under pronator or a neutral runner. Taking these factors into account they will recommend the right pair for you. Your shoes will need replacement every 300-350 miles so it’s not a bad idea to have two pairs which you rotate. This will give each pair to dry out and last longer.
Too Much Too Soon
In the enthusiasm of how to get ready for a marathon, aspirants make the mistake of the ‘terrible toos’; too much mileage, too fast, too soon. Participating in every race that crosses your path with the mistaken belief of ‘the more the better’. The body is not given enough time to rest and recover. You are burning yourself out and it may become so detrimental that you lose interest altogether in running.
Be conservative at the start. Do not increase your mileage by more than 10% weekly. If you are starting from the cold, start off by walking for a few days. Listen to your body for any signs of injury. Take a weekly day off.
Overstriding is an injury-inducing technique of running landing on the balls of your feet with the foot well ahead of the body’s center of gravity. Contrary to popular belief, it does not improve running efficiency. And you run the risk of shin splints injuries.
Don’t lunge forward especially going downhill. Land around mid-sole with your foot directly under your body. A sort, low arm swing close to the body while keeping your stride short is the cue. Imagine you are running on hot coals. Your stepping should be light and brisk.
Poor Upper Body Form
Swing the arms from side to side makes the upper body slouch and breathing inefficiently. Some runners, as they tire, hold their arms up by the chest. You will increase the tension in your neck and shoulders by this.
Keep your arms at waist level forming a 90° angle with the elbows. Rotate your arms at the shoulders so that they swing back and forth. Your hands should not cross the imaginary line splitting your torso midway. A straight, upright posture, head up, back unswerving and shoulders level.
Not Drinking Enough
Never underestimate the vital need for hydration. One hour before, have 16-24 ounces of water or other non-caffeinated beverage. Stop drinking anymore so that you don’t have to stop during your run. Have another 4-8 ounces before you start. While running take 4-6 ounces every 20 minutes and if you are running at a higher pace of 8 mph, increase it to 6-8 ounces every 20 minutes. If your run will be 90 minutes or longer, switch to a sports drink like Gatorade to replenish lost minerals and salts. Continue hydrating after your run especially if your urine is dark yellow or orange.
The usual mistake here is to wear too much or too little clothing. Never wear cotton. Once wet, it’ll stay wet which is dangerous in cold weather and cotton chafes. Stick to tried and tested technical fabrics such as DryFit, Thinsulate, CoolMax or polypropylene. These wick away the sweat, keeping you dry. In cold weather don’t overdress. Body temperature will increase with exertion around 15 to 20°.
Perils Of Over-Training
This is the nemesis of beginners. The assumption that running every day will help them get shape up faster is a fallacy. Overtraining causes burnout and sports injuries.
- Increase mileage gradually.
- After a hard run, give yourself a day off.
- Every fourth week, cut down mileage to 50%.
- Add cross-training activities to ward off boredom doing only running.
Going Out Too Fast
In long-distance running, rookies make the mistake of stepping on the gas too early only to burn out early also. Your speed is something you should have figured out when training. Stick to it and check it at the first milestone. Adjust your pace accordingly. You should be running comfortably.
You should breathe through both mouth and nose. Muscles require a large volume of oxygen. Only the nose or mouth constricts the oxygen requirement. Breath from the diaphragm or belly. Chest breathing is shallow. An appropriate pace is being able to do the ‘talk test’. You should be able to converse while running without panting.
Not Fuelling Properly
Before and during the run, we have already touched upon food intake. Fuelling is an important aspect and cannot be neglected as your muscles need the carbs to rebuild glycogen stocks. After an hour of running, Ingest 100 calories and thereafter every 30-45 minutes.
We have put out concisely on how to prepare for a long run along with some explanation on common mistakes made. Running is an exhilarating pastime, adding not only to your fitness levels, stamina and health but also is a tremendous stress buster. The freeflow of dopamine and endorphins greatly boost mental well-being. So what are you waiting for, slip into your joggers and take off on a jog now.