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Go the distance

Every great journey starts with a single step. There could be no fitter description for marathon running. The sheer dedication required to even make it to the start line is formidable, reports Heath Matthews.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2009 23:54 IST
Heath Matthews

Every great journey starts with a single step. There could be no fitter description for marathon running. The sheer dedication required to even make it to the start line is formidable. The race begins at the crack of dawn, with your heart pumping, your muscles tense, and the anticipation of what lies ahead racing through your mind. Yet, it all begins with a single step.

Don’t get daunted by the M word. Marathons aren’t just for the pros. You can run one too, and we’re going to prove it to you. Follow the programme outlined below to get ready to run the 21-km-long half marathon in just four months. Along the way, keep in mind all the tips about putting together a training schedule, keeping yourself motivated, eating healthy, and hydration, which you’ve read in Rush during the past weeks.

After following these and running regularly, training for the marathon is the logical next step. All you have to do is mentally commit to the programme. Because while you may be tempted to throw in the towel, there’s nothing to compare to the satisfaction you’ll feel when you cross the finish line four months from now.

First things first

Run down to your local sports store to buy a good pair of running shoes. Since this is the most important piece of equipment that you will need, it must be chosen carefully. Even if you already have a pair, buying a second one and alternating them is good for you. If you are flat footed, get an antipronation shoe; for the rest a neutral trainer is fine. Compare notes on shoes available with different brands before selecting one.

Once you have the shoes, it takes some time for the body to loosen up and get used to them. So between now and Monday, you need to spend 20 minutes walking in your new shoes and 20 minutes stretching. You may not feel stiff, but stretching is important because you need to prepare your body for the amount of work it’s about to do. Throughout this programme you will see a very high emphasis placed on flexibility, recovery and cross training. These are fundamental to any training and crucial for preventing injury.

An all-important thing to keep in mind is the need to warm up with dynamic stretching before a training session and cooling down with a static stretch afterwards, to prevent injury.

Before you go through the chart, here are a few terms explained:

Interval training

This needs to be done as six minutes of jogging alternated with two minutes of walking. Your jogging pace should be just a little faster than the regular pace you’re comfortable with, and should get faster as the weeks go by and you get fitter. Keep alternating for the duration of the training session.

Distance running

This should be done at a comfortable jogging speed for the duration of the session. Try to walk as little as possible. If you must walk, walk for two minutes and then start running again. Try to run at a pace that you want to run the race at (it can be revised as you get fitter). So, while initially you may take nine minutes to run a kilometre, as the weeks go by and you get closer to race day, you’ll be able to take it up to six minutes per kilometre.

Time trial

Set yourself a time limit, and run the distance within it. The next time, try to improve your timing. This is designed to make you run fast. It develops the fast twitch fibres in your muscles and is important for a good race time.


Flexibility, stability and strength are important for anyone training regularly. We suggest using yoga, Pilates and swimming as your recovery and cross training methods. Devote as much attention to this part of your training as to the running. If you don’t see a progression in this department, you’re doing something wrong.

Make sure you’re always hydrated. Endurance athletes seem to be always drinking water. Prehydrate the day before and weigh yourself before and after each run. Drink an amount of water equivalent to the decreased weight, thereby replacing lost fluids. This is crucial to help your body recover. If the scale shows you are back at your original weight, remember that it’s not fat that you’ve put on but only the water that you lost. The fat was burnt off on the run and will stay off provided you eat healthy.

During this programme, you’re bound to feel stiffness in your legs — this is normal and just a sign that your muscles are getting stronger. Persevere with the plan and get regular massages to ease tired and stiff muscles. All the best, see you on the other side of the finish line!