How to: Train for and run a marathon

Bill Garner, Pam Britt, David Branner and Linda Garner have run a total of 112 marathons between the four of them and are training for upcoming races. (Lauren Wood)

Bill Garner, Pam Britt, David Branner and Linda Garner have run a total of 112 marathons between the four of them and are training for upcoming races. (Lauren Wood)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today continues a summer series by Daily Journal reporters called “Teach Me Something” where we show how to do a variety of things and how things work.<b>

By Robbie Ward
Daily Journal

Gaining 20 pounds and thinking about that dusty, old goal of running my second marathon, I still imagine visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral and all of those pubs and pints of Guinness.

I’ve said I would run the Dublin Marathon for eight years now.

Having run the milestone distance of 26.2 miles eight years ago at Nashville’s Country Music Marathon, l set a goal to run in Dublin to motivate myself to run again. I’ve talked about it for years and have finally talked myself into getting serious about it.

I chatted recently with the president of the Tupelo Running Club, Pam Bennett Britt, who shared her experiences from running 13 marathons – the first one months before she turned 40 in 1999.

Here are tips Britt and I have for people thinking about training for their first marathon.

Step one:

Think about it.

I had a hard time imagining I could run a marathon for many years. I thought only super heroes and elite runners could do something like that. But I always flirted with the idea of trying to run long distances. Britt said she’d been overweight for much of her life and also fantasized about running the long distance. Just thinking about it plants the seed.

Step two:
See a doctor.

When you stop daydreaming about crossing the finish line, visit a doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to begin training. You don’t have to be superior athlete to begin training to run a marathon, but you should have the approval of a health professional. They can identify things about our bodies that we might not consider. Britt’s rule of thumb for people to considering running a marathon is whether or not they can run at least six miles in a single run.

Step three:
Find a training plan.

Many plans exist to help people train and require people to budget about 18 weeks or from start to finish. The great thing about training for a marathon, you can follow the lead of the many, many people who have already finished the race.

Great marathon gurus include Jeff Galloway and Hal Gigdon, both of whom have training schedules available online. As a slow runner myself, I like the insights of John “The Penguin” Bingham, a self-described slow runner. He and Jenny Hatfield have a good book called “Marathoning for Mortals.”

Step four:
Don’t worry about it.

So many people training to run marathons these days don’t have what we might imagine as a runner’s physique. Marathon runners come in all shapes and sizes. One of my running heroes ran the Marine Corps. Marathon at 240 pounds. Are you a slow runner? Don’t worry about that either. The people worried about how fast they’ll finish will start toward the front, and you won’t see them for a long time. First-time marathoners shouldn’t worry about time, just about finishing.

Step five:
Change your life.

Training for a marathon is a big deal. If you decide to do it, you’ve already separated yourself most other people who never dream of moving their body at beginning at a starting line and not stopping for 26.2 miles. This is a great time to improve other areas in your life. Eat healthier and go ahead and do other things you’ve never gotten around to doing. You can do it!

Step six: Get excited.

You need Rocky Balboa motivation to run a marathon. You need the Eye of the Tiger. If you’re not pumped as you train, you’ll have plenty of time to listen to voices of doubt inside your head. When Britt decided to run her first marathon, she’d wanted it to represent her new life. She lost about 50 pounds and has kept it off. That motivated her to keep moving forward and run more marathons.

Step seven: Shoes are optional.
I know it sounds crazy, but some people run marathons barefoot. If that’s not for you, read up on running shoes and check with others who have trained for marathons. You only have one pair of feet, so take care of them.

Find your own steps:

Should you run in the mornings or evenings? Should you need a special pair of shorts, or repeat a special mantra as you train? Each person is different. Depending on your preference, you might want other running gear like a headbands or an iPod. Find out what works best for you. Rituals and routines help with training.

Last Step:

Run the marathon.

Britt nailed it when she said the running the actual marathon is the “icing on the cake.” After you’ve trained your body week after week to run longer distances, you’re ready. Race day is just showing off your discipline and reminding yourself what you can do when you set your mind to it.

The Dublin Marathon happens each October. I won’t run it this year, but I will one day.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com