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Follow These 3 Steps to Prepare for Marathon Training

November 21, 2023

Running is running, right? But the leap from a 5k to a marathon is more than just added mileage – it’s a totally different sport.

If a marathon is in your future, you’ll need specific programming to prepare your body to perform, says Stefanie Bourassa, manager of the sports medicine program at Hartford HealthCare’s Rehabilitation Network.

“As you increase your mileage, you’ll need to pay closer attention to your body’s needs,” Bourassa says.

Here’s everything you need to consider – including your running style, footwear and mental space – to prepare to run a marathon.

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1. Choose the right footwear.

Before diving into marathon training, it’s important to know your feet and running style.

You’ll need different footwear (and support) depending on how your weight naturally distributes in your feet and whether your heel, mid-foot or forefoot contact the ground first when you’re running.

For example, most runners re heel strikers and would benefit from extra heel cushioning, says Bourassa. And if your feet tend to pronate –  your body weight tends to be more on the inside of your foot – you’ll need a stability shoe that provides support in the right places.

The good news is that most specialty running stores offer shoe fitting services that include pressure mapping, look at calluses and check for pronation in your stride. However, if you need more support or struggle with any pain at the 5k distance, more expert help may be needed.

“Physical therapists are trained to assess gait and recommend footwear. The retail side cannot address and fix the underlying issues that may cause the gait abnormalities,” she says.

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2. Address long-distance training differences.

When you’re making the jump to a marathon, you need to adjust the way you fuel your body, says Bourassa.

Running for more than 30 minutes leads to increased sweating and need for hydration. About 50 minutes in, your body needs electrolyte replacement. At half marathon distance, your body starts depleting carbohydrate sources.

To support your body appropriately, you’ll need to incorporate various carb-loading and hydration techniques.

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3. Train responsibly.

If you’re a long-time runner, you may think marathon training is as as easy as lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement. But to train safely and effectively, cross training and strength training are key, says Bourassa.

“Strengthening the support muscles required for proper running mechanics is essential. As the mileage adds up, it takes a toll on your muscles and any pre-existing weaknesses make injuries more common,” she says.

The resulting injuries can be a major setback in your training plan, and can include:

  • Blisters or calluses
  • Runner’s knee
  • IT band tightness
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis

If you’re concerned about injuries, a physical therapist can help.

Whether you have pre-existing injuries or would just rather be safe, than sorry, a physical therapist can help. By creating a customized prevention plan, you can integrate exercises that target weaknesses, minimize your risk of injury and make your journey to a marathon that much smoother.