Whether you're training for your first race or looking to achieve a personal record, we have tips to help you go the distance. Chris Carmichael, who coaches endurance athletes like Lance Armstrong, offers pointers on improving performance, preparing for race day and staying injury free.
Fuel your body
When you begin a running training program, it is important to eat properly in order to support your increased activity level. Just don't use the marathon as an excuse to eat whatever you want—make sure you're focusing on nutrition. Carmichael suggests aiming for five moderate-sized meals a day, with 50 to 60 percent of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 20 to 25 percent from protein and 15 to 30 percent from fat.
Pick up your pace
The stronger your fitness level and aerobic system, the faster you'll be able to go using the same amount of effort. Tempo runs train your body to sustain speed over distance. You'll need to get out of your comfortable cruising pace and push yourself to run faster, but at a speed you can maintain for an extended period of time. Carmichael recommends that beginners start with 10-minute tempo runs, intermediate runners try for 20 minutes and advanced athletes go for 40 minutes or more.
Head to the hills
Do you dread running hills? Well, chances are your race will have a few inclines—check the course map for a better idea of the terrain. Carmichael suggests doing hill-specific training once a week. Find a steep hill and sprint straight up for 15 seconds, driving your arms and raising your knees to power up the incline. Repeat four more times, walking or jogging for 1 minute between each sprint. Then run for 5 minutes and repeat the set.
Ward off injuries
Nothing throws off training like injuries, but many are easily avoidable. Having proper running shoes is key for support and stability. Be sure to replace sneakers every four months or 400 miles, whichever comes first. Also, take steps to prevent against chaffing and blisters. "It's the little nagging nuisances—clothing rubbing, blisters on your feet—that can get you off your training programs," Carmichael says. He recommends using an anti-chafing product, like Aquaphor Healing Ointment, to protect and heal your skin.
Practice for race day
Running smaller races before the marathon is a good way to get used to crowds and practice navigating water stations. Don't forgo hydrating because you're worried stopping for water will slow you down. In order to keep from spilling while on the go, pinch the top of the cup to create a spout. Also, find out what type of sports drinks and energy gels will be offered on the course. You should either train with those brands to make sure they agree with you or carry your own, especially since you can't guarantee they'll have your favorite flavor at the race.