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Zero to 26

26 Nov 2013 | Lance Cpl. Alejandro Beodya

Marathons began as races of various long distances. Today, they are 26.2 mile races through a variety of different terrains. The London, Boston, and Paris marathon are some of the most well-known races around the world and all are challenging in different ways. Marathon runners are typically in good shape but they must prepare for each race. Everyone has to start somewhere and it does not take an Olympian to run these races. There are various ways to prepare for a marathon including physical preparation, diet, and gear.

“Set reachable goals for yourself,” said Donald Tolbert, logistics specialist, Marine Corps Communication Electronics School and participant of 17 marathons. “It takes a lot of time to prepare. It is hard to get up one day and say you want to run 26 miles. Your body has to get used to running that distance, and everybody is different when it comes to preparing.”

Physical Preparation

In order to run a marathon, the body must become conditioned to running long distances. It is recommended to be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping before training for your marathon. Combining running and walking is a good way of getting the body used to constant exercise for an extended amount of time and minimizes the chance of injury.

After being able to run for 30 minutes without stopping, distances should gradually increase each week. The longest run should be 18-20 miles. The runner will gain a physiological advantage once completing a 20 mile race. The final weeks of preparation should not be as tough so that the body can recover and be strong on race day. It is important to train, but recovery is crucial. Do not run every day. The body needs to rest between workout sessions so it can recover from training, getting stronger between each run. Take recovery days equally as serious as running days. Nutrition also plays a vital role in recovery.


Nutrition is critical when training for a marathon. Carbohydrates provide glycogen and protein to help repair muscle tissue. The runner should consume 2000-2500 calories each day. A good measure of calories to consume is 100 per mile. Most of the calories should come from carbs and protein. The others should be unsaturated fats. Some examples of good carbs are potatoes, beans, bananas, and brown rice. Some good proteins are lean beef, chicken, fish, and eggs.

Don’t neglect the importance of hydrating while training. No matter the climate, fluids are essential. Water and sports drinks are the recommended liquids. Sports drinks provide carbs and electrolytes essential to the body. While training, try to consume six to eight ounces of water every 20 minutes. Drink two hours before the run and two hours after the run. They are the most critical times to hydrate but don’t forget to drink throughout the day.

Hydration and nutrition will assist the body throughout a run but proper gear is also essential in a race.


Proper gear is important when training for and running a marathon. The most important piece of gear is your footwear. The right pair of shoes can make a world of difference. Supported shoes will help prevent injury.

Clothing worn during a marathon will vary depending on the climate. If the weather is cool, wear warm, lightweight clothing but avoid being too warm. If the climate is hot, wear light clothing.

“We were all born to run,” Tolbert said. “Sometimes you will reach the point of exhaustion but you have to have the will to keep going. Accomplish your goals. Whether it is a certain time or just to finish the race, accomplish your goals.”

Tapering in the final weeks will help your body recover from the training and be strong for the race. The week before the race, consume as many carbs as possible. Don’t spend all your energy at the beginning of the race. Marathons are about endurance. The runners must pace themselves and finish strong.

To become a marathon runner it takes time, heart, and effort. The first step to completing a marathon is getting out and training. Gear up and hit the track and get ready for the big race.

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