Are you ready for your first 42-K?

The beauty of running is this: There’s that next goal. After you’ve completed your first 3 km. run, there’s a 5-K. After that and weeks more of training, you can attempt to double the distance. You finish a 10-K. While previously you thought that you’d never be able to run that far, with gradual and steady time on foot, you can do it.

After that first 10 km. run, the possibilities are plenty. There are multiple 12-K races. The 15-K is another good target. And, there’s the famous “half-marathon” or 21-K. But the biggest prize? Unless you’re Mayor Rex Gerona of Tabuelan, who recently completed the 160-K Ultra-Marathon, the mightiest target is to complete a marathon.

That’s 42.195 kms., all without the aid of your car or bicycle or motorbike. You run the entire distance using your God-given legs. Isn’t that amazing? I’ve completed a couple of marathons and I can say that, while the training is strenuous and pain-inducing, the reward upon crossing that finish line is a memory to last a lifetime.

Are you ready? Obviously, if you’ve done a 42-K before, then you know yourself best. If you’re in good shape — let’s consider the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) this Jan. 11, 2015 as the target — then you’ve got 3.5 months to prepare. You can.

How about for first-timers? How do you know when you’re ready?

The marathon is not an ordinary race. It’s not an 8-K that you can easily join next Sunday. It requires the participant to have logged hundreds of miles on the road. Ideally, one must have done several 21-K runs.

I’d like to consider my friend Raycia Eullaran as an example. Raycia has completed more than six 21-K races the past year. (We ran together two Sundays ago.) Is she ready for the 42-K in CCM? Absolutely. As long as she gradually increases her mileage (peaking with one or two 32-Ks), then she’s good.

How about for those who have yet to complete one 21-K? I’d rather you run the 21-K this January. And, after that, build your mileage by running several more half-marathons.

As part of the CCM organizing committee, through the years we’ve encountered participants who, despite just logging-in a few 10-Ks, decide to jump straight to the marathon. This is not advisable.

Tips on preparing? One, see a doctor. Before you register (or embark on any rigorous exercise program), have an Executive Panel test or a full check-up. This is first priority.

Second: go online and check the myriad of training schedules available for free. You can click on “Beginner” and the appropriate weekly schedules are yours to follow. Usually, these programs ask that you run 4x a week with the Sunday long run as your most important run. Some will advise that you do speed work (tempo or intervals). Unless you’re a seasoned runner, you can skip this. The general rule is to increase weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent.

On your first marathon, the goal is to finish. Forget about the “I need to do a 4:30 time” mentality. Your goal should be to enjoy and run injury-free. Speaking of injury, this is the one hurdle you have to avoid. As your mileage increases, some of your joints and muscles may not be ready for all that excessive pounding — thus, the injury. Listen to your body. If the pain is unbearable at your knee, rest for a few days. If it persists, go see doctors Rhoel Dejaño or Tony San Juan.

Find a group. Especially on weekends when your long runs extend for three to four hours, it’s essential to have friends to chat with. Time will pass quicker. Maintain a “conversational pace.”

Rest. After a tiring session, rest the next day or have an easy jog. Make sure your body has ample time for recovery. Allocate one full day a week of complete rest.

Get a massage. This is good for your aching muscles and becomes a reward for your effort. Talk to marathoners about their experiences. Buy new shoes and socks. Alternate running between hard (cement) and soft (treadmill, track oval, grass) surfaces. Relax. Often, we get tense and uptight — keep your arms and shoulders relaxed. Best of all, pray!

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