Everyone’s Guide to Running a Marathon


Feel the delightful ecstasy of running 26.2 miles. It’s time to Lose Weight, Get Fit & Healthy this Summer training for a marathon. It’s an agonizingly long, long, long distance, even for veterans. But it’s not impossible, every year, seventy year old grandma’s and middle aged managers cross the finish line. It’s not easy, but it’s achievable. If you can walk and jog a mile, you can run a marathon.

Here’s a quick beginner’s guide with a training plan to get you started:

Google Marathons & Pick One

Just enter the following search:

marathon (your city, your state)

Check the date of the race. For a first timer, you should give yourself at least 2 1/2 to 3 months to train. If you already run 20 + miles a week, you might be able to skate by with a little less than two months of training.

Register for the Marathon

This is the big trick. It’s super easy, yet very challenging.  The alarm whistles in you head will scream, the butterflies in your stomach will flitter about, but it doesn’t matter. Whenever you’re terrified and thrilled at the same time, it’s always a good sign. Realize that in a single keystroke, you can overcome your doubts, blasting out the weakness with a single solid action, an action that officially puts you on the path to fitness and health, taking you one step closer finishing the gold standard of endurance: the marathon!

Use Jeff Galloway’s Free & Easy Online Marathon Training Plan

This is your first marathon, don’t waste time searching for complicated marathon training plans, just  use Jeff Galloway’s Marathon Training Plan. It is free, easy; safe enough for your seventy year old grandma and challenging enough for a Boston Qualifier. Jeff uses walk breaks and despite what you may think, WALKING IS NOT CHEATING. The walk breaks give your body time to recover and make the longer run much more enjoyable. Also, the breaks don’t slow you down as much as you think. This plan is also very merciful with your busy schedule: you’ll only running about three times a week, and two of those days are thirty minute sessions, which means that you only really need to carve out one day for you long runs. I trained for my first marathon while I was working three part-time jobs. One of my jobs required a two hour commute, yet I was able to hit all of my runs. If I can do it, so can you!

If you signed up for a marathon: Congratulations!!! You’re on the path health and wellness and soon you’ll have a medal hanging your wall, attesting to your athletic prowess, making you one of the elite 5% of Americans with enough vigor to endure the gratifying ordeal that is the marathon.

Or you can buy Jeff’s book and learn how his plan can even get you ready to qualify for Boston:

Essential Holiday Gifts & Stocking Stuffers Every Runner Will Love

Sometimes it’s difficult to chose the right gift for the barefoot adventurer in your life. There’s a trick to buying presents that make your mom and dad smile, letting them know that you love and care for them. And then there are the essentials: the best outdoor gear that your athletic barefoot endurance brothers and sisters  just can’t go without. Here are a few choice Amazon items for the active person in your life, perfect for last-minute gifts.

Waist pack belt for SmartPhones with Waterproof, Sweat Proof Lightweight Case

Waterproof SmartPhone Case for Endurance Athletes
Waterproof Smart Phone Case for Endurance Athletes

On my long run days, when I’m miles and miles from home on slender country roads slick with icy rainwater, I always feel better knowing that I have access to my phone.

Sturdy PolyCarbonate Multi-tool Phone Case for SmartPhones

Multi Tool Case for iPhone 6/6s
Turn your smart phone into a Swiss Army Knife.

Sometimes my sandal-lace snaps, ripping the toe-strap from the sole of the shoe whenever I  kick a rock or trip over an unseen root on the trail. When I finally stop shouting curses to the empty sky, I usually have to break out my car keys to reinsert the strap into the sandal before I seal it back in place with duct tape–yes I always run with duct tape in my camel back. Car keys work, but it’s always nice to have some tools on hand when you’re all alone in deep dark forest. This tough case, made of sturdy poly-carbonate, upgrades your smartphone into a Swiss Army knife. The tools are securely ” hidden” in the case, but easily removed, and the blades are TSA compliant!

Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm

Body Glide Ultra Running Anti Chaffe lotion
Body Glide Ultra Running Anti Chafe balm

This stuff is magic. Prevents and treats chaffing, especially on the most sensitive part of your chest: the nipple. Easier to apply than olive oil or petroleum jelly. Don’t toss the container in the bin because you can use it to hold home-made, all natural deodorant– a recipe I will cover in an upcoming post.

 Medal & Buckle Hangers for Endurance Athletes

Medal Hanger for Endurance Athletes
Medal Hanger for Endurance Athletes

This is a great gift because it highlights the achievements of the past while inspiring your runner for the goals of the future. Without my medal hanger, I don’t think I’d be running the Hagg Lake Mud 50k this February. Whenever I don’t feel like getting out of my warm cozy bed and onto the wet, icy wind, I look at my medal hanger, then put on my huaraches and hit the streets.

Reflextive Vest

Reflective Vest for RUnners
Reflective Vest for Runners

Don’t let your best friend become another Elizabeth Jaeger, the woman who was given a citation after a car slammed into her hip  during her morning run. Give them the gift if safety. Be safe. Be Seen!

Sweatproof bluetooth headphones

Bluetooth Headphones for Barefoot Runners
Bluetooth Headphones for Barefoot Runners

A study at Brunel Unversity’s School of Sports Education reveals that listening to music while running boosts endurance by 15%!!!

 

Pepper Spray

Pepper Spray for Barefoot Runners
Pepper Spray for Barefoot Runners

Not a every pit-bull is puppy at heart. Some beasts are just downright ferocious. Dogs are pack animals by nature, programmed to chase anything that runs. Most of the time they just yap at your heels, but every once in a while they bite. Pepper spray is humane way to protect yourself without causing lasting damage to the mutt.

 

 

Honesty in 3 Letters

I was disappointed and frustrated that my race times were so pathetically slow this year. I thought I trained well. But obviously I didn’t. So I asked myself what did I do last year that I didn’t do this year?

The answer was clear. Last year, I used my GPS for every run. It kept me honest. Every time I hit the streets or trials I knew exactly how far and how fast I was running. This year it was all guesswork. For instance, I added a “10 mile” trail run to my schedule. I estimated the mileage by the Upper Salmon River  signs and by feel. When I wore my GPS watch  on the run last week, I discovered that the trail markers were correct, but my estimates were wrong. My “10 mile trail run” was only 8.97 miles. The miles felt  longer because the trail has some steep, technical spots that slowed my pace considerably. Because I used this “10 mile run” as the basis for other mileage (I looped the route to get in my 15 and 20 milers) all of my training mileage was off. I was also running the route much slower than I should have.

This year I learned that honesty can be spelled with just three letters: GPS. For now, I’m still using my ancient Garmin Forerunner to track my mileage. But here some top of the line models that are in my wish list. These watches are perfect some of the longer ultras that I’m planning next year:

 

Are You Making This Barefoot Running Mistake?

I made a huge mistake the first three years of my barefoot running.

What did it cost me? Well, I partially tore both my Achilles tendons, I gave my  tender calve a level 2 strain, and I probably fractured most of the tiny bones in my naked feet. The mistake that I made is well known, often ignored, and entirely misunderstood. Like most barefoot runners eager to bare their soles on their neighborhood streets, I suffered from TMTS (too much too soon).  But what does that really mean? I’m sure you’ve seen those annoying letters on many blogs about barefoot running. For me, and I surmise for 99% of the other barefoot runners out there, TMTS means you’re running far too often and often too far. If I had only known what I know now, I would have been able to run further, longer, and with fewer or no injuries in a shorter amount of time! My transition from running with cushioned shoes to bare feet would have been seamless–it was seamless, I meant smooth.

What is the secret that I missed, the one that would have saved me from injuries  and allowed me to run more without running too much? It’s simple, but it’s a secret that most runners will resist. Some runners might even stop reading this blog when they discover what it is:

The secret to decreasing injuries, speeding up recovery, and increasing running pleasure, my dear friends, is to include brief and structured walk breaks into every run longer than one mile.

Most runners will wince as if they have just sipped curdled green milk. They think that running is running and that means continuous running, not walking, which in their minds, is cheating.  That’s the way I felt for ten years. And for ten years, I battled injuries. But once I cranked up my mileage during the training for my marathon, I discovered that walk breaks are not cheating at all, instead they’re smart. They also allowed me to increase my weekly mileage without tiring me out or damaging my body.

Principles behind Structured Walk Breaks:

• Continuous running results in quicker fatigue & increased risk of repetitive motion injury.

• Walk breaks lead to quicker recovery.

• Walking during a run decreases stress on the spine, knees, and feet.

Why you Should Give it a Try

• It’s a smarter way to run.

• Allows you to carry on all of your life activities – even after long runs.

• The walk breaks motivate people of all fitness levels to get off of the couch and run.

• Helps runners cope and overcome fatigue allowing them to run longer distances.

• Delivers all of the benefits of running (cardio, stress relief, & endurance)  without exhaustion or pain.

In the past when I ran my ten milers, non-stop, I would be spent for the rest of the day. My quads would be sore and stiff like cement, it would take me a full day to recover. With walk run, I can recuperate the same day. During my marathon training, I was able to run twenty-two miles early in the morning and still work  a full eight hour day without much fatigue. I was tired but highly functional in a job that requires walking, lifting, and lots of standing. I know that there is no way I could have worked without using the run walk method.

Here are some great resources about walk run to get you started.

Barefoot Boring Marathon Training Day 4

 

Sometimes I have to bury myself to feel alive. That’s what the isolation tank is a like  for me, it’s a private, self-inflicted burial. I close the door and entomb myself in a Stygian crypt. But this post isn’t about the mysteries of isolation tanks. I’ll save that topic for another time.

This post is about a different kind of burial–one above ground under the hot summer sun–and the curious resurrection that accompanies it. This post is about running hill repeats. Today, my barefoot marathon training schedule commanded me to run 90 seconds up hill at 80%-90% max heart  rate with 90 second recovery for 30 minutes. On the first climb, I watched my heart-rate leap from 112 to 157 in a very short time. Breathing was troublesome. Soon I was wheezing hard. By the third repeat my heart-rate reached 175 and that’s when the panic set in. My hissing, gasping, wheezing lungs would not drag in anymore air.  The houses spun around and the street became a rolling wave. I couldn’t catch my breath, it felt like I was breathing through a straw that was getting smaller and smaller.  Am I having a heatstroke. No, what if it’s asthma- or a heart attack-I could die–OMG, I could drop dead right here!!!! This is dangerous. I should stop running. Should ask this lady to call an ambulance? and so on. Slowly as I jogged downhill, my breath returned. I was tempted to stop doing the repeats but quitting my repeats would have been a huge mistake. Instead of giving into the temptation to walk, I just forced myself to slow down whenever my heart-rate reached 152–I found that when I slowed at 152 it still climbed to 157 or 158, but those ranges are in my target zone, so the gasping and wheezing were tolerable. As long as I staid in my target zone of 80%-90% of max, I would be safe. The wheezing didn’t stop completely and the running wasn’t easier, but it all became uncomfortably bearable and I was able to finish my 30 minute repeats. After my run, I felt fantastic! I was reborn. I can’t wait to train tomorrow. Come back  to find out what’s next.

Boring Marathon Training Day #1

Right foot barefoot sandals.
Right foot barefoot sandals.

I didn’t at all expect this. Typically, I don’t care about Vo2 Max, Yasso 800s, negative splits, or any other speed based racing lingo.  I ignore competition because I just like to run.  Instead of focusing on speed or competition, I customarily look to weekly mileage. For me, running is about spinning the earth steadily and rhythmically in quiet solitude. It’s not about gagging or choking on my own breath.

I can’t say why I’ve decided to change my routine. Maybe I’m just bored, or maybe I just want to punish myself for working somewhat steady hours. Whatever the reason, in order to slice open the belly of my performance and dissect it like a frog, I bought a heart monitor and a wrist GPS gizmo.

This morning, before work, I tracked my first marathon training run with my Garmen wrist GPS. Incidentally, today, the last Sabbath of June, marks the very first day of my Boring Marathon Training Program. Appropriately, Sundays are my marathon training rest days, which means that I’m supposed to do Yoga or Pilates instead of pounding my toes and bones on the stoney streets. Why did I run on a rest day? Good question. It was symbolic, more importantly it raised my weekly mileage to 25 miles.

When my heart rate monitor arrives Tuesday, I’ll sync it with my GPS wristband. I must admit that I feel a little guilty using a heart rate monitor and a GPS device to inspect my runs. The use of electric technology seems so un-barefoot like. That said, I know that the Barefoot Deities don’t mind, for they approve of  all knowledge that maketh a man swift and sturdy.

This ends my first day of marathon training–2 miles, it wasn’t much. Even so, I’ll continue to post my training each day. Come back tomorrow.

 

The One Minute Miracle

Virginia opossum
Virginia opossum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 10% incline treadmill makes me feel like a rodent. I don’t like feeling like a rodent. I hate rodents. When I lived in Santa Cruz, there was this ornery opossum who used to scratch at our backyard sliding glass door. He’d put his ugly yellow teeth against the window, leaving a trail of opossum slobber on the window. I would kick at the window, but, as I said, he was an ornery opossum, he’d just hiss at me and scratch his twisted, yellow claws against the glass. One time, I made the mistake of opening the door as he approached. I was hoping to eschew him away before he reached the door. The beast immediately rushed at my leg, I kicked at his filthy white belly, but he dodged the blow and headed for my bedroom, where my dear wife lay asleep. I slammed the bedroom door shut just in time to ceil the opossum with my sleeping wife. When I opened the door, the creature was on my side of the bed crawling up the covers towards my wife. Luckily she was not awake. As soon as the opossum saw me, he again leapt at my leg. I moved just in time to let him scoot out the bedroom door and into the hallway. He quickly scurried into the kitchen. I kicked at his foul jaw. But he dodged my attack, then he made a fatal mistake. He rushed at the fridge; it was the wrong move because we kept the broom on the gap between the fridge and the wall and that gave me a powerful  household weapon. I grabbed the broom and smacked the opossum, until at last he was swept out into the murky night.

The next day my friend, Toby, told me that my critter wasn’t a opossum. He said, unless they have rabies, opossums aren’t aggressive.

“It was prolly a wharf rat,” he said. Whatever it was it was a disgusting rodent.

How running on a treadmill feels.
How running on a treadmill feels.

But this post isn’t about rodents, it’s about running on treadmills. So, let me introduce my treadmill. It’s a 10% incline dominatrix. If it wore clothes, it would wear whips, chains, and a leather face-mask. It knows not forgiveness nor pity. It simply runs it preset routines without love or mercy. Most of the routines are innocent enough. Each one divides the run into two or one minute blocks, depending on the routine. For instance, a forty minute routine will have forty one minute blocks, but a sixty minute run may have only thirty two-minute blocks. The blocks are a terrible visual. They’re so uninspiring. They seem to stack against you and  they take forever to advance. They’re this wall of gut wrenching discomfort. I once ran on a hotel treadmill that had a digital lap counter. It was wondrous. I felt so lucky to be running on that machine. It gave me hope. Each step was visibly represented on the track with tiny blinking LED light as you advanced the light stopped blinking, when all of the lights around the track were lit, the entire track blinked in unison. It was like having a personal cheerleader every time you finished a lap. My machine doesn’t offer that kind of hope, it just presents whose cold and unrelenting blocks and it’s 10% incline.

There is one routine that I have never been able to complete at full speed. It features 40 one-minute blocks. 40 minutes may not seem long, but it’s an eternity when you’re running at top speed uphill at a 10% incline.

My treadmill doesn’t care that I’m gasping for air or that my calves are crying out, it just keeps going. In the past, when it got to be too much for me, I would simply slow down to catch my breath. But lately, that has seemed very much like a pussy move. So I decided to put my zen practice to the test. I set the machine to the forty minute insanity block routine. After three minutes, I was ready to slow down, but this time, instead of slowing down, I looked at my minute block and said to myself, “I can do this minute.” When the minute ended, I said, “I did that minute!!!!!!”. Then when the new block light up, I said, “I can do this minute.” Whenever I looked ahead at all of the blocks ahead, I immediately felt drained of energy, but when I focused on the minute I was running, the task became achievable. Minute by minute, I ran each block. When I finished the run for the first time without slowing down, I was exhausted, swimming in my own waters, bent low, and gasping for air, but also excited. I discovered a secret: never trust a possum and always focus on what you can do and then keep doing it.

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5 Mistakes Barefoot Runners Make

  1. English: Illustration of the pain pathway in R...
    English: Illustration of the pain pathway in René Descartes’ Traite de l’homme (Treatise of Man) 1664. The long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head is pulled by the heat and releases a fluid that makes the muscles contract. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Running on the Tips of the Toes
    Tippy Toe running will chew up your calves and achilles; it will also hammer agonizing spikes of torment into your sensitive metatarsals. (As the illustration shows, it may also activate the long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head to release a fluid that makes the muscles contract. It may also disrupt one of the four humors, thereby requiring bloodletting to restore balance). So, don’t run on your toes. Your heel should touch the ground, but it shouldn’t be the first part to strike the ground.

  2. Too Much Too Soon (TMTS)
    This doesn’t only apply to those who scamper the streets without shoes. It applies to everyone who races on foot. If pain darts through your lower leg, then you’re rushing your training. This is the most frustrating aspect of barefoot running. It’s taken me a few years to develop enough foot strength to run reasonable distances. Even a mile barefoot walk can give some people issues. It takes time, but your body will adapt. Persistence, not distance is the key. BTW, I cross train with Pilates and I do High Intensity Interval Workouts on my non run days. When I was injured, I still exercised I was even able to adapt some of the cardio HICT moves.
  3. Running Straight Barefoot without Sandals or “Barefoot Shoes”
    There is nothing wrong with wearing sandals or truly minimalist shoes, such as Merrill foot gloves. I do most of my running in sandals, not only because the streets in my neighborhood are brimming with tiny stone spikes (pain pyramids), but also because I enjoy the jaunty style. Let’s face it, even the Tarahumara Indians run in sandals. Most runners do not expose their naked feet to the scraggy pavement. If you live in California or some other place that offers sunshine and smooth streets, you may ignore the previous sentence, but if, like me, you live in Oregon or a place with rough streets,  heed my warning. I do enjoy running completely barefoot now and again, but most of the time, I gallop about in sandals.
  4. Monotonous, Plodding Gait 
    The main benefit from barefoot running is the ability to connect with the planet as it spins around the sun. But that doesn’t mean that you should copy your stride over and over again, every step of the way. It is important to change pace and gait occasionally, especially on longer runs. Sometimes, I run like a gazelle, skipping my body along the dirt trail, other times I run like a cross country skier, gliding myself over the long asphalt road. I often do interval sprints from power line to power line; other times I just jog at slow to go pace. I have even been known to twirl myself like flamenco dancer; now and then, I even begin or end my runs with a flashy cartwheel.
  5. Giving Up Too Soon
    Because it takes some time to develop foot strength, many runners give barefoot running a try for a month or two. Usually, they end up getting top of foot pain, achilles pain, calf injury, or shin splints. That’s when they give up and write articles such as “Dangers of Barefoot Running”. While you should not run through real pain, barefoot running does hurt a little. Progress doesn’t happen in the “comfort zone.” Getting past the initial aches is part of the fun. Think of the discomfort as friendly college hazing from the barefoot running gods. Like all gods, they require sacrifice. The oblation of pain, is a small price for many joyful secrets the gods will share with you.
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How I Shaved 3 Minutes off my 10 Milers Without Even Trying

Banana Ice Cream
Frozen bananas area healthy creamy summer treat.

Last summer, I reached my goal of running a 10 miler once a week with 3-5 milers on my other run days. I did so with much effort and to be quite honest my 10 mile pace was pathetically slow. After my long runs, I would “treat” myself to beer and pizza. It would take me a full day and a half to recover from my long run and I would still be a little stiff on my subsequent run.

This summer, I’m running 10 milers 3 minutes faster than last summer and I’m running 5-7 miles on my light days!!! I am no longer plagued by the nuisances of last summer’s long runs. No sluggish running pace, no more pizza cravings, and no more bent-over-elderly-man-with-a-secret-knife-and-flask-cane exhaustion.

What is my secret? What have I changed?

I no longer defileth my body. I’m eating REAL food, recovering faster, and I’ve lost fat and built lean muscle. I gobble as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I care to eat throughout the day. For dinner, I enjoy brown rice and beans with assorted vegetables or quinoa or sweet potatoes or some other homemade vegan dish.

BTW, I DO take 3 KEY SUPPLEMENTS (not present in a vegan diet):

  • B-12 (Everyone, vegan or not, should take b-12)
  • Vitamin D (I use in for the gray cloudy days in Oregon)
  • DHA (Dr. Bernard recommends it in Power Foods for the Brain)

The results are amazing. I no longer crave junk food. My hair, teeth, and skin are radiant. I have more energy and my recovery for running is absolutely fantastic. I feel twenty years younger! I’m in better shape now than when I was 18. Best of all, I haven’t lost any muscle. I have been eating this way since Christmas.

If you’re interested in giving healthful eating a try, here are a few plant based running resources:

NO MEAT ATHLETE (Excellent Plant based nutrition specifically for runners.)

Books:

Salt Sugar Fat

Forks Over Knives

Engine 2

How to Fine Tune Your SmartPhone GPS App. for Accuracy

GPS watches & Smartphone Apps can miscalculate distances. Try this experiment. Run around a track and then download the map data to your computer. Your laps will rarely overlap; worst of all, they may not even appear as ovals.
Unless, of course, you get a high end GPS unit like the ones below:


How to boost the accuracy of your GPS data on a smartphone.

How can you improve the accuracy of your GPS App.?

There are a few key settings that help you keep tabs on your accuracy:

The most important one of these is the “time interval”. Time interval is the shortest distance between two recordings of your position. You want this value to be as low as possible.

Another important setting is the distance interval. If your path is filled with switchbacks or just a lot of winding roads, lowering this setting will boost accuracy. Again, make the interval as low as possible.

A third setting that helps you keep track of your accuracy, but can also turn your run into a living hell, is the “GPS accuracy” setting.  When your  distance from a decent satellite signal is 200 meters (default distance for most GPS apps) or less, your position will be calculated and tracked. You can decrease the radius and thereby improve accuracy, BUT MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GOOD SIGNAL because your phone will stop recording your workouts when the signal gets too weak. If you’ve refined your radius to 10 meters, then there will be MORE spots where the signal is weak, which means your phone will STOP tracking your distance. You might want to try a moderately smaller setting, such as 180 meters; although you can shrink the radius to 10 meters, it’s unlikely that you’ll be in range, especially if you live up in the mountains, like me.

A GPS App with Tweakable Settings:

My Track (Google)

 

 

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