Training for a Marathon: Part 2

As you move deeper into marathon training, you’ll need to pay special attention to taking care of yourself while you handle the workload. Proper nutrition and rest are critical, and they’re the focus of this piece.


You must be sure that you are eating enough quality food to balance what you’re expending on your runs. The best way to do this is to eat a variety of real, mostly plant-based foods. Whenever possible, these should be local and organic. Aim to consume a wide range of colors. If you find that most of your food is white or beige, bring some color into your diet by adding dark leafy greens and brightly colored fruits like berries. And be sure you drink enough clear fluids every day—water works well!

Continue to experiment with various sports nutrition products and even real food during your long runs. It’s important to test what will be served on the course to see if it agrees with your system. (Look on the race website for details on what aid stations will supply; if it’s a small race, you may need to contact the race director for this information.) If you can’t handle what the race is dishing out, make a plan to take your own food along. Specialty running shops will have water and equipment belts that can help you carry your nutrition and hydration with you. Once you’ve figured out what works best for you, use it on every long run. Drink to your thirst as you run. This will probably mean you take in a cup or two of fluid per hour, possibly more on hot or dry days. Drinking too much to meet a forced schedule can put you at risk for hyponatremia, a fluid/sodium imbalance that can be dangerous and even fatal.

Immediately after your longer runs (anything over 90 minutes), get in a recovery snack consisting of around 200 calories from carbohydrates and maybe a little protein. (A recent study shows that protein may not help female athletes recover and could, in fact, contribute to post-run soreness.) Drink plenty of fluids, too. Sports drink or a drink with some sodium in it (think tomato juice) can help you rehydrate faster than pure water can. Ultimately, you’ll want to drink to your thirst. You’ll know you’re properly hydrated when your urine is pale yellow or almost clear in the toilet bowl.


Marathon training is tough, no two ways about it. It wears you out, physically and mentally. It’s important to spend plenty of time focusing on recovery.

Get your legs up the wall and practice other restorative poses as much as you can, especially after long runs. This piece  shows three that work post-run, as well as post-ride.

Be sure that you are getting enough sleep. One rule of thumb is to add to the standard seven or eight hours X minutes for every X miles you’re running per week. In a week where you run forty miles, then, you should make time to sleep forty minutes more in the night—or add naps.

It is normal to feel tired and sore during your training, but your fatigue should lift after a good night’s sleep and after your rest days. If you feel sluggish for more than a few days in a row, dial back your training. You can even drop a run or two. This can be the stitch in time that saves nine, as you can prevent stressing your immune system and save yourself from illness. Likewise, if you find an ache or pain centralized over one area of your body, especially at or near a joint—a hip, a knee, a heel—instead of feeling generally sore in the belly of your muscles, back off for a few days. Finally, don’t get into the habit of popping NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen). At best, they mask your pain; at worst, they can wreck havoc on your GI tract and can interfere with the healing process in your body.

Periodically check in with your list of reasons for running the marathon. Realigning with your intention is a very powerful habit, worth practicing often through training. Come race day, you’ll find that coming back to your reasons for running can carry you a long way. Get in the habit of looking at the big picture!

In part 3, we’ll narrow the picture down to the week of the race—and to race day itself.

1 Comment

July 12, 2010 at 11:42 am

two books i have found helpful

“the non-runner’s guide to marathon” or something very close i used this for my first marathon.

and “the thrive diet” – the first book (i think he has 2 out now).

i have been trying lots of different things in the food department. i tried the thrive book 2 weeks before i had a crazy run (imogene in ouray/telluride, co – 5000ft elevation gain in 10 miles i believe, followed by 7miles down) and at the end i felt like i coud keep running.

hope all be wonderful

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