A marathon is the true test of a runner's physical and mental endurance. Pushing yourself as hard as you can for 26.2 miles, even after your legs and head beg you to stop, is the ultimate feat of physical performance. Ask anyone who's run a marathon, however, and they will tell you the race is easy -- it's the training that's the hard part.
Marathon training is so intense and so constant, that you will end up doing a lot of you training on your own, even if you plan on running the race with a friend or a group. Your training plan needs to prepare you for the race but also make sure you arrive at the starting line alive and healthy.
Here are 4 tips for marathon training solo:
Pick the Right Plan
The first step of training is picking the training plan. Read as much as you can. Educate yourself on running and your body. Play with variables and pay attention to how they affect your performance. There are tons of free training schedules out there on the Internet, so pick the one that works best for your schedule. Typical training time for someone who has run a few races before is about 8 weeks. Remember that everyone is different, though, so if you follow a plan and find you can't keep up, don't be discouraged if it takes you longer to build up your mileage. For some, endurance comes more naturally than others.
Because you will be logging so many miles, double digits every week, strength training is probably the last thing on your mind, but it is important and can't be skipped. Long distance running atrophies your muscles, so you must strength train in order to maintain the mass the you have. Building size or mass should not be the focus while marathon training, but strength training twice a week will protect your bones and joints from injury while training and keep your metabolism humming.
Get the Right Gear
Proper footwear is paramount when you are pounding pavement. The constant impact can wreak havoc on your bones -- not only in your feet, but your ankles, hips and knees. Don't just go for what's popular or which shoes look coolest with your favorite running tights. There are a lot of things that affect which type of shoe you should buy, including how your foot strikes the ground and the size and shape of your arch. You can get fitted at a running shoe store, but don't feel obligated to buy from them. You can take their recommendations and then shop for the shoe you need on your own.
Running solo can be dangerous, so take all the safety precautions. Always tell someone where you are running, when you are running and for how long. This can be as easy as checking in on Facebook so people know where you are when you should be back. Always wear reflective gear so you are seen at all times and consider bringing self defense equipment, like runner's mace or a handheld kubaton which can easily be carried with you.
Kelly Turner is a fitness writer and contributor, personal trainer and social media and marketing consultant. If she's not in the gym or behind her computer, she's lost, so please call the police. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.