Pretty much anyone who really wants to run a marathon can run a marathon. The key to marathon success, whether a top athlete or someone who would be thrilled just to finish, is preparation, and this will be different for everyone.
In past, marathons were thought to be reserved only for the elite among athletes. It's easy to understand why. The first marathon runner, an ancient Greek messenger who raced from Marathon to Athens to deliver a warning about an approaching enemy, dropped dead just after finishing his run.
But mass participation marathons like the New York City Marathon showed this to be false. The NYC event started out in 1970 when there were only 55 finishers - now there are nearly thirty thousand runners each year. Similar numbers of runners are seen in other big cities around the world like London, Chicago and Tokyo. All this proves that marathons are for mortal men and women.
Of course, it's hard work. A lot of practice and dedication goes into completing a course. The people who run successfully are those who are very physically fit and who have trained faithfully. Perhaps they are regular athletes, perhaps they have already instated a healthy diet and training program. But marathon runners also include formerly overweight or unfit folks who decided to use a marathon as an excuse to get into shape.
Those who are fit already may be in for a shock - running for anywhere between three and seven hours is unlike any exercise you have tried before. You may be able to play ball one on one for an hour without any problems, but you may find it a tough job to run for an hour. If you really are fit, you should probably expect to train seriously for six months before your first marathon.
If you're already in pretty good shape, six months is probably all you need. But if you're a little rusty and out of shape, you're looking at more like a couple years of training. To keep yourself motivated over such a long timeframe, give yourself target goals along the way. For instance, one goal could be running six miles at a go, then running ten miles at once, and so on.
Whether you think you are fit or reckon you need work, you should go see your physician first and get a health check. Unless you are lucky, your physician is not likely to be an expert in sports medicine, so you should not expect training advice. You want the doctor to tell you if you are fit enough to start training, and explain to you how to go about it safely.
Above all, running a marathon requires a lot of advance raining. You'll need to find a schedule to follow; there are many great schedules for marathon training on the internet as well as in fitness or running magazines. Pick one that is tailored to your own situation. There are schedules for new runners as well as for seasoned athletes. Once you set up a schedule, don't give yourself any excuses to skip training days, stick to the plan!
As you approach the marathon date you will taper down. This means in the last two weeks you will run less and less - it is all in the schedule you will be following. On the day of the marathon, do not get carried away. It is easy to set off way too fast and really struggle after half way. Getting used to being in races is one reason why you should do that six or ten miler I mentioned earlier. Watch your pace carefully, keep drinking water and the occasional energy drink... You will be fine, just like millions of other normal folk who have met the ultimate running challenge!
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