Marathon (Definition)

A marathon is a foot race run on an open course usually of 26 miles 385 yards which is 42.2 kilometres broadly. It is a long-distance foot race. It was first held at the revival of the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. It commemorates the legendary feat of a Greek soldier who, in 490 BC, is supposed to have run from Marathon to Athens, a distance of about 40 km (25 miles), to bring news of the Athenian victory over the Persians and then expire.


History of Marathon

The story of this messenger from the Battle of Marathon was later conflated with the story of another Greek soldier, Pheidippides, who ran from Athens to Sparta in advance of the fighting. Appropriately, in 1896, the first modern marathon winner was a Greek, Spyridon Louis.

In 1924 the Olympic marathon distance was standardized at 42,195 metres (26 miles 385 yards). This was based on a decision of the British Olympic Committee to start the 1908 Olympic race from Windsor Castle and finish it in front of the royal box in the stadium in London. The marathon was added to the women’s Olympic program in 1984. After the Olympic Games championship, one of the most coveted honours in marathon running is victory in the Boston Marathon, held annually since 1897. It draws athletes from all parts of the world and in 1972 became the first major marathon to officially allow women to compete. Other premiere marathons are held in London, Chicago, Berlin, New York City, Tokyo, and Amsterdam.

Humans had once run distances far greater than a marathon. As a hunter, one of man’s greatest assets was his stamina. He would run his prey ragged. The hunted animal would bound away to apparent safety, only for the dogged hunter to turn up alongside again. This would go on until the animal, squandering its energy in nervous bursts, was rendered too exhausted to resist.

Such an obvious purpose to running was undermined as weapons became more sophisticated, and humans were able to kill at remote distances. In Egyptian times running was prized as a military skill. King Taharka instituted a long-distance race specifically to keep his army up to scratch. The distance was coincidentally close to 100km, contested today as the standard “ultra distance” event. The race itself has been revived in recent years as the “Pharaonic 100km”, run from the Hawara pyramid at El Fayoum to the Sakkara pyramids to the southwest of Cairo.

The most accomplished runners, both within the military and in civilian society, served as messengers up to the beginning of the nineteenth century and, over rough country, we’re better than a horse.

Rules of a marathon training

  • Go long, but not too long: A fifteen-minute run is as long as your longest run needs to be and, for many, a fifteen minutes run three to four weeks from race day is good.
  • Spread the load: Consider a midweek run that supplements your weekend long run. Let it be up to 75 to 90 minutes.
  • Practice close to race pace:As you get close to your marathon, there’s a benefit in doing some of your long runs closer to race pace rather than the recommended 60 to 75 seconds a mile slower.
  • Pace yourself: Adding marathon-pace sections to the end of some long runs is a great mental and physical stimulus.
  • Stress your system: Try this: embedded in a 75-90 minute run, alternate between three to five minutes at around 10K race pace and three to five minutes at, or just slower than, marathon pace, with no rest. Start with 30 minutes of this and aim to build up to around 60 minutes as the weeks progress.
  • Cross-train: Convert your running sessions to time and perceived effort and they can be conducted as cross-training, which increases your training volume while minimising injury risk.
  • Train on the hills/ Hill Training: Challenge yourself by taking one of your midweek runs over a hilly route and working stretches of uphill at a strong sustained effort.
  • Work on your strength: Strength training is very key because it helps to boost performance.
  • Taper well: Bank your longest run to three to four weeks out.
  • Monitor your health and energy: You can monitor your day-to-day training readiness with a HRV [heart-rate variability] app, and watch for inconsistent sleep, regular small colds or niggles, or a loss of motivation.
  • Sleep and recover yourself: Create a cool, calm and dark environment to sleep in. Try to aim for a consistent sleep and wake-up time.
  • Freshen up: Break your training down into smaller chunks – this can help you manage the balance between work and recovery.
  • Eat for energy: A balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and including whole-food groups, should be a starting point to fuel your training and your recovery.
  • Enjoy yourself: You learn a lot about yourself through the course of marathon training, so enjoy the process.
  • Rehearse race day: Feeling psychologically primed and ready is a key weapon in your armoury. Race day should feel familiar; this will allow you to stay calm and focused.
  • Stay calm: You shouldn’t be rushing at any point. Have your logistical plan clear in your mind.
  • Preserve your energy: Give yourself plenty of time to get to the start and wear warm clothes. Don’t worry about a warm-up.
  • Be patient: Remember, it’s a race about you against the distance.
  • Push yourself: Focus on a vest in front and aim to pass the runners ahead of you. Keep your posture tall and relaxed.

How to prepare for a marathon

Training for a marathon takes intense preparation, dedication and skill. Here are a few basic guidelines to minimize any excess damage to your body and make the race experience more pleasant for you.

  • Make sure you are well-hydrated prior to the start of the race. Drink lots of water during the week before the race. This optimizes your hydration before you hit the start line.
  • Eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, such as breads, rice, pasta and starchy vegetables. This helps maximize your glycogen (energy) stores. Don’t experiment with new foods this week. Carbohydrate loading (carb loading) can be complicated. Try it some other time, perhaps before other long runs.
  • Be sure you have on hand your hydration and food sources for the race, including an electrolyte source. Be sure these are the same you have tested during your long runs. Nothing new on race day!
  • Consider tapering your strength training for the last four months of training. For the last six-eight weeks prior to an event, strength training should consist only of calisthenics, ball exercises, Pilates or other strength training methods with minimal external resistance. The goal is not to build new muscle, but to maintain your strength going into your event.
  • There should be no strength training the week of an event. You need to rest your muscles and prepare them for the race.

Tips for healthy eating before and after a marathon race

When you are preparing for a marathon race, you don’t just want to focus on creating a training plan for running. You also want a solid nutrition plan. The first step is to determine how much you will be running and calculate your caloric needs.

If you won’t be running more than two hours a day, you will not need to increase your calories that much. The important thing is to listen to your body. If you’re hungry, you should eat. If you feel sluggish or tired during a run, try to figure out why. Maybe you’re not eating enough or you’re choosing the wrong foods.

Before your run, it is wise to consume a small snack of carbohydrates and protein. Note that you will not perform well on junk like a diet of soda and doughnuts. Though it will meet your calorie goals faster, it is not healthy. It is better to eat a well-balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats.

Runners need carbohydrates mostly. This is because it keeps their glucose from dropping. It helps them to spare their glycogen stores. Avoid fatty foods, soda, fruit juices or cordials. Their high sugar concentrations may delay gastric emptying and cause discomfort during the run. Drink water fifteen (15) minutes before the race

Hydrate with sports drinks after a marathon. Isotonic drinks are preferred as they contain a similar concentration of salts and sugar as the human body. Avoid alcohol in the twenty-four (24) hours following a race, as it promotes dehydration. Do not drink just based on your thirst, as it won’t reflect all of your fluid needs.

Within one hour after a race or marathon, grab a carbohydrate-rich snack such as a banana sandwich, red bean bun, energy bar, peanut butter on a banana and a sports drink. . Within two to three hours after the race, have a balanced meal comprising a lean protein (fish or chicken), carbohydrates (rice, pasta or potatoes) and good fats (avocados not butter).

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