Training Tips



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"Green Runners" Training

The general rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week.  Of course, 10% of 0 is 0 so we all have to start somewhere.  Here are some "green" runner guidelines:

  1. The most important investment you can make BEFORE you start running is a good pair of running shoes.  Road Runner Sports has a Perfect Fit Guide for selecting the right shoe.  An old sweat suit won't hurt you but the wrong shoes WILL.  Shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles.  Once shoes reach 300 miles, use them for shorter distances and start breaking in a new pair for longer distances.

  2. Pick a loop or measure an out-and-back course of 2-3 miles to start.  Run easy as far as you can, walk to recover, then run some more.  Each time you do this you will run more, walk less and IT WILL get easier.

  3. I've heard many people say running hurts their knees.  It will hurt at first.  You are using muscles and joints that haven't done this before.  Training teaches your body to handle running by breaking it down and building it up stronger.  Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can be used for minor aches.

  4. It's very important to listen to your body.  Minor discomfort and aches are normal as you train in a new sport.  Ignore the minor aches.  Take a rest day or two.  If you are still having trouble after a couple of weeks, consider a visit to your doctor.  Most minor running-related aches will resolve themselves with a few days rest.

  5. Black toenails happen.  Occasionally they fall off - don't be alarmed, they grow back.  Make sure your shoes are a good fit.  Sometimes you need to go up 1/2 size in a running shoe. 

  6. Once you have mastered a 2-3 mile course of continuous running, you can gradually begin to build adding 2 miles at a time.  This additional mileage can be done run/walk until you can complete the distance without walking.

  7. Once you have a 5 mile base, adding 2 miles at a time should not be too difficult.  Do not add 2 miles every week going from 5 to 7 to 9.  Build in cut-back weeks like in the 18 week training schedule to avoid injury.

  8. Your first 10 miler WILL hurt.  Expect some aches after these longer runs.  Take a rest day or two after.  After my first 10 miler, I thought I'd never walk normal again.  Ouch.  It's a good sort of ache because you will have some real satisfaction after completing a 10 miler.  Keep in mind each time you do a distance, it gets easier the next time.

  9. Once you are confident you can cover this distance, register for your marathon so you have a solid goal.  Some marathons have entry caps so you don't want to train for a race and find out it's full.  It doesn't hurt to have a Plan "B" race in case things don't work out for your goal race.  Plan B should be 2-3 weeks after your goal race to allow for problems with training.

  10. Running in the heat (and cold) requires good hydration.  I've learned to run carrying a 20-24 oz. bottle of Gatorade in one hand.   It takes some getting used to but eventually you feel odd without it.  In the marathon, carrying a 24 oz. bottle can get you past the first 8-10 water stops which are usually crowded plus you have your favorite drink with you.  There are also a number of belts that carry bottles and camelbacks that carry fluids on your back or around your waist.  I prefer to travel lighter but these are other options that keep your hands free.

  11. Plan your longer distance runs by variety stores.  Carry money so you can stop and buy replacement fluids (and use the bathrooms) if needed.  If running where there are no stores, drive the course ahead of time and leave fluids where you can pick them up.  I haven't found this really practical so I prefer to plan my runs where I can buy more fluids as needed.

  12. To determine your fluid needs, test how much you sweat by weighing yourself before and after a run.  You should replace as much fluid in ounces as you lost in weight - lost 2 lbs. drink 32 ounces of replacement fluids.

  13. There are a number of energy bars and gels on the market for endurance sports.  They provide about 100 calories of carbs.  I have found the gels are easier to take than the bars but everyone has their own preference.  The key to using these is testing them in training and taking them BEFORE you really feel you need them.  They take a while to kick in.  I've used them at the 10, 15, and 20 mile marks in the marathon.  These will give you a boost when you need it.  I have never "Hit the Wall" using gels.  For those of you who don't know what "The Wall" is, it's the 20 mile mark when your body and muscles have completely run out of stored fuel.  Most marathons provide gels on the course at the 15-17 mile marks.  You may prefer to bring your own and have the brand/flavor that you like when you need it.

  14. Bodyglide is a lubricant that like a deodorant stick but it works wonderful on all areas that chafe.  This can be bought at running stores or the race expo.  Vaseline is also useful for chafing and most races will have it on the course at the medical tents.

  15. I had heard that your body will remember two runs as one if run within 24 hours.  I tried this out running 11 miles home from work, sleeping, and running 11 miles back the next morning (I have access to a shower).  The 2nd 11 miler felt like the end of a 22 miler.  I did two of these in a two month period and ran a marathon with no other long training runs.

  16. Test pre long-run breakfast foods, eating while running (gels, bars, or bananas), sunglasses, fanny packs,

  17. Marathon training typically calls for a 3 week taper.  This doesn't mean NO running, just shorter running.  The last 20 miler is done 3 weeks before the marathon.  By running shorter, easier runs, you will be fresher for the race.  In this case MORE is NOT better.

  18. This taper period is also when you should be paying attention to drinking and hydrating for the marathon.  Gatorade or other sport drinks contain sodium and electrolytes that stay in the muscles longer.  Water can tend to go right through you.

Race Tips

  1. Create a marathon checklist of all of the items you will need to pack for the race:

  • Running outfit - top, shorts, pants, socks (something worn and tested on long runs - nothing new!)  Bring more than you will need.  It's better to not need it than to be missing something important.  Plan for all types of weather and temperatures.  Shorts, pants, long and short sleeve tops, jacket.

  • DO NOT FORGET YOUR SNEAKERS.  Wear them or bring them in your carry-on.  This is the most important item for your race.  In an emergency you can buy new clothes at the expo but your shoes need to be broken in.  NEVER WEAR NEW SNEAKERS AND SOCKS ON RACE DAY.  Ouch!

  • Sunscreen, cap or visor, sunglasses, Bodyglide

  • Gels or powerbars

  • Consider bringing "throw-away" clothes such as a plastic rain poncho, an old sweatshirt or buy a throw-away mylar jacket at the race expo.  Races start early and it is sometimes cold at the start.  Some people wear trash bags and discard them - please be considerate of other runners and don't discard these items where other runners may trip.

  1. Most races have packet pickups the two days before the race.  Try to get this done early to avoid crowds and the stress of running in at the last minute. 

  2. THE MOST IMPORTANT NIGHT'S SLEEP IS THE NIGHT BEFORE THE NIGHT BEFORE!  Excitement about the race will make it difficult to sleep the night before and you may find yourself waking up every hour on the hour checking the clock so you don't sleep in.  Plan a good night's sleep for two nights before so you are well rested.

  3. The day before your marathon should be spent taking it easy and drinking enough fluids.  Meals should be simple - keep in mind that what goes in must come out and you don't want it coming out on race day.  Trust me, beer and buffalo wings are never a good idea the night before.  Thank you port-a-johns!

  4. Most races have a carbo-loading dinner the night before.  This is a great opportunity to meet other runners, share experiences, and have some fun.  

  5. Lay out all of your clothes, sun screen, running shoes, bib, and other items you will need the night before.  This last minute check will give you time if you have forgotten something.

  6. On race morning, have whatever you normally have before a long run - coffee, bagel, banana, sport drink.  This is not a good time to try anything new.

  7. Always bring money - $10 or $20 "just in case".  Most races have "sag wagons" for runners who can't finish but having cash will come in handy if you need to take a train, cab, or just buy an emergency item at the last minute.

  8. Depending on the logistics of the race, get there 1/2 - 1 hour before the start.  I usually stay at a hotel near the start so I can roll out of bed and walk to the start as a warm-up.  Some races have shuttle buses, athlete villages, and other provisions for the runners.

  9. For point-to-point courses, PARK AT THE FINISH LINE.  These races usually have shuttle buses from the finish line to the start but they may not have shuttle buses back to the start after the race.   Check with the race directors or on their website about parking, shuttle buses, and logistics.


  1. There are some great running clothes with high performance fabrics.  Coolmax is a fabric that wicks moisture away from the body to keep you dry.  This is especially important for staying warm during winter training.  There is a saying "cotton kills".  Once it gets wet with sweat, you get cold pretty quickly.  Hypothermia can set in pretty quickly once you get wet.

  2. Another important consideration is VISIBILITY.   IllumiNITE is a reflective technology incorporated into piping and fabrics for visibility.  When the weather gets cooler here in New England, the days get shorter forcing us to run in darkness.  Look for a running jacket with this technology.  Orange and yellow pull over vest also work well for running in the dark.  I buy my reflective clothes so the cars can SEE me before they run me over.   Keep in mind even with reflective clothing - RUN DEFENSIVELY - get out of their way!