If you're planning to run a marathon for the first time, then you need to start training at least 12 weeks before the marathon date.
The biggest danger for beginners is the urge to over do it in the first couple of weeks. You MUST start at a level you can handle, and build up your intensity and mileage gradually. Increase your distance by 10 percent and no more for each practice run.
In this way you will prevent common injuries experienced by novice and expert runners alike and also ensure peak performance when the big day comes.
First-time marathon runners usually assume that the more practice they do and the harder they go at it each time the better, but overtraining can lead to shin splints, plantar fascilitis or runner's knee
WHAT ARE SHIN SPLINTS?
Painful inflammation of the muscles around the shins. Otherwise known as MTSS or medial tibial stress syndrome. Very common in runners and athletes who have to jump a lot.
WHAT IS RUNNER'S KNEE
Runner's knee is also know as CMP or chondromalacia patellae. Although it's called runner's knee, you can suffer from the condition even if you don't exercise. It's a pain behind the kneecap. The main cause is muscle imbalance so that your kneecap or patella is not sliding over the groove in your thighbone when you bend or straighten you knee. It's probably causing friction and pressure to the cartilage on the undersurface of the kneecap. It is also frequently caused by poor exercise techniques such as wearing inappropriate shoes or if you're a bike rider, having a bike that does not fit your body and leg length.
It can be caused by running up steps, a steep hill or twisting your kneecap in some way. It doesn't help if your quadricep muscles are weak and you have muscle imbalances.
These conditions are especially common for people who are starting out or those who haven't trained for a long time and suddenly push themselves too hard.
Forget that old saying: NO PAIN NO GAIN
Listen to your body - if you're feeling pain, don't assume that you should just show mental fortitude and push on through - you might be making things a lot worse. If the pain gets worse as you continue to run then don't carry on trying to ignore the pain.
So how to start training for a marathon if you're a total rookie?
If you are total beginner, start by walking or slow jogging for the first week - if you're pretty unfit to start with, even 10 minutes is a good start. If walking, aim for around 3KM or 1.8 miles but again, listen to your body. There is no shame in simply walking. Running can put a lot of stress on the body and it helps to build up some leg muscle. Don't forget to stretch before you start. If you're up for jogging, try a light, gentle jog on fairly flat ground avoiding a series of steep steps for around 30 minutes. Just make sure you don't feel any pain and you're completely gasping for air. Average walking pace is around 20 minutes a mile but no one is timing you at this stage. Our bodies are all different and you need to consider what your body is saying to you - is it fine - is it utterly exhausted - it is feeling strange twinges? Each time you run, do not progress by more than 10 percent in distance. Think about the distance more than your speed: too often marathon newbies said over-optimistic time goals their first time out - it'll be an amazing acheivement and you'll gain a huge sense of satisfaction simply from completing your first one! You don't need to train every week. Your body needs about 48 hours to recover from heavy exercise sessions. Some people get their rest and recovery time from running only every other day. Others alternate 'big' runs with 'light' runs or walks, or they cross-train on the light days e.g. with weights in the gym, or yoga.
As you plan your training program, there are other things to consider:
Get a running partner or join a running club
Having some social support can really make the difference between a newbie marathoner who sticks with it, and someone who goes with full gusto for a couple of weeks or so but then starts to drop out when the weather and the going gets tough. Don't be put off by running clubs and feel that you're too much of a rookie or 'not fit enough' to be a club - most of them have beginner sessions. If you're still put off, try an online training program - they are pretty sophisticated these days and can create customized training programs for you.
Consider the time of day that works for you
It is most common to exercise in the morning so that you get it ticked off and done without letting the clutter and craziness of the day ahead get too much for you. Maybe you're not a morning person, or you already have a long commute into work. Lunchtime might be the best time for you : in fact you can jog to your way to pick up your brown-bag sandwich you can eat at your desk later.
Treadmill or street?
I know many runners who prefer training outside on the street or local park versus the treadmill except in winter months. And here's a running newbie tip: start AWAY from your house and make it your goal to head home. You have to get home somehow so there's a built in distance and goal motivation. On a treadmill it's easier to call it quits and get off anytime. On the other hand, with modern treadmills, you can have distractions such as built-in DVD players or radio/TV tuners and you can set distance, speed and time goals which are easy to follow. And it's an all weather solution.
Here's to your marathon goals!!