The Marathon

The marathon, 26.2 miles, is the premier endurance race and has been the ultimate long-term fitness goal for many runners this past century. The idea of running that far may seem intimidating at first, but it’s very attainable if you take small steps to get there. There were 385,000 marathon finishers in the US in 2005 - if they can do it, so can you. Almost half of these finishers (45%) were over the age of 40…over 14,000 of these finishers were over the age of 60!

I find it disturbingly funny that the original marathoner, Phidippides, died at the end of his 26-mile trek from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC, or at least that’s how the myth goes. The first marathon race was run at the 1896 Olympics in Athens. The official distance of 26 miles and 385 yards came about at the 1908 Olympics in London, so that the race could start at Windsor Castle and finished in front of the King Edward’s & Queen Alexandria’s royal box at Shepard’s Bush stadium. The official distance of 26 miles, 385 yards (26.2 miles) has stood to this day.

There are many schools of thought out there on how to properly train your body to run 26.2 miles. I personally like Jeff Galloway’s philosophy. Jeff Galloway is a former Olympian and is one the most effective long-distance running advocates of our time. His training plan is for the ‘everyday person’. It involves a slow and gradual increase of mileage, but overall has very low weekly mileage when compared to other plans. He has also recently included plans to finish the marathon by combining running and walking. He has developed proven training plans for a wide range of time goals. I would encourage anyone that is aspiring to run 26.2 miles to visit his website. He claims that anyone can finish a marathon with 6 months of training…training that can fit into our already hectic lives. If you like his philosophy, you might also enjoy his "Marathon" and "Book of Running" publications.

No matter what training plan you chose, I would draw up a training plan that allows sufficient time to increase your mileage – no more than 10-15% a week. Plot your goal race on the calendar, and write down your mileage increases between now and then. The main ingredient of your training plan is the long run. Running 20 miles may seem unattainable, but look at it this way: If you can run 3 miles now: try running 5 miles this weekend: and 7 miles two weekends later; and 9 miles two weekends after that; and before you know it, you’ll have properly prepared your body to run 26.2 miles. If you're training for your first marathon, check out these marathon tips.

is a crucial ingredient to a good training plan. Running 3-5 times a week is plenty to become a marathon finisher. Concentrate on increasing the long run, and enjoy it. Long runs should be run a lot slower than your 'race pace' (1-2 minutes per mile). This allows your body to heal faster and makes for an enjoyable workout. Race day adrenaline and the energy of the crowd will propel you to a faster pace (many times, it’s too fast – so be sure start slow and stay on your goal pace).

After many long-distance runners conquer the distance of the marathon, they strive to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon was first run on April 19, 1897, with a field of 15 runners and a winning time of 2:55:10 (John J. McDermott). It has been run annually since then, and attracts the best long-distance runners from around the globe. Below are some of the more popular US Marathons:

Popular US Marathons
Marathon (click to visit official site) Number of Finishers (2005)
ING New York City Marathon 36,872
Chicago Marathon 32,995
Honolulu Marathon 24,219
City of Los Angeles Marathon 19,985
Marine Corps Marathon 19,110
Boston Marathon 17,549
Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (San Diego, CA) 15,934
Las Vegas Marathon 8,186
Twin Cities Marathon 7,753
Disney World Marathon 7,726
Portland Marathon 7,201
P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 7,166
Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN) 6,885
Philadelphia Marathon 5,887
Houston Marathon 5,727

Check out this Training Plan for Your First Marathon plan, tips, and guidance to get you through the 26.2!

Related pages:

First Marathon Stories - Share yours!
Marathon Training Tips

Qualify for the Boston Marathon

Marathon Training Plans

Are you too old to run a marathon?

The Long Run: Tips for Distance Runners

The Marathon Checklist

Philadelphia Marathon Race Review

Delaware Marathon Race Review

2008 Boston Marathon Race Report

Marathon Lessons Learned

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