Marathon FAQ

The following FAQs, compiled by our expert coaches, offers a chance to answer some of the "typical" questions that are posed by our runners.  If you have a specific question that is not addressed in this FAQ section, please do not hesitate to contact our coordinators and they will be glad to work with you to appropriately address them.  We ensure the privacy of your information and will consult with you before contacting others who could potentially offer an answer to your question.

How Do I Get Started with a Running Program?

First, see your doctor and obtain medical clearance from him/her before starting any regular exercise program. Once you are cleared by your doctor, go to a Running Specialty Store (see a list under running resources) and purchase a good pair of running shoes and several comfortable pairs of socks. The specialty store personnel can help you purchase the right shoes. Start by going one mile either walking, running or a combination. Once you can go one mile, proceed to two and then three. I suggest doing this three times per week. Once you can run/jog a full three miles three times a week for four straight weeks, then contact our Coordinator and he will give you instructions on how to proceed to the next level.

Can You Please Give Me More Information About the Training?

Our training program begins in May. We meet every Saturday (8AM in May & October and 7AM from June-September). The schedule and locations are posted at Training Schedule. We have runners who range from 8:00 a mile up to 14+ minutes per miles, so I am sure that we can accommodate you. We usually have about 40 to 60 runners at any given training run. We run, have refreshments afterwards and occasionally will have seminars on various topics including nutrition, hydration, equipment, injury prevention, etc. We will also host training runs during the week (Tuesday and Thursday in Ballston and Thursday in Silver Spring). Our coaches are available at each training run to provide advice and assistance. The coaches are available on-line as well to answer questions or provide training guidance. It is best if you have been running at least three miles three times per week for a month prior to joining our training program in May.

Should I take "over the counter" medications, specifically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drugs?

It is important to understand what these drugs actually do in the body and if they are suitable for athletes to add to their training and competition programs. See the advice from Inside Triathlon.

Can I continue to participate in other sports while I training for the marathon?

Yes, but not all sports are created equal. Low impact activities (swimming, biking, walking) are preferable to higher impact sports (tennis, basketball, soccer could go either way). The recomended answer is yes as long as you are able to complete the weekly minimum mileage as listed on the MCP Minimum Marathon Training Plan.

How far should I run during the week?

At the beginning, the coach’s preference is that you just get out the door several times a week so that you make training a part of your schedule. A twenty minute run is good - by the end of the program you’ll run 5 to 7 miles/ run during the week. Your pace should be a little more intense than Saturday on one day and less so on another days.

I have the desire and motivation to get up and run, but I just kind of stop when I get tired. How hard should I push? How many miles should I be running a week?

You should be running a few miles for each run during the week. You will want to slowly increase those runs so that you are at 5 to 7 miles for each weekly run by the time your mileage peaks in September. I suggest that you get off the boring treadmill and find interesting trails or paths to run. I suggest that you attend an occasional weekly run (especially if you can make the Thursday night run in Silver Spring). It is always easy to run with others and our veteran runner, Sadasivam (aka Sada) does a terrific job at encouraging the runners in his running group that participates in the weekday workouts (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Don’t worry about your pace for now, as long as you can remain consistent at a pace as we continue to add mileage. Increases in speed usually come in steps. I suggest that you challenge yourself to run faster on days when you feel really good. As you gain fitness, you will be surprised how your body will respond. A big part of the faster pace and longer distances is mental. Once you convince yourself you can do it, you will be surprised what you can accomplish.

How Fast Should I Run My First Marathon?

If you do it right, you will train diligently, eat right, and get plenty of sleep. However, many first-time marathoners will make a simple mistake that can dramatically affect your first marathon experience, going out too fast! After weeks of tapering, days or carb-loading, your body is well rested, healed and you are seething with adrenaline at the start line. It is a cool morning and you decide to change your carefully devised plan and go out faster than your normal training pace. Because you are so well rested, the pace feels great and you are so proud of yourself for being in the best shape of your life. The initial miles are a breeze and you throw caution to the wind and keep going at the faster pace. Somewhere between mile 10 and the half-marathon point, you start to feel tired, but that’s OK because you are in the best shape of your life. By mile 15 you aren’t too sure that that faster pace was such a good idea, but you only have 11 miles to go. ELEVEN MILES!!! As you proceed through the upper teen miles, you start to grind down further. By mile 20, you are getting very tired and you start to loose that mental strength that you had at the start, especially while you are being passed by those runners who smartly held back at the start. You will probably hold on and finish the race. However, you will most likely be totally wiped out and too tired to enjoy the celebration of your awesome accomplishment.

As a veteran of 27 marathons, please entertain my alternative proposal. Let me propose a much better strategy that will allow you not only to finish strong, but also to have lots of energy and adrenaline to celebrate in earnest at the finish. You should definitely do it right and train diligently, eat right, and get plenty of sleep. At the start, keep your cool and enjoy the excitement and start at your normal training pace. It will feel too slow and you will be worried that you will run much slower than you are able, don’t worry about it. Enjoy the sights, sounds and antics of your fellow runners and keep to your well devised plan to run at your normal training pace through mile 20. Yes, mile 20. That is probably the farthest you have run in preparation so the last six miles are new territory. You want to be well prepared to endure this new challenge. It is a virtually guarantee that if you run the same pace from the first to the 26th mile that you will pass runners throughout the last half of the race. So instead of draining your mental energy as runners pass you, you will be passing other runners and gaining their energy.

Please take it from a veteran that has crawled across the finish line of many marathons, the latter strategy is awesome, the former is awful.

Your choice; please choose wisely.

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