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Authors: Marnie Caron,Sport Medicine Council of British Columbia

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Marathon and Half-Marathon

BOOK: Marathon and Half-Marathon
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Douglas &Mclntyre Publishing Group

Copyright © 2006 Sport Medicine Council of British Columbia and Marnie Caron
06 07 08 09 10 5 4 3 2 1

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher or a license from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For a copyright license, visit
or call toll free to 1-800-893-5777.

Greystone Books
A division of Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.
2323 Quebec Street, Suite 201
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V5T 4S7

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Caron, Marnie
Marathon and half marathon : the beginner’s guide / Marnie Caron and the Sport Medicine Council of British Columbia ; foreword by Jack Taunton.
Includes index.
ISBN-13: 978-1-55365-158-1
ISBN-10: 1-55365-158-8
ISBN-ebook: 978-1-926685-29-8
1. Marathon running--Training. I. Sport Medicine Council of B.C. II. Title.
GV1065.17.T73C37 2006    796.42'52    C2005-906669-5
Library of Congress information is available upon request

Editing by Jill Lambert
Cover design by Jessica Sullivan
Text design by Warren Clark
Cover photograph by Yellow Dog Productions/Getty Images
Printed and bound in Canada by Friesens
Printed on acid-free paper that is forest friendly
(100% post-consumer recycled paper) and has been processed chlorine free.
Distributed in the U.S. by Publishers Group West

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) for our publishing activities.


To my running companions,
and to Brad: thank you for
your generosity of spirit and
for sharing in the belief that
all things are possible.




The Mystique of the Marathon

Getting Started

What’s Involved?

Coaching Advice and the Programs

Fueling the Athlete

The Mental Side of the Marathon

You’re a Runner!

Including the Family

Pitfalls and Potential Problems

Final Preparations

After the Finish Line

Appendix A: Stretching Exercises

Appendix B: PAR-Q and You

Appendix C: Zero to Marathon or Half Marathon in 26 Weeks



I would like to acknowledge and give thanks to the many friends and members of the running community and sport medicine practitioners who provided direction, support, and inspiration, with special thanks to: Dr. Bryan Barootes, Lynda Cannell, Dr. Liz Joy, Lynn Kanuka, Rita King, Jill Lambert, Thom Lutes, Phil Moore, Dallas Parsons, Dr. Nicky Peterson, Dr. Trent Smith, Dr. Jack Taunton, and Dr. Whitney Sedgwick.


RUNNING A HALF OR FULL MARATHON IS WITHIN MOST people’s reach, as long as they train correctly. Going the distance takes commitment and patience, and it requires a good training program accompanied by sound advice.
Marathon and Half
Marathon: The Beginner’s Guide
will pilot a sedentary person from inactivity through to finishing a half marathon or full marathon in 26 weeks. It will also help those who have had a bit more experience and are looking for new challenges beyond the 10-kilometer distance.

The Sport Medicine Council of British Columbia clearly understands the unique needs of the beginning runner. Using the principles developed by physicians at the Allan McGavin Sport Medicine Centre at the University of British Columbia, SportMedBC created programs and clinics to teach new runners and walkers how to train safely and effectively for a 10-kilometer event. Ten years and three editions later,
The Beginning Runner’s Handbook
is still on best-seller lists, and tens of thousands of people have benefited from training clinics or have used the programs to train on their own. I am pleased that in response to many requests, SportMedBC’s Beginner’s Guide series has evolved to include training for half and full marathons.

The success of the Beginner’s Guide series is founded primarily on its training programs. A panel of distance-running experts, including Olympians, coaches, and running-clinic leaders, has developed sound training and coaching advice. Combined with injury-prevention tips from sport medicine specialists and nutrition advice from sport dietitians, the step-by-step plan laid out in this book is a road map for successfully completing your first half or full marathon.

As a sport medicine physician, I highly recommend SportMedBC’s approach to training. The walk/run method is a safe and easy way for your body to adjust to the demands of running or jogging longer distances.

Armed with this book, all you need to add is a desire to go the distance, willingness to follow the advice and tips, and a commitment to consistently stay with the prescribed training.

Along the way, of course, the multiple benefits that will accrue from following the book’s principles are their own reward, whether or not you ever decide to run in an organized marathon event. But once you’re achieving your goals on a daily or weekly basis, you’ll probably find running a half or full marathon irresistible. Good luck with your training, and stick with it.

Jack Taunton,
Allan McGavin Sport Medicine Centre
University of British Columbia

The Mystique of the Marathon

YOU’RE DRIVING TO WORK, AND YOU WATCH FROM THE comfort of your car as the early morning light faintly illuminates three sinewy subjects. Little else is clear. One locks a bike to a tree, and two others emerge from their cars, each moving from different points toward a fountain, a meeting place for the ritual morning run. As the three women approach, their smiling faces shed light on much, much more about their characters.

Some people feel best moving in a car or a train, others while riding a bike, and a special few find their joy in running. They are a rare breed, the runners who, with the grace of gazelles, win races, medals, and accolades. These whippet-like creatures are perfectly relaxed, while perfectly active.

We’re not all gazelles, and many of us won’t win races. Running—especially distance running—for most of us is not something that is seamless. It is a mountain of hard work that takes patience, love, and, most of all, perseverance.

You’ve never done a lot of running, or walking, for that matter, or perhaps it’s been a long time since you did. Either way, you’re finding yourself noticing runners out on the roads at all times of the day and night. You have a nagging question for yourself: “Am I crazy, or could I actually consider trying to be one of these people? Do I dare ask how or even consider the possibility of training for a half or a full marathon?”

At one time, completing a marathon was considered to be an almost Herculean endeavor. Today, many of us know someone who has completed a marathon, but training to run a half or full marathon continues to be an extraordinary achievement. Whether it is your sister-in-law who ran 26.2 miles (42.1 kilometers) in 3:30 hours to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon or your colleague who crossed the finish line in 5 hours with excitement lighting his face, it is an amazing accomplishment.

With an effective program, training for and completing a distance event like the marathon in a safe and healthy manner could be a reality for you. The journey is not only a great way to improve your health and fitness but also will be an experience you will never regret.

Common Questions

What is the length of each event?

The marathon is 26.2 miles, or 42.1 kilometers. The half marathon is half that distance at 13.1 miles, or 21.05 kilometers.

Why choose distance running?

Ask runners why they run and the most common reason cited is the simplicity of the activity. You can do it almost anywhere and at any time. It’s also one of the least expensive sports around. Once you find a good pair of running shoes, you’re basically done. Unlike running, the cost of golf, skiing, or tennis is a continuum of green fees, lift tickets, and court rentals. Also, distance running is a sport that can teach you a lot about yourself, show you your limitations, and give you the opportunity to overcome them. Distance running requires commitment, determination, desire, hard work, and a sense of self-worth. Consider how many other areas in your life would benefit from your having these attributes.

What exactly is a marathon?

A marathon is a running race over a distance officially set at 26.2 miles. It has an interesting history that dates back to 490
. According to Greek legend, a soldier ran to Athens from a battlefield near Marathon, Greece, to deliver the news of a Greek victory over the Persians. According to history books, he then collapsed and died of exhaustion. The story is fictionalized to some degree, but it inspired one of the world’s greatest and most prestigious sporting events: the marathon. The race remained obscure until the running boom of the late 1970s to early ’80s, when “fun runs” became increasingly popular.

Why the half marathon?

The half marathon is quickly becoming a popular event for distance runners around the world. Once thought of as merely a stepping-stone en route to the marathon, it is now a significant event in and of itself. According to a 2002 issue of
Runner’s World
magazine, race organizers across North America are seeing an increasing switch to the half marathon by runners who have previously completed marathons. Now, for various reasons, they don’t want to commit the time and effort required for the marathon, but they still want to challenge themselves to a distance event. The growing popularity of the half marathon can also be attributed to the huge increase in the numbers of walk/runners, people who intersperse running with walking. As well, a large number of walkers, commonly also referred to as striders, are participating in half marathons.

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BOOK: Marathon and Half-Marathon
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