Going the Distance
It’s been quite the epic winter in Utah, but spring is just around the corner—and that means it’s running season. Even if you’re not ready to give up those powder days just yet you might be ready to start planning out your race calendar and begin a training program. No matter where you are in the state, there’s plenty of runs to choose from whether it’s a half or full marathon or maybe even an ultra! Whether it’s your first time or you’re a veteran racer, preparation is one of the most important things to get the results you want and finish strong.
I spoke to Linn Sweeney, a coach and running trainer from Salt Lake Running Company, to get some preparation tips for your next race and how to avoid any common mistakes.
Make a Plan
Longer distance events require a good base of cardio and running before you begin a training cycle. Most marathon training plans are 16 weeks and half-marathon plans are 13 weeks. According to Linn, “One of the most important aspects about training for any race is getting that time on your feet.”
You can find a plan that works for your schedule and fitness level. Salt Lake Running Company offers a women’s group, 5K and 10K groups as well as a long distance group which meets three times a week to train and prepare runners for different terrain and conditions on race day.
Comfort is very important for distance running. So start by making sure your feet are happy. Get fitted by a local retailer for running shoes, and see what feels right during your training cycle so you can be comfortable on the big day. For women, finding a supportive sports bra can make a big difference as well.
Find Your Trail
For runs long or short, skip short trails that have you doing loops and take advantage of Utah’s robust trail system. For long runs, try the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which stretches 100 miles along the Wasatch Front through SLC and beyond along the valley’s eastern bench. Jordan River Parkway is a great west side option, and Porter Rockwell/Draper Parkway paved trail is an excellent choice for southern valley residents.
It’s easy to sleep in instead of getting up early on a cold morning to run, but having a friend, partner, or family member keeping you accountable for getting those miles in can make all the difference. Flying solo? Join a running group to stimulate your training by being around others with similar goals and coaches who can help you prepare. Try Salt Lake Running Company’s training programs, or participate in local 5ks and 10ks to build up to longer distances gradually.
Learning how to fuel your body is one of the most important things you can do during training. That means finding healthy, replenishing options for before, during, and after workouts. Keep a log of foods you eat so you know how they affect you during and after runs. As temperatures warm, remember to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes with drinks that don’t include too much sugar.
Choose a Race
A lot of people say, “I want to run a marathon one day!” But choosing a race date gives you a goal to work toward and a timeframe to stick to for training. Be sure to pick a race that allows your appropriate time to train but is not so far out that you lose motivation. The Ogden Marathon in May and the Utah Valley Marathon/Half-Marathon in June are popular options for newbies and seasoned pros alike.
Both experienced runners and amateurs can fall into the trap of overtraining, and the motivation can be detrimental if you don’t let your body recover properly. Take at least one rest day a week, and if it’s hard to sit still, consider proactive restorative yoga or taking a walk with your dog or a friend. Add in strength training and core routines to help build speed and strength while avoiding injury.
Listen to Your Body
Follow a training schedule, but pay attention to how you feel. Sometimes getting a few more hours of shut-eye is more important than an a.m. run, and you can always switch your training to later.
Bottom line: “If it’s important to you, you’ll make time for it,” says Linn. So it’s totally ok if you train at a different time or date than you planned. Just remember your goals and consider tracking your progress to stay on track.
Even if you’ve never run long distance before, find a race that inspires you and start training. You may find that preparing for the race is as life changing as the run itself.