What has always worked for you in the past may not when you start increasing your mileage. The shorts that have always been comfortable will rub in all the wrong places, your feet might swell enough that you need a larger shoe (most people will end up needing a half size or even a full size larger shoe during their distance training), and heading out with no food or water is out of the question.
A huge part of marathon training is learning what works for you. This is just as important as training your body to walk farther. I was very thankful to have friends that had been there before me and could offer advice, but there was still a lot of trial and error to find out what worked best for me. Here are some tips to make your marathon training a little easier...
Plan your route where there are frequent potty stops. You never know when you will need to stop and it is miserable to have to walk for miles to the next location. During the marathon you might consider using the bushes. It alleviates a lot of frustration waiting in long lines at the port-o-lets.
It is hard to carry enough water for a 20 mile walk, so access to water is also important. I carried a 24 oz. water bottle in my fanny pack and filled it at every water fountain along my training route. I was lucky enough to train at a park that has frequent restrooms and water fountains. If you don't have this luxury you may plan your walk in a loop, coming back to the same water stop and restroom several times during your walk. STAY HYDRATED!
Wear Cool Max, poly-pro or other high tech breathable fabrics. (NO cotton!) This includes socks and bras. These fabrics will help you stay more comfortable and prevent most blister and chafing problems. It also helps if your clothing has few seams, or flat seams with small stitches. For the few areas that still rub use a lubricant such as Runners Lube, Body Glide, etc. These are especially helpful at the bra line and under arms where the arm hits the side of your breast. Some people use petroleum jelly, but I don't like the feel and it doesn't work as well. If you happen to get chaffed anyway, the best treatment is A & D Ointment. (Yes the diaper rash ointment!) This product will sooth the burning, protect the area so you can keep on walking, and it promotes rapid healing.
People eat a wide variety of things on their distance walks. Some carry real food such as a sandwich, others will eat only candy. Some popular food items include jelly beans, gummy bears, raisins, cheese, granola bars, bagels, all kinds of sports bars and gels, etc. I personally like the Power Bar Harvest Bars and Clif bars. Break them in half and put them in zip lock bags. (Zip lock bags are much easier to access when you are tired, or hands are swollen.) You should be eating small portions fairly often. If you are a very fast walker, the gels may be easier because you don't have to chew. Most of us can chew and walk at the same time. If you think you will use them during the marathon, be sure you have tested them during your training walks.
Try a variety of electrolyte replacement drinks to find the one that you like best. If you plan to use the replacement provided by the marathon be sure you have trained using it. I like to carry my replacement drink in a powder form. Then I can add it to my water as needed. Another option is electrolyte replacement tablets.
Pack all items in a fanny pack. You don't want to carry anything in your hands. I like a small to medium size pack that has enough room for snacks, water bottle, and anything else I want to carry.
If flying to another city for your marathon, be sure to pack your marathon day clothing, shoes, any gear, and your bib or entry information in a carry on. (This is NOT the time to have lost luggage!)
Do nothing different on marathon day. Wear clothing that has been well tested, eat the same food, and drink the same drinks.
Try on your entire marathon outfit the day prior to the marathon. Pin on your bib and be sure that it is not going to be in the way or rub anywhere. Pack your fanny pack or make a list of what items you are taking. Lay it out and have it ready for marathon morning. It is so easy to forget something in the excitement.
If it is chilly wear an old sweat shirt over your marathon clothing, that you can toss off in route. You normally warm up quickly, and you don't want to carry a jacket for 26 miles. Many marathons pick up these discarded items and give them to charity.
If rain is forecasted pack a light weight disposable rain poncho (or a garbage bag will do in a pinch) and a dry pair of socks in a zip lock bag.
Pack lightly, you are not going on Safari ... it is ONLY a marathon!
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