Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Dear Jamie

Quick Tips For Runners

Published May 31, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Dear Jamie:

I am pleased to hear of your plans to run a marathon next Fall. After two years of consistent running and a successful 10-miler last Spring, you have adapted well to running and can safely train for a marathon.

I applaud your choice of an urban marathon. Large marathons usually offer the support of experienced volunteers and the company of numerous beginners. As many marathons limit the size of their fields and fill up early, I advise you to register soon.

The backbone of your marathon training is the long run. Since your aim is to finish your first marathon and to live to run another one, you must set aside any time targets. Your goals must be to go the distance safely and to recover quickly.

Your current base of 3 to 4 miles a day, 4 or 5 times per week, allows you to focus on your weekly long run. For the next 6 weeks, plan a long run every weekend, and increase the distance by 1 mile each week until you reach 10 miles. The following 10 weeks, run long every other weekend, and extend each long run by 2 miles, until you reach 20 miles.

Long runs prepare your body for the marathon by optimizing energy transport to the legs, and getting you accustomed to the long time spent on your feet. Both effects can be enhanced with frequent walking breaks on your long runs. I recommend walking 1 or 2 minutes every couple of miles. Walking also stretches your muscles, loosens your joints, removes lactic acid and speeds recovery.

Proper hydration during long runs is vital. Whether you carry water, run by fountains or plant jugs along the route, you must drink about 2 cups every 2 miles. Start drinking at the beginning of your run. Do not wait for thirst to set in, since it will be too late then.

If you know which sports drink your marathon serves, you may want to try it on your training runs by drinking 1 cup of sports drink and 1 cup of water at every stop. Sports drinks replace essential minerals that you lose through sweat, and provide a handy source of energy.

Energy bars offer similar benefits, if you can eat on the run. Bananas, bagels and granola bars are also good sources of energy. Whatever you do, experiment on your long training runs instead of race day.

Once your long run reaches 20 miles, try to run 3 or 4 long runs in the 20-22 mile range, if your schedule permits it. Remember to run long every other week, since you need time to recover. In the off-week, run 5-8 miles easy, or enter a road race. Your last long run should be 2 to 3 weeks before the marathon, to give you time to be fresh and rested.

Resist the temptation to increase your daily easy runs, since they may leave you tired, slow down your recovery, and increase your risk of injury. Run 3 easy days during the week, 3 or 4 miles each, and take off the days before and after your long runs. You may cross train on the off days by walking, lifting weights, cycling or swimming.

Preparing for a marathon stresses the immune system and increases the risk of illness. You can strengthen your defenses by eating well, drinking plenty and sleeping tight. Enrich your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamins, protein for muscle repair, and complex carbohydrates for energy. Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day, and stay away from alcohol and caffeine. Sleep 8 hours every night, and indulge in naps whenever possible.

Good luck with your summer training, and I look forward to joining you on some long runs when you return to campus.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at

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