marathon is among the most fabled athletic events of all times. The modern-day Olympic Games, arguable the largest athletic spectacle worldwide, are rooted in ancient rites more storied than the traditions of the major religions. While the modern-day games are rooted in the post-war spirit of pacific global competition under the guise of competition, the age-old tradition of the marathon is entrenched in the collective memory of ancient history. More than two thousand years later, the marathon has become the epitome of athletic competition, rivaling the Olympics for rigor, demand, and athleticism. Held in cities all over the globe, the marathon has witnessed a recent event-tide in flourishing popularity with more people taking part each year to be part not only of the history, but reap the incredible health, metaphysical, and interpersonal rewards the race offers.
"The ancient Greeks were no strangers to long-distance running," marathon scholar Charlie Lovett writes.
In fact, running was used as their means of communication; foot couriers shuttled messages from city to city throughout the empire. In 490 B.C., the city of Marathon was invaded by a Persian army, which had landed ship upon its sea-lined plains. The invasion took the Athenians by surprise, and they sent a messenger named Pheippides to Spart with speed. Hoping to enlist the aid of the Spartans, the courier knew that the salvation of his home rest on the quickness of his feet, and so he ran as fast as his soles would carry him. Within two days, Pheipiddies covered 150 miles on foot.
According to history books, the runner was dispatched back to Athens with news of the victory, and upon reaching the city proclaimed, "Rejoice, we conquer!" And fell dead. Throughout the coming centuries, the legend of the messenger from Marathon filled the hearts of patriots, athletes, and all facing monumental challenge. Robert Browning carries the story of the forthcoming commemorative races in Dramatic Idylls, and through Christian empires and thousands of years, the race took its place in indelible history. "The legend took hold, and out of that legend grew the modern marathon race."
Today, the current marathon is 26 miles long, a far cry from the 150 traversed by the mythic Pheippides. The course was established for the 1908 London Olympics so that it could begin at Windsor Castle and end at the Royal Box, but not until 1921 was the official marathon distance established by the IAAF.
Unlike many other activities open to the competitive and even non-competitive athlete, the distance posed by the modern marathon is no laughing matter. It is a series performance that places great demand upon the runner not only during the marathon, but also in the months before as the applicant trains. Failing to follow a proper training pattern not only risks poor performance, but it wages the runner's health as seriously.
The first weekend in November marks the pinnacle of the marathon runner's calendar, the New York City Marathon. This year, over 37,000 runners from 400 countries start the five-borough tour of the City, making it the largest marathon in the world again.
It's 36th year in the running, it edges out the Boston marathon for the most runners, while Boston, run later in the spring, takes repute for greater difficulty. Both marathons, like all those others run throughout the United States and world, demand a grueling training pattern from each of its participants.
Professional trainer and marathon runner Kevin Beck specifies the requirements for a proper raining exercise.
"Preparation for the marathon, along with every other physiological stressor that comprises 'training,' is governed by the principle of specificity: That is, in order to improve at a given activity, you must duplicate, or at least approach the parameters of, that activity as often as possible."
Traditional and the most effective training is long-term and incremental. It is important to approximate the distance of the marathon, but building to this distance is an important factor for training. The best training is achieved by gradually increasing the weekly distance of a run weekly until three or four weeks before the marathon, with two long runs spread across each week during the training period.
Trainers also urge runners to run six days a week and to not run longer runs than 3-6 miles in their quotidian regimen, since the human physique cannot handle long distance as solitary incidence, but instead needs to learn to reach these distances through gradual immersion on a regular basis.
The long runs are a critical part of the training routine, but learning to balance them is integral. "The body needs to rest between those runs, which is why we suggest," contend the professionals at Marathon Guide, "no more than two long runs per week and moderate distances on the other days."
Beck urges his runners to not just watch their distance, but also their speed, since runners are only considered to have finished the marathon if they conclude the trail in under four hours. The exhaustion that comes from such long and speedy marathons guarantees exhaustion, but they help simulate the actual event and the achievable performance. "The argument for long trial times is that you are specifically training your muscles to work for a long period of time at a marathon pace, so that fuel utilization and muscle-fiber recruitment are simulating racing conditions."
Also, with runs organized around pace and distance training, the ratio of fat to carbohydrates burned is increased. Scientifically, the longer the run is, the more fat that is used, and a higher percentage of fat is burned at marathon pace than at 10k pace.
Muscles in trained athletes easily tire, particularly with such a regimen, but with the appropriate training pattern, the runner is able to rely on "still-fresh muscle fivers in order to maintain a given effort level."
Also, faster running trains the body to recruit additional fibers internally when muscles retire, and also to utilize individual fuel in certain ways that increases the marathoner's speed and endurance.
The training not only increase's the runner's chances at success, it provides innumerable health benefits. In addition to developing the healthy routine of exercise and the corresponding sleep that exertion demands, biological side-effects are also worthwhile. According to William O. Roberts, the medical director of the Twin Cities Marathon in St. Paul, MN, and president of the American College of Sports Medicine, the movement of marathon training "can bring weight down and decrease the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol."
According to other marathon health exports, the regular physical activity developed during the strenuous but wisely-executed training program reduces the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease development, blood pressure, colon cancer, and the onset of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
Additionally, it helps the stubbornly obese America achieve and maintain a healthy body weight naturally, aids the elderly in eased movement, and also reduces feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Thee benefits are all added to the basic metaphysical advantage of setting a goal, achieving it, and building a healthy lifestyle.
The training routine is a critical part of the marathon activity not just for the execution of the race, but also for the development of a healthy lifestyle. While training, participants learn discipline and goal attainment; they exercise regularly. Trainers also learn the routine of a proper habit and, in order to execute their individually-developed training plan successfully, must stick to it. Running hundreds of miles over the course of several months burns countless calories, stressing the importance of a healthy diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, fat, and water. The fad diets that hail one ingredient over another do not hold up on the track, and the rigidity of a stable diet becomes normal. A runner should eat a serving of a grain product, like a slice of bread or half cup cooked pasta, a serving of dairy, and a serving of vegetables each day.
The athlete should also consume 3,000 calories each day, and carefully watch their source. They learn to not ignore fat like most of Americans, and do not fall for the "fat free!" charm. Instead, they embrace the fuel provided by fat and, because of the implementation of a proper exercise habit to counteract the negative effects of fat intake, are able to make proper use of its good points.
Today, it is not uncommon to see the benefits of marathon training embraced by people of all ages. Fifty-year-olds are as common the marathon track as their young peers, because with adequate training and proper lifestyle plans, marathon running is as accessible to the older generations as to the younger. Marathons are a unique opportunity to cultivate a healthy outlook on life, and as such witness increased popularity yearly. They are not just the source of true athletic competition, they are the foundation of a healthy life.
Beck, Kevin. "Run Your Best Marathon, Really." Running Times. July/Aug, 1999. Available Online: http://www.runningtimes.com/issues/99julaug/artmar.htm
Burton, Allegra. "The Marathoner's Diet for Optimal Performance." MarathonGuide.Com Available Online: http://www.marathonguide.com/training/articles/Nutrition.cfm…