By Miranda Dellamaria
While the snow may have returned with a vengeance this past week (thanks for the cancelled classes!) we’re almost at the end of this terrible winter. We recently reached highs of 50 degrees, reminding us all that spring is in fact coming! The groundhog did not see his shadow, and soon we’ll finally be able to stop all of the terrible habits winter forces us to get into, like bringing our ridiculously oversized jackets everywhere, blasting the heat at all hours, and —my personal favorite— running on treadmills. Yes, soon it will be warm enough for us all to get our exercise outdoors, with the beautiful Champaign landscape to distract us from how far we have left to run instead of a Law & Order rerun playing on a tiny tv screen. It’s a good thing, too, with the Champaign marathon (or half marathon! Whatever you’re feeling) coming up in a couple of months.
Let’s get this out of the way: running sucks. Running 26 miles (or again, 13, whatever you’re feeling) really, really sucks. But at the end of the day, it’s pretty cool to say that you’ve consecutively run more miles at one time than most people will walk in a week (or month, even). Plus, you’ll totally be able to get Fat Sandwich afterwards and not feel insanely guilty about it for the first time ever. Here are some tips to help you prep for the marathon, half marathon, or even just some casual spring jogging:
DON’T: Constantly check how far you’ve run.
As someone who will sometimes literally watch her distance on the treadmill tick up by a tenth of a mile to pass the time, I get that this one can be tough. Sometimes when you’re running it feels like it’s never going to end, and constantly checking your progress at least assures you that you’re getting there. But constantly looking at how far you’ve run will only serve to remind you of how far you still have to go. It’s an easy way to get discouraged, so really try to let yourself get distracted on the run. Focus on the song you’re listening to (see above) or —weather permitting— enjoy the scenery. Run to a new corner of campus you’ve never seen before, and who knows? Maybe you’ll figure out where the Ceramics Building actually is.
DO: Make sure you have shoes that fit you properly.
Did you know that sometimes after running a marathon all of your toenails can fall out? All of them. It’s horrifying to see. Though this can be caused by a number of factors (some of us just have weak enamel), it’s usually because of ill-fitting shoes. So get out to the Nike outlet and invest in a pair of shoes that really fits. Don’t lose your toenails this spring; it’s almost sandal weather again!
DON’T: Eat a lot before you run.
This one’s pretty obvious, but there are definitely some ill-informed people out there who probably think it’s a good idea to carbo-load before running a la The Office’s Michael Scott. They’re right in a sense – carbs do give you energy, and you definitely need massive amounts of energy to run a marathon. But if you follow Michael Scott’s plan and eat a huge spaghetti dinner beforehand, it will probably yield similar results (SPOILER ALERT: it was not a good situation). Instead, try something like a fruit salad. Throw in some bananas and mangos for a breakfast that’s still high carb, but not quite as filling as spaghetti. And always follow the pool safety rule: give yourself twenty minutes to digest.
DO: Stretch out before and after every run.
Stretching before working out is only going to enhance your performance and keep your muscles from cramping up during your long runs, but stretching after is just as important! Stretching after a run is actually easier because your muscles are looser. Not stretching after a run can also make you less flexible overall, so just take a couple of minutes and try to touch your toes. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night with a leg cramp.
DON’T: Run every day.
This might seem a little counterintuitive. If you want to get good at something, shouldn’t you work at it every day? Long distance running, however, can be dangerous if done to excess. Be sure to give yourself a few days off per week if you’re training for a marathon, and alternate fast-paced, long distance runs with more leisurely jogs. The last thing you want is a strained muscle the weekend before your race.
DO: Stick with it.
Again, running sucks. It is difficult, sweat-inducing and occasionally miserable, but the moment after completing a marathon where you go “Hey, I just ran 26 miles” is pretty spectacular.