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Dodging dehydration and shin splints: a novice's guide to running a marathon



I was something of a fat kid growing up. I was never morbidly obese, but I did receive a heckle or two in junior high, and I remember overhearing my proper southern grandmother voice her concerns to my parents during a dinner at a Frisch's Big Boy (Cincinnati's answer to Denny's) in nineteen-ninety-whatever. My weight fluctuated throughout high school and undergrad, but it wasn't until grad school that I finally got my shit together. Once I became mildly serious about both my diet and running, I shed 30 pounds. I've since maintained an average pace of about 20 miles a week, only partially to combat cans of Hamm's and the Handlebar's smoked gouda mac 'n' cheese.

I recently decided to get involved in the marathon racket and plan on running the hokey Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in August. I asked Fleet Feet employee Darren Elledge to offer some training tips.

What marathons have you run?

I've done 11 full marathons, including Chicago three times and New York three times. I've also done eight ultramarathons.

How far out should I start training for a marathon?

You want to get your base set. You already have your 20- to 25-mile-a-week base. As far as marathon training goes, everyone's different. There are websites for 12-week, 16-week, and 18-week programs.

What's your personal routine?

When I first started out, I did an 18-week program that I found online that worked perfectly. I don't do that anymore. I train by time and not miles. Instead of doing a 20-mile-long run, I do a three-hour run.

What other ways do you train?

Biking's always good. I cross-train, do yoga, Pilates, and I'm starting to do some boxing as well.

I'm doing the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on August 14. When should I begin training?

If it's your first one, you want to start getting that longer run in within the next two weeks. You definitely want to get at least one ten-mile and maybe even a 12-mile in at some point. Don't worry if it takes you a little bit longer. It's just about being on your feet for that long.

What kind of diet should I focus on as the marathon nears?

Eat a lot of fruits and as many greens as you can. Get all those carbs and potassium. If you're low on potassium, you're bound to get cramps in your legs.

What should I consume during the marathon?

I do water, Gatorade, and these pills called Nuun. They dissolve in water and increase your energy. A lot of people use gels as well. I've used a couple. You should track those during training. Because if you try those for the first time during the marathon, you're gonna puke.

What's a good outfit during a marathon?

Anything but cotton. SmartWool and Icebreaker are good companies to check out. As far as shoes go, don't worry about size. It's best to get properly fitted for shoes. I wear 11 or 11 ½ dress shoes but wear 12 or 12 ½ in most of my running shoes. Because of the swelling, they fit a little bit different. You want that thumb length. If you don't have it, you're gonna lose toenails.

[The Reader extends sympathies to the family and friends of Zachary Gregory, who died on June 4 during the 13.1 Chicago half marathon.]

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