Mike's Marathon Tips

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer

Mike's Marathon Tips

[Can you believe the Walt Disney World Marathon is a month away? Time flies! A number of MousePlanet folks will again be participating in the marathon or half-marathon, including Mike Scopa. In our last installment of the Marathon Guide before the event and for the year, Mike provides some tips he's found helpful during his training.]

Don't get hurt

As I am in my 38th year as a runner and a veteran of seven Walt Disney World road races I feel compelled to mention a few things that I hope will help anyone considering to enter the world of road race running, especially at Walt Disney World.

It doesn't matter if you are training for a 5K (3.1-mile) race or a marathon. In all cases the objective is to train and not acquire an injury along the way. In today's column, let me share with you some things you can do to prevent an injury before, and during your events.

Build slowly

You cannot build up your long distance stamina in one day, one week, or one month. Patience is certainly a virtue when training for any distance. It is very wise to play the tortoise and not the hare because it's steady and slow (at first) as she goes.

Don't worry about speed. As your body gets into shape and becomes more efficient you will notice yourself running faster and running longer. Rule of thumb is not to try to run too long or too fast too soon. Setbacks are no fun.

Work on stamina first. Every time you go out for a run or walk, extend yourself a few more minutes. Don't overdo it. One minute more each time out will work, as will five minutes. If you extend your session one minute each time out and run three times a week that's 12 minutes per month, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Keep yourself well-oiled

In October I did a foolish thing. While running in the Race for the Cure, I tried sprinting to the finish for the last 50 yards. My hamstring did not like that and I was in pain as I skipped across the finish line.

I was told by several professional trainers to drink a lot of liquid over the next 24 hours and hydrate my body and muscles as much as possible. This would help to keep the muscles pliable and prevent further injury. I did just that and was able to run the next day, albeit not as fast, but with little pain.

In that case I had only 24 hours to do that however all along that week I was taking in as much fluid as possible. When you know you will be running long distances it's wise to hydrate at least 72 hours ahead of race time. We are talking water of course... not soda or alcohol.

Stretch, don't bounce

I'm guessing that before a race if you see a number of runners doing some stretching, then it's a good bet that they have already run. That's right. You really shouldn't stretch before a race unless you've already walked or jogged a bit to warm up those muscles.

Also, don't bounce when you stretch. Bouncing can tear muscles. Tiny microscopic muscles.

What a lot of runners forget to do after a race is to invest some time and do stretching then.

This is the ideal time to stretch those muscles, since they are very warm and pliable. Stretching after a race will help your muscles be prepared for your next running session.

In order for me to have the best chance of not re-injuring the hamstring at the 10K Race for the Taste I spent some time soaking in a warm tub an hour or so before the race. That helped tremendously and at least gave me a fighting chance to start the race.

Warming up the muscles in warm water got them ready for some stretching, too.

Working on your speed

Everyone is always concerned about speed. As you get into shape, your speed will naturally pick up. However, if you want to try actively working on increasing your speed, try interval training.

Interval training is a technique that involves running at a faster than normal pace for small segments of time during the course of your run. For instance, you may be running at a certain pace. Then for a period of 30 seconds, pick your pace up a little bit, and then drop back into your normal pace. A few minutes later repeat the same thing.

Interval running varies from runner to runner. Some runners do not even attempt it until they are in the last 10 percent of their run because they feel only then is it safe to put a little burst on without inviting injury.

This technique will work wonders for your pace and over a period of several weeks will help you increase your natural pace.

Just remember that you need to take this slowly and not sprint... just quicken your stride a bit. If you feel anything getting tight, pull back.

Healthy feet are happy feet

My doctor once told me to never ignore the slightest outbreak of athlete's foot and to combat it ASAP. He prescribes taking showers while standing in bleach water. I've done it and it works. He is also a big supporter of foot powder. Keeping the foot dry is half the battle.

Now I had mentioned that I had broken my ankle at the 2006 WDW half-marathon. I would have been fine had I paid attention to where I was stepping/running.

I hurt myself while removing a sweatshirt and I did not see the pile of clothes I was about to step into.

However, we all should be aware of more than just clothes on the road when we run.

Unless you're on a treadmill, your running surface will be inconsistent and you should get into the habit of glancing down at your feet. Sure you want to see where you're going but don't you also want to se where you are landing?

You may have heard some of these tips before. Of course hearing them and practicing them are two different things.

I practice what I preach.

Running for more than yourself

Too many times with all the fundraising efforts put forth for the major demons like multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and breast cancer, the lesser known diseases often find themselves struggling to get notice and help.

That's why I want to salute and support both Mouseplanet's Stephanie Wein and AllEarsNet writer Amy Stoll for stepping up and helping out in two efforts I would have otherwise have no clue.

Both these ladies will be participating in the WDW marathon weekend with Amy doing the WDW half-marathon on Saturday and Stephanie doing the full marathon on Sunday.

Stephanie is raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families

Stephanie will be training in memory of her grandmother Joan, who passed away last year due to lymphoma.

Amy Stoll is a contributing writer for AllEarsNet.com and is raising funds for neurofibromatosis—or NF. Amy lost both her mother and her sister Lisa to this devastating and disabling disease.

What I didn't realize is that NF affects more Americans than cystic fibrosis, hereditary muscular dystrophy, and Huntington's disease combined.

I will be supporting both Steph and Amy in their efforts. They are both part of the Disney Internet community and thus they are part of my extended family. It's the least I can do to thank them for having made me smile every time I read their articles.

Plus you never know when that one extra dollar may be the key to finding a cure and preventing someone in your own family from going through the pain and agony that comes with battling a terrible disease.

You can support Steph at her donation page and Amy at hers. You can find more information on how to support them there.

These are two special ladies and I wish them the best of luck.

See you at the half-narathon!