0
Votes

Running 'People's Marathon'

Running groups get athletes into shape for race day.

First in an occasional series on getting ready for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Kara Semon of Ashburn got her exercise chasing after her 2- and 4-year-old daughters until a friend challenged her to run the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon. Semon was just one of a growing number of first-time runners choosing to run a marathon.

In 2005, 24 percent of Marine Corps Marathon runners were participating in their first marathon. The prospect of running 26.2 miles can be daunting for new runners, especially in regards to finding a training schedule. One great way to ease this anxiety and enjoy social interaction in the process is to join a training group.

Training groups help runners attain specific time goals to finish an event.

Road Runner Clubs of America are great resources for new runners looking for a training group. Their network of experienced runners and certified coaches helps even the novice runner learn proper training habits and the best means of injury prevention. RRCA also provides water and sports drink stops along training routes to educate runners in the use of proper hydration techniques and familiarize their bodies with the brands that will be on the marathon course.

“Training for a marathon for many runners is an ultimate physical challenge,” said RRCA Executive Director Jean Knaak. “Working with an experienced training group through an RRCA club or working with an RRCA certified coach is a great way to train smart for success in the marathon.”

RRCA has more than 7,400 members in Virginia alone, with more than 30 clubs in the area to join. Most clubs offer training programs specific to the Marine Corps Marathon with training beginning in June. To find out more or to join a club, visit www.rrca.org/clubs.

The Jeff Galloway Training Program, based out of Atlanta, Ga., has groups all over the United States including the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area. Galloway’s program teaches runners to train for a time goal and avoid injury in the process. Offering programs for beginners, novices and advanced runners at a variety of finish goals, each group is lead by an experienced group leader, meeting once a week for long runs, guiding runners on pacing and mileage as they complete their shorter runs individually.

Other Washington, D.C.-area groups offer similar programs. DC Fit trains local runners for two specific events each year: the Quantico Half Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. Besides training programs and runs, DC Fit offers periodic seminars on a variety of topics including cross training, hydration, apparel and what to expect at the Marine Corps Marathon.

For some runners, finding a training group means looking no further than the next cubicle. Many corporations have in-house training groups, like those at Cisco Systems. Employees are provided an e-mailed schedule to follow each week. Designed for those who travel frequently, the schedule allows runners to go for long runs with the group when they are in town, but stay on track when they are on the road, simply by following the officewide mileage schedule. At Cisco, employees on the training program meet at the annual sales meeting to run a half marathon together. Employee coaches design the 13.1 mile course, motivate each other through the run and encourage each other to keep training towards the goal — to complete a marathon. From upper management to newbies, office training groups help bond employees, give runners a group of individuals to compare running notes with and most importantly, offer some positive peer pressure to keep going, even through the toughest weeks.

Many would-be runners find the hardest part of training is to stay motivated. For those looking for a training group with added motivation, consider joining a charity partner group. The Marine Corps Marathon and many races work with charity partners, a way for runners to not only accomplish a personal goal but participate in a group fund-raising effort.

For Semon, 36, e-mails from her charity group, St. Jude’s Heroes, kept her going through training. “When I had a rough time running; it was hot, or raining, or I was just tired, I would think of the children I read about, who couldn’t be out there,” she explained. “I kept telling myself, if they can get through chemo, I can get through this run.” Semon also attributes the group’s messages boards to helping her stay motivated. “Reading what everyone was going through, the injuries, the frustrations, the experiences, it became like a family. We’d share stories and really help each other stay motivated through all of it.”

Finally, some runners keep training fun by finding a group that mixes in social events. Designed specifically for moms, seeMommyrun helps to give women the opportunity to train for road races, even when it means pushing a stroller through a long run.

“Training groups can be the most uplifting, positive experience of a runner’s life,” explains seeMommyrun founder and 2005 Marine Corps Marathon finisher, Andrea Vincent. “Engaging conversations, great tips and a kick in the pants when you need it — all of these things are invaluable gifts you receive from your fellow running partners and new friends. No matter how many aches, pains, walls you hit or days you simply do not feel like putting in the miles — your training group will carry you through to the very end.”

With more than 13,000 members in all 50 states, moms are sure to find other running buddies when they log on to www.seemommyrun.com to register with this free service.

“Pairing up with experienced runners, you can pick each other up when you’re hitting a hard moment and can help push you through it,” said Semon, who finished her first marathon with a time of 4:49:31, 10 minutes under her five-hour time goal. “Whichever group you choose, just having someone to go through the experience with and high fiving when you finish is incredible.”

Beth Cline is the public relations coordinator for the Marine Corps Marathon.