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HOW TO START TRAINING?
The most important rule is: don't aim too high. If you can only run one kilometre at first, do just that. It will be the repetition of that distance in two or three days time, and then again in another two or three days that will train your muscles, heart and lungs to cope with longer distances. Even if you have to walk at any time, don't be ashamed. Training with friends will help to keep you going when, as everyone does, you begin to doubt you will ever make it. If you don't have friends who are interested in running, then now is the time to make some ones!
Advertise on your company notice board for running companions - but don't exaggerate your fitness level. Or go to a local gym, or look at the small ads in your local paper, there may be people in exactly the same position as you, just as anxious as you to get started. Don't delay the start of your training until December when you will hear if you have been accepted for the Flora London Marathon 2004. If you do, you will have lost over four months of training during the best time of the year.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE THE CORRECT TRAINING SPEED?
Once you have got beyond the 'all running is hard' stage the next step is to do your running at 'conversation pace' - you should have enough breath left to chat to a running companion - and, if you have to, stop to recover or do some walking if necessary. When you can run the whole way at conversation pace, you can think about increasing the distance. It is very likely - that after your first running efforts or any increase in the training distance you will feel stiff next day. So do not run that day. Instead, take a walk or go for a swim or even a spin on a bike. Quite often, however, stiffness after exercise is worse on the second day (something you'll find is true after next year's race) so take a complete rest on that day and run again on the third day. Your main ambition should be to gradually increase the time spent on your feet, slowly and carefully building up your endurance over the next seven months until Marathon Day.
Always take care to drink plenty of water and have proper rest days, especially during your early build-up. It is during the days off that your body will rebuild its defences against the next set of demands you make on it. Increase your training distances gradually. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that if you double your training distances over night you will get twice as fit in half the time. Get there slowly. Initially train for only two days a week - once at the weekend and once in during the week. Increase this to three outings after four weeks and then to four in November - by then you should be able to run continuously for at least 30 minutes on every session. Now is the time to consider increasing the distance of your weekend run. When the darker evenings come in, wear white or light coloured clothing, try to stay on well lit thoroughfares and always run facing the traffic on country roads - night or day.
Women should take extra care as it is not always safe, unfortunately, for women to train alone. If you have no other choice however, you should not put yourself at risk by running in deserted or unlit areas; even in daytime avoid lonely common land, canal paths or woods. So, you have your targets for the next three months. In December, when you will be sent detailed training schedules, you should be well on your way to running your first Marathon or that precious personal best time. If you are accepted for Flora London Marathon 2004 the schedules will lead, day by day, to April 18th. Even if you are not, you will still be sent training schedules that you can use as a build-up to any marathon. The magazine also features a list of preparation races. After establishing your basic fitness, use one of these races to gauge how well prepared you are and how much more you will need to do. Beginners should choose a short race while Improvers can go for something longer.
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