Ladies and gentlemen, start your training
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Kagan McLeod

Deciding to run a marathon is about as easy as deciding to be a professional hockey player? when you’re 6. But the process of safely? and effectively conditioning yourself to actually go this distance requires great stores of patience, resolve and endurance you may have never tapped. And lots of prep time.

“Normally about six months,” says Galloway, whose programs offer week-to-week, mile-by-mile, runner-tailored strategies used by running groups preparing for a marathon from scratch. “Those [who are] already running longer distances have a head start, but there’s absolutely no way to bluff your way through a marathon.”

There are a ton of marathon training programs out there, many of which haven’t evolved much since the 1960s when popular wisdom was all about consuming your life with running and logging major miles five to seven days a week. The important thing when shopping around for a proven method to this madness is to find one that works for you, feels realistic and performs the seemingly impossible task of not overtaxing your body for an endeavor that, by its very nature, is excessive.

“In the old days, conventional wisdom was to run almost every day and keep building up weekly mileage without running more than 20 miles before the actual marathon — and a lot of people are still doing that,” notes Galloway, whose system consists of two shorter runs during the week (around half an hour each) and a longer weekend run that methodically pushes toward the 26-mile goal.

This method, says Galloway, “provides a minimal amount of training that will allow people to avoid injury and let their bodies recover, carry on their regular life activities without feeling wiped out, and provide maximum benefit and confidence in the actual marathon.”

Walk it off
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Kagan McLeod

One vital ingredient in Galloway’s recipe for injury-free marathon success involves regular, timed walking breaks. That’s right, walking: the very word reviled by purists and everyone’s eighth-grade gym teacher.

“Once you reprogram that foolish stigma out of your head — that walking means failure — you’ll find that the liberal use of walk breaks becomes the shock absorber that can improve your performance and virtually eliminate the risk of injury,” Galloway says. He says that in his first 20 years of running, before he incorporated walk breaks into his own training, he was injured about every three weeks. And ever since he made the switch, he’s been injury-free — as have many runners who’ve retrained their own thinking in this regard.

“It’s speed-walking, not strolling,” clarifies Twiggs, who ran the Boston Marathon last spring — with walk breaks. “But the mechanics are different from running, so essentially you’re giving your running muscles a quick break.”

No one knows this better than Deegan. “I always used to have some running-related injury when I was logging 60 to 70 miles a week, but I never wanted to walk; it was against some golden rule in my head,” she remembers. But when she and her husband began to incorporate walk breaks into their running, “I got a lot less injured — and my husband improved his time by more than 20 minutes,” she says.