Marathon Training: The Importance of a Good Support System 

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Hello all! My name is Matthew Schultheis. I am a life-long Richmond resident, a physical therapist, and last but not least, an 8-time marathoner. Running, or, more specifically, training, for marathons, was a hobby I picked up in graduate school while working toward my doctorate in Physical Therapy. I never considered myself an athlete, yet I found myself turning to running for stress relief to escape long days of classes and studying.

Two years ago in 89 degree weather, I completed my first Boston Marathon and afterwards, asked my girlfriend to marry me. Completing the Boston Marathon had been a dream of mine for many years and I could think of no better way to finish the weekend than to make it a once-in-a-lifetime event for myself and my future bride. Last year I was not in attendance, though many of my friends were, when those terrible bombs went off. I made up my mind that if I was able to, I wanted to run the Boston Marathon again this year. It is hard to explain, but after what happened last year, many of my friends agreed that participating to honor all those affected had become extremely important.

I would, by no means, claim I know everything. Yet between my professional experience as a PT and having logged 6 consecutive sub-3 hour marathons, I believe I have enough insight to make the documentation of my next couple weeks of training a helpful tool to potential marathoners.

I plan to cover topics ranging from finding an appropriate training group, nutrition, hill/speed training, race week preparation, and, most importantly, injury prevention and recovery. It will also be my intention throughout this process to provide some perspective on the beautiful surroundings we have here in the River City when training for a marathon. I hope you find these entries helpful, interesting, and amusing.

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"It takes a village to raise a child", and the same can be said for marathon training. In no way am I saying that the raising of a child is the same thing as training for a marathon, but the importance of finding a proper support system as you embark on what will be an arduous journey is critically important for both these endeavors.

The first two marathons I ran, I trained completely on my own, without participating in any formal training group. It certainly can be done on your own, but the advantages of finding a group to join as you begin this process are as numerous as the weekly miles you will accumulate in your training.

For starters, there's the camaraderie that helps pass the time during those long weekly runs.

These long runs are crucial for your body to acclimate to the time on your feet required to complete 26.2 miles. You will have to log runs over ten miles, building up to the 20+ mile distance, and those are not runs that you want to do in your own. Aside from the social support, most training groups will even provide the physical support, too, including water, energy gels, and other snacks placed at designated stops on your route.

Finally, what I have found to be truly underrated when participating in a training groups is what you can learn, both physically and intellectually, from fellow runners. When training with others, I have always found that the quality of my work-outs is always higher, due to the inherent competitiveness.

Most groups are large enough that, no matter your fitness level, the odds are high you will find someone who runs at your training pace. In addition, fellow team members will share their experience regarding strategies for race day, injury recovery or prevention, and ways to incorporate your training into a busy personal and professional schedule.

There are numerous opportunities to find marathon, half marathon, or even 10k training teams. Many local gyms offer training groups for members and non members. Local area running clubs are a fine place to look as well. The Richmond Road Runners, Richmond Sports Backers, and Tri City Road Runners are all good places to start your search.

While training for a marathon will never be easy, by any stretch of the imagination, having the proper support system in place can make it more fun!

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Matt Schultheis is a lifelong resident of RVA, a physical therapist and eight-time marathon finisher.

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More in RVA Strong's Marathon Training Series:

Cold Weather Workouts

Prep Races

Running In the Dark

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