4 Tips To Training for the SF Marathon From USATF Certified Head Coach

December 19, 2019 | Are you thinking about running the San Francisco Marathon in July? If so, it’s time to get off the couch, put those running shoes on, and start training!

Dr. Lisa Gonzales, 7-time pacer for the San Francisco Marathon and USA Track & Field certified head coach of the South Bay RUN365 training club, has four training tips for aspiring SF Marathon runners.

1. Get Those Training Runs In

“You can’t just be a weekend runner and then go out and run a half marathon or a marathon,” Lisa says.

In the RUN365 training club that Lisa coaches, she runs a 26-week training program for people running the San Francisco Marathon, and she says it’s totally doable to go from couch to marathon in that time — she’s even done it herself!

Following a marathon training schedule is critical Lisa says, whether you are training with a group or on your own. You can find free and paid marathon training schedules online, you can hire a coach, or you can join a running group, like RUN365.

But, however you choose to get that schedule, Lisa says you have to “start and follow a schedule.”

“There is a reason the schedule is designed the way it is,” Lisa said. “They’re designed to save you from yourself.”

Don’t try to add on additional miles, especially toward the end. The schedule tapers off when it gets close to race day, and that’s intentional, so follow the schedule you choose to use, and make sure you get those training runs in.

2. Get The Right Gear

Preparing for a marathon is more than just getting up off the couch, heading outside, and starting to run (although that is definitely a great first step!).

The great thing about running is that you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment like you might for other sports, but you definitely need good shoes.

John Mercer, a kinesiology professor at the UNLV School of Allied Health Sciences, was quoted in a Men’s Journal article as saying that if you’re a new runner, you probably want high cushioning in your shoes. He says, “With each foot strike, a runner will experience forces about 1.5 to 2.5 times their body weight. That repetitive loading has always been thought to be related to running-­related overuse injuries.” So, with more cushion in your shoes, you’ll have more protection between your feet and the ground.

More experienced runners may feel like the extra weight from the cushioning will slow them down. In that case, a lightweight shoe might be better for you.

Make sure you try the shoes before you buy them — many running stores will even have a treadmill in the store that you can use to take a short run in the shoes and see how they feel.

John Mercer also said, “Make sure the shoe is fitted to the longest toe, the heel counter is fit snug to decrease excessive slipping, and the toe box is wide enough for your forefoot to splay when loaded.”

Shoes are probably the most important piece of gear for running a marathon, but you’ll also want to think about your socks and clothing that you wear while you’re running. Lisa said that as part of her job as head coach of the South Bay RUN365 training club, she’ll make sure that all of the runners have the right shoes and other gear to prevent chafing, blisters, and just make sure you feel good while you’re running.

Lisa also says that nutrition is a key piece of training for a marathon, and it’s something she and the other coaches of RUN365 help runners with through guest lectures, sharing articles, and responding to questions regularly.

3. Get (and Stay) Hydrated

“If you’re not properly hydrated while you’re running, your blood doesn’t run as smoothly and it tires you out faster,” Lisa said.

Make sure you’re drinking water throughout the day — when you first wake up, with each meal and snack, and one hour before bed.

When you’re training, if you run longer than one hour or six miles, you should be drinking water at regular intervals, approximately 16 to 20 ounces per hour.

You can also add in electrolytes to help replace the salts lost during sweating.

San Francisco Marathon sponsor UCAN Hydrate is a great way to stay hydrated with no sugar and zero calories. It has 5 essential electrolytes to prevent cramping and dehydration, and two times more magnesium per serving compared to other electrolyte products. Magnesium helps with energy production.

Make sure that as part of your training, you’re also training yourself to stay hydrated before, during, and after your runs. Figure out the best way to carry water with you while you’re running and how to remember to keep drinking water throughout the day.

4. Get Out On Those Hills

If you’re training for the San Francisco Marathon or another marathon with hills, you’ll need to make sure that you’re including hill training in your schedule.

You know that San Francisco has hills, so you better be ready for them!

“You have to train on the hills too,” Lisa says. If you don’t, you’ll be sorry when it comes to race day!

In the South Bay, Lisa’s RUN365 training group regularly trains on the 12-mile loop at Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos. She said the course has rolling hills and it’s one of the best ways to get that hill training in.

She also said that for about the first two months of training, the training club stays on flats, but after that they’ll regularly start adding in hill training to their runs, and she recommends that anyone planning to run the San Francisco Marathon does this too.

Bonus Tip: Find Your Community

Lisa’s bonus tip is to find other people to run with when you’re training, and find your community.
“You really do find more support and more enjoyment if you’re running with other people,” Lisa said. “You can run with music, you can run with a dog. But, the idea is to feel that sense of community because the accountability comes with it.”

The RUN365 Training Program provides that community and support to the runners that participate. There are runners that have come back year after year and really found their family and the support they need throughout the training season.

“We want people to feel that sense of family. We’ve developed a sense of community in the team because we commit to being a part of people’s lives,” Lisa said.

If you also want that support, accountability, and community that comes from running and training with a team, you can join a RUN365 Training Club too! Training starts in February.

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