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Going The Distance: Master a Marathon

Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes dishes out his secrets to smoking the competition and securing a top spot.

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MF: Why do a marathon?

To me, complete fitness is critical. You see a lot of runners who look emaciated and enemic, but then you see a lot of lifters who have huge upper bodies and no leg strength. Most of you are pretty intense individuals. You love a challenge and thrive on anything that pushs you to the limit...and I think a marathon does that. There's no way to fake you way through a marathon. You've gotta pay your dues. It's gonna hurt - big time - and you have to overcome. But the people who read Mens Fitness are made of that stuff.

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MF: How do you get started?

Start from the group up. That means investing in a good pair of schoes from a specialty running store. If you have a good base of fitness, seven to nine month is a reasonable amount of time to train for marathon.

MF: Ok, now what?

You need to build ip a good base milege, which is, at minimum, 35 miles per week. Hydration is critical; some guys like using electrolyte replacement fluids; others prefer water. how much you drink depends on how much you sweat and what part of the country you're training in. But if you notice a dry mouth or caked-in salt taste, you're definitely dehydrated. Build core and shoulder strength with exercises like lat pulldowns and shoulder presses that involve the natural arm swing. Accentuating the arm swing during a race will take a load off your legs, and powerful arms can help you propel you past the finish line.

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MF: How do you stay motivated?

Sign up for a cause related race (The Loukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training is a popular fund-raising program). Recruit a buddy to join you; you'll be able to learn a lot from each other. Download audiobooks. You'll find that you'll look forward to your runs just to get to the next chapter.

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THE MARATHON TIMELINE >>

The day before...Regardless of what you've heard, don't carbo load...unless you want to show up at the starting line bloated. I prefer a balanced meal of 40-30-30 (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat). Go for blander foods instead of really strong spices. And definitely cut back on fiber the day before - for obvious reasons.

The morning of...Go light. I personally like a plain, full-fat Greek yogurt, a chopped banana or berries, and some almonds. That's enough to get me through. Addidtion to some gel packs I carry with me and the on-course food.

After...A mixture of whey and soy protein seems to work best for recovery. And you'll hate this, but an ice bath will pay dividends. Stay off the ibuprofens and any anti-inflammatories. These will prolong your recovery time rather than accelerate it.

The day after...This sounds counterintuitive, but go for a run. It'll be more like a hobble, but it'll get your heartrate up and your legs moving. And carry a waterbottle around and just pound it.

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