Participating in a marathon is no easy task nor should it be a fly-by-night idea. Running 26.2 miles pushes the body to its limits and could be the cause of various injuries if you’re not properly prepared.

In fact, if you’re planning to participate in the upcoming All American Marathon, scheduled for March 22, and haven’t already started a training regime, you’re already behind the power curve.

Preparing for a marathon and even a half marathon, which measures 13.1 miles, takes time, effort and proper planning.

According to information featured on Active.com, if a participant has been running 20 miles per week for the past four to six month, he has a good base to build up to marathon endurance. The article pointed out that a good measuring stick for increasing mileage would be 10 percent per week. Using the 10-percent rule, help decrease the possibility for injuries.

Runners should build up their mileage and endurance for three to four weeks, then use the next week as a recovery period. During the recovery week, it is recommended that you drop your mileage by 25 to 35 percent. Once that recovery week is over, continue building using the 10-percent rule, the article said.

Choosing the proper footgear is also important when it comes to marathon participation. Imagine spending an entire day wearing a pair of shoes that are even half a size too small. Now imagine wearing them while running 26.2 miles. Think of the constant pounding and the trauma that is delivered to your foot during the three-hour span. A trip to the hospital would definitely be in order.

Olympic silver medalist, Meb Keflezighi, who attended last year’s inaugural All American Marathon, said on the Active.com website that lightweight shoes are an asset for him, as they make it easier to achieve a natural stride.

“Walk before you run,” he said on the website. “Use your new shoes in everyday settings before hitting the road. Take them shopping and even to work.”

Keflezighi added that the best thing a runner can do is to let their muscles adapt to the flatter heels and lighter structure.

He said runners should also go on short runs at first, especially if the shoes are still new. “Go for seven miles on a road or smooth surface,” he advised. “A smooth road is the perfect place to try out your lightweight shoes and your newly-improved form.” Only after you feel good on the short runs should you run with the shoes on your regular workouts, he said.

Keflezighi added that it is also very important for runners to stretch regularly to maintain their flexibility and to prevent running-related injuries.

Greg McMillan, an exercise scientist, who is considered by some to be the best and smartest distance runner in America, said proper form is also important when it comes to distance running.

“The best and easiest advice for good running form comes down to two simple words – run tall,” he said. “Running tall will help put your body in the ideal running position – head over shoulders, shoulders over hips and hips over ankles. When your body is in this run-tall position, you generate more power with every stride and are more efficient with less wasted motion.”

Hydration is also an important factor to consider.

“Hydration needs to be individualized,” explained Dr. (Maj.) Sean Wise, then director of Sports Medicine at Womack Army Medical Center, in a Paraglide article before last year’s marathon. Most experienced runners know their sweat rate and the key is to replace any fluids lost during exertion.  He added that at the end of the spectrum, runners have to avoid over-hydration, which can cause exertional hyponatremia, which is adding more water in comparison to how much salt is in the body. Exertional hyponatremia can cause nausea and vomiting, swelling, headaches and confusion.

Proper footwear, stretching, hydrating and proper training are only a few factors in competing or completing a marathon. There are numerous others.  So, in order to overcome the possibility of injuries and to increase your endurance in preparation for the 2nd Annual All American Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K, race officials, along with the Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation office have come up with several race tips to assist runners in their preparation. For more information, see the sidebar.