When it comes to training, little things count. Many times, overlooking what might seem small and insignificant can derail a runner's training, experts say.
Sweat can weigh down cotton clothing, causing chafing if it rubs against the skin. It's better to get performance apparel that absorbs and wicks away sweat. That includes socks, too. Some runners need inserts to help keep the foot stable. They are found in running stores or can be custom-made by a podiatrist.
Eating right can also make the difference between a good run and a bad run. Runners should refuel and dehydrate throughout a run. Don't go through a long run without carrying water (or be sure to use a route with working fountains). Drink every 15 to 20 minutes and eat every 45 minutes to an hour, some coaches suggest.
Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke in severe cases. It can also cause muscles to cramp.
"Once you're running and you're thirsty, then you're done," Senatore said. "You're going to tank out. When you have nothing left in the tank, that's called hitting the wall. If you prepare and do what you're supposed to, you shouldn't hit the wall."
Fueling the body for a run is more than getting enough liquids in the system. Experiment with different foods, such as nutrient gels or sport jelly beans, to see what your stomach can handle. Every runner's body is different. What works great for one person may have someone else running to the bathroom with an upset stomach.
Many running festivals offer a pasta dinner the day before the big event to help runners load carbohydrates and store energy for race day. Coaches say it doesn't work. Instead, slowly add carbs into your diet for a week or two before the race. Once again, running is about building up.
Know your body
But even if you follow a running plan perfectly, you may still get hurt. When that happens, pay attention to your body. It may be hard to distinguish an injury from sore muscles, but veteran runners say if the pain makes you change your gait and is intolerable, stop running.
"You really have to listen for pain," Levin said. "Don't run through the pain, because it will only get worse."
When race day arrives, make sure you maintain what you've learned in training. Don't be tempted by the cute running top or new foods vendors try to entice you with during the festival before the race. Try something new, and you may regret it. That cute top may rub against your skin, and that new food may give you a bellyache in the middle of the race.
Runners will be pumped up with adrenaline and want to speed off at the start of the race. Try not to pay attention to the people around you. Go at the pace you're accustomed to. You'll probably find yourself passing some of those speed demons on the course later.
Throughout the race, use all the tips you picked up in training. Stay hydrated and fueled, and stop running if you think you're injured.
Charles first started running as a way to lose weight. Now, she said, she is addicted. She's gotten faster as she has gotten lighter. And she is hoping for good results with proper training.
"I know I'll be more prepared for my [full] marathon than my half," she said.
Marathon and Half-Marathon training programs
Select online resources:
Jeff Galloway: jeffgalloway.com/training/marathon.html
Hal Higdon: halhigdon.com
Runner's World: runnersworld.com
ING New York City Marathon: nycmarathon.org/training_index.htm