10 must-have tips from a marathon coach: Plus, Jorjette’s exclusive four-month marathon training program.
More and more walkers are accepting the marathon challenge and walking 26.2 miles. Curious to know how they do it? What’s involved in the training?
I knew the perfect person to turn to for all the answers. Sheree Meehan, a coach for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training for Northern California, has trained for eight marathons. Meehan says she’s always loved long walks: As a child she walked several miles to school and, on weekends, 10 miles to the beach. Plus, her dad was a backpacker, so the love of walking was a family affair.
Meehan, a Dynamic Walking Trainer, loves training people for marathons, and she puts great emphasis on teaching proper posture and technique. She has become a favorite coach in her area, with devoted walkers coming back to train with her for their second and third marathons. Most Team in Training coaches work with their marathoners once every two weeks. Meehan, however, meets with her group almost every week and works out with some of the walkers on their daily “buddy” walks.
What’s most important to remember when readying yourself for a marathon? “Form,” says Meehan. “Most people ‘hit the wall’ at around the 13th mile because that’s when their shoulders start to droop — they lean forward at the waist. They feel tired and they look tired. I emphasize posture, form, short steps and arm swing.”
Meehan teaches her walkers to stretch during the marathon. “They really need the break and they need the stretching and strengthening. We work on strengthening and stretching the calf muscles and shin muscles all the time. This helps prevent heel pain and other problems. I emphasize foot placement and landing on the heel and rolling through. When you’re doing this kind of mileage, all the little mistakes you make biomechanically can add up to not finishing the marathon because you’re hurt or too pooped.”
Most of all, Meehan helps people have fun. “I want my trainees to stay committed to walking, even after the marathon. I make sure they feel good about what they’re doing. It’s important that they be able to laugh at themselves and have compassion for other group members’ struggles.”