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Running the Mumbai Marathon? 10 fitness myths busted!
Dr Mahesh Jukar
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January 16, 2008

The Mumbai Marathon, the largest in Asia, has always drawn a large number of runners from every sphere of life. Offering five categories -- the full marathon (appriox 42 km), half marathon (approx 21 km), the dream run (6 km), the senior citizens' run (4.3) and the wheelchair event (2.5km) -- the race has something for everyone, across all age groups, fitness levels and capabilities.

So, if you're planning on running this January 20 -- to support a worthy cause or just because it's on your 'List of things to do before I die' -- here are a few facts you should know before you put those running shoes on.

Myth No 1: You don't really need to train for a marathon
Fact: While runners and walkers do complete marathons with training that's often less than ideal, they suffer during and after the event. There are tales of stress fractures, pain, not being able to walk for a week and psychological burnout from people who have not trained well enough. A good training programme takes at least a month and a good deal of commitment to be successful.

Myth No 2: Training on cardio machines at the gym is good preparation for a long run
Fact: It is always better to practice on the roads for two months or so to train your muscles. A workout for 90 minutes on various machines like treadmills, stationary bikes and stair climbers is not equivalent to half-marathon which would take almost the same time.

Myth No 3: You can train with shorter distances if you train faster. You can slow down and go farther on race day
Fact: The marathon takes a different physiology to provide the energy to go the 26.2 miles than that of shorter distance races. Those energy systems are best trained by running long and slow. It takes runs longer than 16 miles and slower than marathon race pace to get the physiology of endurance. Training short and fast or even up to 20 miles at too fast a pace guarantees that you will "run out of energy" on race day.

Myth No 4: You don't want to waste time in the marathon taking in water or other fluids or energy sources
Fact: The body needs water to work. Losing small amounts of fluids leads to devastating losses in work capacity. The exercising body needs a minimum of 236 mililitres of water every 20 minutes during exercise. This is true in training as well as racing. The replacement can come from sports drinks such as Gatorade, energy bars, gels or candy. They need to be of the proper concentration to be absorbed, making it essential to drink water when using bars or gels.

Myth No 5: To get faster in the marathon, you need more speedwork 
: Marathon performance is usually dictated by endurance, not speed. The endurance to maintain the desired speed is what most runners need. The body needs to be trained to burn more fat and spare glycogen to have enough energy to get to mile 26.2. Time spent doing short distance speed work takes away from the endurance work the body needs to go the distance. The speedwork that is essential for marathons is pace work or miles done at marathon pace.

Myth No 6: Cold weather is good for runners
Fact: When you are running in cold weather, you breathe through your mouth, and the air that hits your lungs is colder and drier. The contrast between the warm air in the lungs and the cold inhaled air can trigger an attack of asthma. Runners generate their own warmth a few miles into a race.

Myth No 7: Old people can't run fast
Fact: Try telling that to the 60-year-old gentleman who sprinted past a runner about 25 yards before the finish line. Age is no bar for running these marathons. It's continuous practice that builds the stamina and makes you run faster.

Myth No 8: Weight training is not required for marathon training
Fact: Running in a marathon is not the same as running a short distance. It is much more demanding and calls for strong muscles which are the ammunition for completing the run. Strengthening the muscles is important in order to avoid cramps and injury. Weight training is vital to develop muscular strength and endurance.

Myth No 9: It does not matter what kind of running shoes you wear for a marathon
Fact: Good shoes are very important to run a successful marathon. Good running shoes absorb the shock, ensuring that you do not get injured while running on rough / uneven surface thus protecting you from harm.

Myth No 10: Indian food is a good enough source of energy
Fact: Pastas (Italian) and carbs are the best foods for long distance running. Pasta, which is packed with carbohydrates, is the most important fuel for energy. It's stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and if these stores run low it can often cause tiredness when you're running.

Carbs don't make you fat; they are in fact a major source of energy. A typical marathon training diet is one that is around 65 per cent carbohydrates, 25 per cent protein and 10 per cent fat. The idea behind a carefully designed eating plan is to ensure optimum hydration, nutrition and protein-building for a runner whose needs for muscle repair and building is much higher than usual.

For more marathon tips and general fitness awareness, join Dr Mahesh Jukar for a chat on Friday, January 18 from 3 to 4 pm, right here on

Dr Mahesh Jukar is a fitness consultant at Hiranandani Hospital and Talwalkars Health Centre. He will be hosting a chat with Get Ahead readers concerning exercise dos and don'ts in preparation for the Mumbai Marathon on Friday, January 18 at 2 pm IST.

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