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Marathon Running

Marathon Training Groups

by Shelley Downing - Rocky Mountain Sports

Preparing for a marathon can mean lots of lengthy, lonely training runs. You find yourself spending extra time creating courses long enough to get in those ever-important three- or four-hour slogs. Wouldnt it be nice to take all that worry away and have someone else do the planning for you?

Enter group marathoning. Now your runs no longer have to be lonely and you can erase that ever-present Beatles song out of your head. Lucky for us here in Colorado that there are scads of marathon training groups for you to join and plenty of reasons to join them. While your runs may still be long in a marathon training group, you’ll be running in the company of new running pals, with coaching support and sports medicine experts to answer training questions. Marathon training coaches create personal training schedules to fit your level and they think up running routes for you, so you no longer have to run in circles for three or four hours. Marathon coaches have already figured out some perfect runs for you—all you have to do is show up.

Train and Raise Money for a Cause

Some of the most popular marathon groups are run by charities like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, the American Diabetes Foundation’s Team Diabetes, the Arthritis Foundation’s Joints in Motion and the American Heart Association’s Train to End Stroke. These training groups work by having you raise money for a particular charity and, in return, they pay your race entry fee, plus accommodations and travel expenses. A lot of these groups run marathons in exotic places like San Diego, Honolulu and Rome.

Groups like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT) also serve as an amazing network of coaches, trainers and runners. TNT is the largest group-training program in the country and has been around since 1988. This year they expect to have 30,000 participants. The TNT program provides you with a marathon schedule, weekly coaching sessions and runners in your neighborhood who are training for the same event. The group also helps you set a schedule for your fund raising and offers up creative ideas to raise money. You get trained for a marathon, get in great shape running with other runners and, at the same time, walk away with a feeling of great pride that you raised money for an important cause.

Denver TNT Coach Maureen Roben meets with runners ands sets schedules and weekly workouts. Roben, a former U.S. marathon record holder, also coaches marathoners who are not running with the TNT group. She holds speed work sessions each week and sets up long runs, which is sometimes with other runners who are training for a marathon, too.

“I am always available for my clients (and for TNT runners). I have some runners who rarely contact me and some that I have daily contact with. I encourage people to ask questions and give me feedback. There are so many training schedules available on the Internet, in books and a lot of them are very good, but I think having someone to bounce things off of, and to schedule around your real life, is so helpful with marathon training.”

Other National Groups with Local Chapters

If you’re set on running a marathon, but don’t have the time to raise money, there are plenty of marathon training groups to join. A number of them offer five- or six-month training programs that set you up for a fall marathon.

A number of national groups have local chapters along the Front Range. Jeff Galloway, a marathoner, trainer and author of numerous marathon training books, runs training groups in Boulder, Denver and Ft. Collins.

“Although we are a national program, each city has its own program director, coaches and local race goals,” says Victoria Seahorn, national director of the Jeff Galloway program. “The advantage of a local group is that if you travel, you can join in on a run with the local group in another area, so you’ll have no excuses not to run while on vacation or on a business trip.” Local group leaders stay in touch with you weekly and you have access to Jeff Galloway via e-mail, which has helped the Jeff Galloway program in Denver grow steadily for the past four years.

“We have different pace groups so that you can run with people who are equal to your fitness level,” says Seahorn. “Our goal is to help get you to the start line injury-free and to enjoy those early morning runs with a group.”

Another national marathon training group with a local chapter is DenverFit and BoulderFit. Each of these groups allows runners of any level to join. The DenverFit program says they will train you whether you are a couch potato, walker, casual jogger or a veteran marathoner. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never run a step—they’ll get you fit in 26 short weeks.

“If anyone thinks they are committed to train for a marathon, at some point they come face to face with reality as they get into their 12- to 15-mile runs,” says John Lanterman, co-director of DenverFit. “It can be overwhelming. We provide weekly motivation through our coaches, our weekend group runs and lectures. Having buddies waiting for you on Saturday mornings can sometimes make the difference between throwing in the towel and making it through your training.”

One of the pluses with these programs is that they put each runner with a group of other runners with the same pace. The natural outgrowth is that many participants find life-long running partners to train with even after the program is over.

The BoulderFit and DenverFit groups train for the Boulder Backroads Marathon, the Steamboat Marathon and the Chicago Marathon.

In Colorado Springs, Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) has created online training sessions that give runners easy access to their own personal training program. The group meets at the Colorado Running Company in Colorado Springs, and the program runs for 20 weeks and includes individualized training calendars based on each participant’s fitness level, which is determined by a Carmichael training system test.

Their spring training starts in April and last year 85 people participated to prepare for a fall marathon. Along with its marathon group, CTS has created an extensive network of more than just running coaches. They’ve got nutrition coaches who are sports nutritionists, and they’re also creating a network of cities that host training groups. In addition, they hold mini clinics on strength training, heart rate training, running psychology, nutrition and other running-related topics.

So if you’ve always wanted to run a marathon but never knew where to start, or if you’ve always wanted your own coach, don’t hesitate. By joining one of the many marathon training groups in Colorado, running your first or your next marathon will be a wonderful experience minus the worry of figuring out where to train next.

Freelancer Shelley Downing trained for (and completed) the 2002 Honolulu Marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training.

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