Going the Distance

By Mariah Kline  |  Health & Wellness

While the entire city is buzzing with the excitement of Derby, many are preparing for an entirely different race. The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon takes place on Saturday, April 29, one week before the most exciting two minutes in sports. The state’s largest footrace attracts thousands of participants from all 50 states and several countries, and takes them on a thorough tour of the Derby City.

This year’s course will have runners starting downtown then running through West Louisville and the infield at Churchill Downs before making a lap around Iroquois Park, passing through the Highlands and returning to the finish line near Waterfront Park. The miniMarathon will take runners on the same route but will have them turn around at Churchill Downs and return to downtown.

Runners spend weeks and sometimes months preparing for this race. While it may be too late to start training for this year’s KDF Marathon, it’s never too late to take up running or too early to start preparing for next year’s race. For those who are just starting out or who haven’t ran for a long period of time, it’s highly important to understand your level of fitness before you begin training.

“You have to know where you’re at before you can know where you’re going to go,” says Andy Fenton, avid runner and operator of Fleet Feet Louisville. “Varying  your workout is also a great idea since running is a highly repetitive activity and doing the same thing over and over again makes you more prone to injuries.”

Fleet Feet’s training programs, as well other running clubs and programs around Louisville, can be a great place to start for those who want to start running or participate in their first race. In these programs, athletes receive guidance from professional trainers who can help them with running techniques and goal setting. Since there are several participants in each program, it also provides a sense of community and accountability for runners.

“The community aspect you see with runners is a big deal,” says Fenton. “The feeling of getting your heart rate up and accomplishing something is great, but it’s even better when you can share that with others.”

For those who want to employ an intense training regimen, Fenton recommends cross training and doing other exercises rather than just running seven days a week. Running different drills and stopping for walks along the way are also good habits to adopt. As for how to properly warm up before a race, Fenton suggests jogging lightly for 5-10 minutes then stretching or massaging muscles.

While conditioning your body is the main focus when preparing for a marathon, it’s also paramount to have the right tools for the job. Wearing the right type of shoe can mean the difference between finishing the race and getting hurt. Therefore, it’s important for runners to purchase shoes that fit well, as well as provide the support and stability needed to cross the finish line.

For those who have been diligently preparing for the marathon and are in their final days of training, Fenton offers one piece of last-minute advice.

“Don’t try anything new on race day, no matter how small of a change it may be,” he says. “Whether it’s the nutritional products you’re using or the outfit you’re going to wear that day, make sure to test it out at least a few days before.” VT