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As challenging as running a marathon is, training for one is even more difficult.
To make sure that you don't have a miserable race day you've got to spend at least 16 weeks gradually increasing your mileage and building up stamina. That means you're running a whole lot more than just 26.2 miles.
Experts say it's best to train in all different kinds of weather and to mix up the kinds of courses you're running, so you just might end up running up a hill in the pouring rain.
You also have to eat right, stay hydrated, learn to listen to your body's needs, deal with blisters and chafing and possibly even come to embrace the post long run ice bath. (They help you to recover more quickly and really do become more bearable with time!)
But training isn't just about testing your the limits of your body. There's a lot of data you need to keep tabs on. Here's a short list of some of the best apps to have on hand if you're training for a marathon.
Activity Log Apps
There are a lot of different apps that track your activity—and honestly, they all do pretty much the same things. That being said, iMapMyRun is my favorite. Both the app and its website are very well designed and easy to use. It's a great way not only to log work outs, but also to switch up your running routine.
The app tracks your route using your Droid's GPS, so that you can venture off the beaten path and easily plot new training courses without worrying how far you've gone. If you tweet a lot (like I do) you can also set your phone to tweet your progress while you run. When you're done with a workout, the app uploads your data to the website so you can monitor progress over time and share your accomplishments with friends.
RunKeeper Pro (Free)
RunKeeper Pro is similar to iMapMyRun, but it has a very different interface and design. Like iMapMyRun+, RunKeeper Pro tracks your GPS, distance, speed, caloric output and activity history for running. RunKeeper Pro, however, also logs your cross training activities, like cycling, hiking, skiing and swimming.
This app will also occasionally talk to you, reading aloud your stats at every mile marker. This feature means you can tuck your phone away, out of sight and mind, and still monitor your progress as you run. If you happen to be listening to music, RunKeeper Pro will temporarily turn down your tunes so you can hear the voice commands. To track your training over time or tap into the app's social networking features, you can upload your workouts to RunKeeper’s website.
Time Runner Pro (Skr10.00)
Not a big fan of watches? Yeah, me neither. If you're training for your marathon the Jeff Galloway way (with intervals) this app is a good way to keep the weight off your wrists. Users can program the app to vibrate or sound an alarm when it's time for you to switch from a run to a walk or from a walk to a run. The app also tracks your chrono time and measures your average low and high pace stats.
Running Calc (Lite) (Free)
This is a great app to have if you've never run a marathon before. Running Calc Lite predicts race results based on your previous races. Just select a distance of a race you've run before -- 5K, 10 miles, half-marathon, marathon, or fill your distance into the blank -- then type in the time you ran your race in. The app will ‘guesstimate’ how long it will take for you to finish your marathon. Obviously, the app doesn't take into account your recent training, so keep that in mind. Running Calc Lite also does splits, time and speed calculations.
Calorie Tracker by LIVESTRONG ($2.99)
While everyone certainly has their own reasons for why they run, some admittedly train because it's a good way to keep pounds off. Calorie Tracker is a place to log what you're eating so you can ensure that you're staying healthy, but remaining on target with your weight loss goals. The app has more than 625,000 different kinds of foods in the database so that you can accurately keep tabs on pretty much everything you eat.
There's nothing quite like an opponent to really light a flame under your toes. Softrace's racing mode challenges other users to races regardless of where in the world they are. When you've finished, you can compare the splits in real time. If you're more interested running a race against yourself, you can select the app's challenge mode and compare your personal best times. Logs of all completed runs, challenges and practice runs are stored in the app's diary.
Rhythm Runner (£2.45)
Rhythm Runner sticks the science to your running playlist. Upload your tunes and this app will separate each track by its BPM (beats per minute.) As you change your pace you can change your music to match. You can also set programs to match the nature of your runs. For example, “incline” gradually increases in tempo, while “Endurance” maintains a steady beat. If (approximately) $4 sounds like it's a little steep for such an app, there's also a free version of this application available in the marketplace.