By Nelson Coffin
There's more than the temperate July weather to help novice marathoners train for the inaugural Baltimore Marathon in October.
Last week, rookie distance runners were given invaluable information on taking the 26.2-mile jaunt as podiatrist Dr. John Senatore, veteran runner Pat Wilkerson, physical therapist Al Yesilonis and race official Dave Cooley stopped by the Merritt Athletic Club in Towson.
About 30-35 people were on hand to hear Senatore offer what he considers the most important rule of the road for first-timers.
"What I always tell people is that if you under-train, you won't make it to the finish line," said Senatore, whose practice is at Union Memorial Hospital. "But if you over-train, you won't make it to the starting line."
Senatore should know. He competed against marathon legend Alberto Salazar when both attended rival Boston-area high schools.
"Some people think in order to run a marathon, you have to run a marathon (distance before the event) first. But that's not true," he cautioned. "People should be more focused on time than on mileage."
The doctor recommends a maximum of a three-hour run, three to four weeks prior to the marathon.
"Being on your feet for three hours is the critical point," he said. "Any longer than that and your body begins to break down."
That's when many runners "hit the wall," according to Senatore.
At about the three hour mark, glycogen _ the principal storage material in the body for carbohydrates _ is depleted from muscles.
"Running for three hours is very physical," said Senatore, 45, who has also completed six marathons. "Your body takes a pounding."
Runners must learn how to feed their bodies under such stress.
Senatore thinks electrolyte-replacing liquids should be taken along with some kind of carbohydrate-loading mechanism, such as power bars, well before problems arise.
"If you hit the wall, you're done. It's too late," said Senatore. "It's the same thing. If you feel really thirsty, you're cooked."
A sensible training schedule is another Senatore suggestion.
Running should be limited to five days per week, with one weekend day reserved for the longest run. However, weekly mileage should never be more than 10-15% of the previous week's total.
Runs of more than 14 miles should be taken only every other week.
The longest training run should be at least three to four weeks prior to the marathon, he stressed.
"Your body really needs a chance to recover," he said.
Senatore advised running faster in training than the actual event.
And he noted hills should be incorporated into the training regimen in order to acquaint runners with the rigors of what promises to be an up-and-down experience.
That's why Towson resident Claudia Grace, 32, and Karen Kells-Pamfilis, 38, have been logging road work at Loch Raven recently.
Both attended the clinic at Merritt, where Kells-Pamfilis is the club's chief instructor for martial arts for children.
Grace, a mother of two and a regular jogger, decided to go the extra miles when her buddy, Kells-Pamfilis, talked her into becoming a marathoner.
The Maryvale grad has been embarking on long runs at daybreak, including a 10-miler Saturday at the Loch Raven Reservoir area.
"My husband couldn't believe it," said Grace, a Towson University alum. "He said, 'Who's doing this to you and what have they gotten you into?'"
Kells-Pamfilis, who has twin girls and a younger son, isn't quite to the 10-mile plateau yet. However, she's determined to get there by October 20.
"Running is boring, so you have to set goals," noted the third-degree black belt. "First it was to run around the neighborhood. Then it was to run a 5K (3.1 miles) and then a 10K. Now I want to run a marathon and I think I can be ready."
E-mail Nelson Coffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.