The training sessions before the marathon, weeks and months, are the foundation but rarely they the marathon distance. Most runners will venture to get in a few 20 mile training runs before the actual marathon event.

I've always believed that a marathon starts at 20 miles, for it's the last 6.2 miles that is the real event of mental, physical and spiritual determination.

Over the next few weeks, there will be more than 100,000 runners taking part in marathons somewhere in the country. It is important for all runners to have proper balance in their daily life. They must have proper diet, exercise and get plenty of fresh air. They must also have relaxation and mediation to get their attitudes and emotions in order. Having good control of your emotional life keeps the body in good running shape.

Each step of training involves either an increase in time or intensity. This challenges your body in new ways, making it necessary to learn to read your body; to become aware of the subtle differences between discomfort and pain.

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Fact box

If discomfort remains at a low level or decreases during training, you may continue. However, when discomfort increases during a training session, the body is signaling to slow down or stop for a short time before continuing. While you may attempt to train through discomfort, do not run through pain.

On the day of the event, wearing a watch will help eliminate any questions of pace at mileage markers. After 35 marathons, I am still guilty of too fast a start, which definitely is a bad thing in a 26 mile race.

You will end up paying for it at the end. If you find yourself speeding up early in the marathon, slow down and relax. One can always increase his pace during the last few miles of the marathon and pass hundreds walking -- those who went out too fast -- to the finish line.

This will also psychologically uplift a runner for a good strong finish.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a Sport Podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 & 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.