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Running a marathon has never been easy, but for the dedicated few who have done it, it’s a heck of a race and an impressive accomplishment. Staying focused in long distance running is one thing, but staying safe is another, and it encompasses a smart and sensible routine.

Marathon training means long hours hitting the pavement, and some often train alone. Personal safety isn’t something a runner wants to worry about, but bad things can happen even in broad daylight. For women, especially, personal safety is a concern, and that is why being prepared is the best way to head off an imminent attack.

Longtime marathon coach and runner Jesica D’Avanza recommends a three-pronged approach for physical safety. First, she believes in taking a self-defense class. Learning how to use key physical techniques can enable a runner to successfully escape, resist, and survive a violent attack. D’Avanza also carries with her pepper spray and a personal alarm to provide even greater insurance.

Besides personal safety, there are other types of staying safe while training for a marathon, and these are for keeping the body healthy and injury-free while on the run. D’Avanza offers a few tips for staying in your best physical condition while training and running a marathon.

Take it slow

Upping one’s running mileage too quickly can work against even seasoned marathoners. The body needs a gradual build-up and a chance to recover during these intense 20-mile training weeks.

Properly warm-up every time

Dynamic stretching aids the body in warming up and the muscles to perform best. Some of these stretches include big arm circles, hip circles, knee-ups, and head rolls. Properly stretching before running helps you avoid pulling a muscle or tendon as you start running longer distances.

Alternate your muscle groups

It is also advised for marathon runners to have easy days and intense days. One day, a runner focuses on speed, and the next, the runner slows down. This alternation helps strengthen different muscle groups.

Forget your final race pace

In other words, training does not mean a fast pace every time in order to repeatedly hit the pace you want to set for the marathon. Muscle fibers need to build endurance, so slower runs than the race pace you want to achieve allow your body to build aerobic capacity and a strong heart.

Listen to any pain

Running with an injury can wreak havoc on one’s health. A visit to a sports specialist will determine the right course of action to take. As soon as you begin to feel pain, take time to figure out whether it’s normal pain or if it’s a sign of something potentially more serious.