After months of being stuck indoors due to the ongoing pandemic, we are challenged with picking and choosing where, when and why to leave the safety of our homes during this phase of the "new normal." For many, this has meant a complete reassessment and a weighing of the risks of what is important. These days, as should always be the case, nothing is more important than our physical health. One of the activities we can more safely embark on is getting outdoors and taking walks, and perhaps even preparing to take part in one of the many wonderful marathons and races that will be taking place throughout Turkey in the weeks and months to come.
Coming up on Sept. 20 will be the Istanbul Half Marathon, a 21K run kicking off from Yenikapı that will take participants along the coast of the Bosporus past the historical city and to the Golden Horn to end up in Eyüp and then loop back. Considered to be one of the top 10 best half marathons in the world, the 15th Vodafone Half Marathon is usually held in early April but was postponed to September this year due to COVID-19 precautions. In an era in which most marathons worldwide have been canceled or delayed, the Istanbul Half Marathon poses a unique opportunity to take on the challenge of getting in the best shape of your life.
The Istanbul Half Marathon will be doing things a bit differently for this year's race due to precautionary measures dictated by the pandemic. The traditional 10K run will be held virtually – instead of its usual mode of taking place on the same day along the same route as the half marathon. The less traditional skating race, in which participants don roller blades or roller skates for a 10K or 21K, will only be held in the latter category this year as a 21K and the half marathon itself will also have a strict limit of 2,500 participants.
Don’t fret if you miss out on this race, however, because there are many varied marathons and running races that will be taking place this month and in the months to come. First and foremost, coming up on Nov. 8 is the Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, a 42K, a 15K and a 10K that is the only race of its kind to have participants cross between continents, by way of the July 15 Martyrs Bridge across the Bosporus. The Istanbul Ultra Trail will follow close on its heels on Nov. 14, held on forested paths in northern Istanbul near the Black Sea, with categories ranging from 15K to 100K.
Across the country, marathons will be resuming in the weeks to come and could easily be made an excuse to travel to some of Turkey’s most precious destinations doubling as race hosts. To name just a few, the Garmin Salt Lake Ultra Trail – which has participants running on the salt lake, aka Tuz Gölü, in the Şereflikoçhisar district of Ankara province – will take place Aug. 28-30 with 10K, 20K, 40K, 80K and 100K distances. On Sept. 19-20, the Phyrgian Valley Marathon will also offer 2K, 6K and 12K categories in addition to the more advanced 22K and 54K races in western Afyonkarahisar province. On Sept. 25-27, the Lycian Ultra Marathon in southern Antalya province will offer categories spanning from 20K to 100K, running along the historical Lycian Way. Meanwhile, the Bodrum Half Marathon in southwestern Turkey will take place Oct. 2-4 with 5K, 10K and 21K categories.
As you can see, there is a wide variety of opportunities to challenge oneself in the running department and to get active and outdoors. You don’t necessarily need to be a seasoned runner to join in the action. It is best, however, to prepare for a running race properly, especially in this day and age, as you don’t want to get injured. The following are some of the top tips to start a running routine.
1) Start slow: It is entirely possible to establish a running routine at any level of fitness; you just needs to take one step at a time. Begin with walking, of course, and then after warming up by walking for 10-20 minutes, start running in small sprints, timing yourself. The first bout can be as short as 30 seconds or one minute. Resume walking, and then run again for another minute. Extend the time spent running in this manner each day. Do not, however, skip over warming up or stretching as these are crucial parts of any new sport or physical endeavor.
2) Set goals: Plan your timing and capabilities realistically, as the last thing you want to do is overextend yourself, which could result in injury, setting you back on your training schedule. There are multiple options of races to participate in, with categories as short as a 2K, and it is advisable to start off with shorter races in the beginning of your running practice.
3) Just do it: Set the appropriate time aside in your life for the next few weeks and get up early or go running at sunset to avoid the crowds and excessive heat. Team up with friends or at least share your goals with them, as accountability may help motivate you to follow through.
4) Eat right: Luckily, eating right for a running practice only requires good sense and simply means consuming healthy food and drinking plenty of water. Healthy carbohydrates, such as bananas, are advised before taking a run, and a satisfying meal with a 3-to-1 protein-to-carbohydrate ratio is recommended in the half-hour following physical exertion. Losing weight is also a key benefit of beginning a running practice and is a win-win, because the lighter you are, the less risk of suffering injuries in your knees or ankles.
5) Be diligent: No matter how novice you may be at running, stick with it, as it will become easier in no time and soon it will actually begin to feel fun. Your body adapts quickly to physical changes and even just days in to starting this routine, you will get used to the sport and soon begin to crave it. Do not, however, let your guard down when it comes to your health and safety. Be smart in terms of your hydration, nutrition, training program and of course protection from the pandemic.
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