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Home » Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road


Just four requirements are absolutely fundamental in preparing for a marathon.

  1. Train for at least an hour, three times a week.
  2. Train no more than four times a week.
  3. Pass the “talk” test while training.
  4. Drink water every 20 minutes.

Amazingly, these disarmingly simple requirements apply to everyone – from absolute beginners to Olympic athletes.

We call these requirements the “Rules of the Road.”

The Rules Explained

Base before pace: Train for at least an hour, three times a week.

Run injury free: Train no more than four times a week.

Nobody can hold their breath for 3 hours: Pass the “talk” test while training.

Learn to drink water: Drink water every 20 minutes.


Training for a marathon, or any endurance event, has three phases. Each phase is distinctly different from the other, but dependent on the one before, and after, for getting ready for a marathon successfully.

The three training phases, are roughly a “trimester” in length.

Trimester 1: Base PTA

Trimester 2: Build

Trimester 3: LSD/Taper

Sunday Clinic talks by Dr. Scaff and volunteers will guide you with what to do, and what to not do, as we get ready for the Marathon week-by-week.

And, by the way, there is a fourth phase:

Trimester 4: Recovery (and sign up for next year’s marathon)

Run Injury Free

Getting ready for a marathon involves challenges and even risks, nonetheless you should expect yourself to “run injury free.”

Key to running injury free is understanding and respecting the difference between microtrauma vs. macrotrauma in your body. Contrary to the popular catchphrase, “No pain, no gain,” pain is bad.

You should expect yourself to run injury free.

How do you run injury free? Learn how in the “Prevention, Identification, and Recovery” pages below — or simply come to the Sunday Clinics.


The best way to prevent injuries is neither ‘inactivity’ nor “overdoing it”. Prevention is balancing somewhere between the two.

Successful conditioning for a marathon involves understanding the difference, and balance, between microtrauma and macrotrauma to your muscles and joints. Microtrauma occurs when you train at a sufficient intensity, duration, and frequency, but do not feel pain. Conversely when you feel pain, you’ve moved from micro to macrotrauma.

Where the balancing act gets interesting is that it’s ok to have “aches” sometimes. What’s the difference between an ache and a pain? Aches are dull and generally go away. Pains are sharp and often get progressively worse. You’ll know the difference when you feel it.

Speaking of which, you can mask the very important message a pain is sending you with pain killers. For that reason it is very important to not take painkillers (i.e. aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen, etc.) before going on a run. Do not take painkillers before any run — and yes, that includes training runs.

In a nutshell, obeying the “Rules of the Road” is best way to prevent injuries.

In addition to the “Rules”, our Hawaii climate means that you need some specialized protection for your feet, skin, head, and eyes.

Good shoes and clothes:

Making the investment in a good pair of running shoes is the one piece of equipment that you probably should “splurge” on. Nonetheless, expensive does not necessarily mean “good.” Selecting the right shoes is downright difficult for novice marathoners. The best way to learn how is to attend Dr. Scaff’s Sunday talk on, “Picking a pair of running feet,” and then attend our Sunday shoe clinic.

Clothing choice is not as critical, but you’ll be a lot cooler if you forgo running in that “comfortable” old cotton t-shirt or tank top. “Technical fabrics” as in Clinic-logoed shirts wick away sweat, reduce overheating, and minimize chafing.

Protection for your skin, head, and eyes:

You know that you need sunscreen for your skin, but nowhere is sun protection more important for than for the top of your head and for your eyes. A hat made of CoolMax, or equivalent materials, is both more comfortable and essential, due to the extended amount of time we are training in the Sun.

Last, but not least, it’s important to wear sunglasses. The ultraviolet (UV) light entering your eyes is cumulative over your entire lifetime. UV exposure causes cataracts. Use sunglasses that filter out at least 99% of UV rays.


Pain, as opposed to “aches” are the strongest identifier of injury.

Here are the three most common injuries of novice marathoners, and how to minimize their impact and duration:

Shin splints: WIP

Runner’s knee: WIP

Hip pain: WIP


Recovery Information Coming Soon!