As the clock runs, the L.A. Marathon’s starting line is inching closer and closer.

For many, March 20 will be their first time competing in a 26.2-mile race.

Patricia Greenberg is not one of those people.

The 50-year-old Hancock Park resident has run 11 marathons and 33 half-marathons. Her first marathon was the 1995 L.A. Marathon, which she ran just to prove she could complete it – which she did, in about 4 hours, 50 minutes.

Patricia Greenberg runs the LA Marathon.

Patricia Greenberg runs the LA Marathon.

The typical sunny Southern California weather gave way that day to rain and cool temperatures, making the experience grueling, she says. So she decided while in the middle of it that it would not only be her first marathon, but also her last.

Once she finished the race, however, the feeling of accomplishment was greater than the memory.

“Each time I do one, I say I’ll do one more and then I’m done, but I just keep going,” Greenberg said. “I’ve actually gotten faster, stronger, more adept at what I do. And as a nutrition teacher, I’ve put a tremendous amount of research into all the different components that go into it. So I’ve been able to keep it up all these years, with the same enthusiasm I might add.”

Greenberg is an ACE- (American Council on Exercise) certified trainer, a certified culinary professional with the International Association of Culinary Arts, and has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science.

Combining her training, she runs The Fitness Gourmet – an education consulting firm that presents nutrition and fitness seminars nationwide.

Race preparation

By now, people who are planning to run the 2011 L.A. Marathon should already have begun training – Greenberg recommends beginning training 16 to 18 weeks prior to the race.

Generally, for first-time marathon runners, Greenberg suggests a training program that starts out with 3- to 5-mile runs four days a week and adding mileage as you go.

“About three or four weeks out (from) the marathon, you should do a 20-mile run. … We consider that to be a significant run and a good training run for a full marathon,” Greenberg said “People who do a full marathon prior to the (actual) marathon are too tired and too wiped out and become somewhat injury prone,” she said. “So it’s best not to do – especially for a beginner – the full mileage before you get to the marathon.” Greenberg also recommends the marathon-training regimen include cross-training such as cycling, swimming or weight training, to avoid overworking specific parts of the body.

Closer to the run: Two weeks prior to the race, Greenberg recommends runners start to bulk up nutritionally with an increase in complex carbohydrates, including whole grain bread, pasta salad, sweet potatoes, rice and whole fruits.

“Refrain or have minimal amounts of alcohol because, contrary to popular belief, it is good for you but it does make you a little sluggish, and you don’t want anything that will make you even more tired two weeks out,” Greenberg said.

“If you are accustomed to drinking coffee or any kind of stimulants, then you can continue,” she said. “If it’s not something you’re accustomed to, I wouldn’t take it up for the sake of energy because you might not react well to it on the day of the race.”

Two weeks out from the race is also when runners tend to partake in what Greenberg compares to holiday eating. She says people tend to overeat because they rationalize that they will burn it off during the run, but they actually gain weight instead.

Also in the weeks leading up to the marathon, Greenberg says sleep becomes an important issue. “Wherever you can get sleep in, that’s critical, because sleep deprivation will slow your metabolism down, which in turn will slow your energy down,” Greenberg said. “Even if you are not fully asleep, you’re resting. That’s a critical, critical part of the success of the marathon and of course keeping you from feeling really wiped out the day of. That also contributes to dehydration – not enough sleep.”

One week to go: For the week of the Sunday race, Greenberg offers these tips:

  • Increase your complex carbohydrates even more.
  • Cross-train Wednesday.
  • Do a 2- to 3-mile slow run Thursday.
  • Take Friday and Saturday off from exercise but stretch a lot.
  • Eat an early dinner and go to bed earlier than usual Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • Do not eat anything you are not accustomed to Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

“I wouldn’t do any hard workout Friday and Saturday before the race, of any sort,” Greenberg said. “You know when you push yourself a little too much at the gym and you get a muscle ache or a sore? It’s exacerbated during the run. You feel it 10 times more when you’re in the middle of a race, especially with that degree of mileage, if you’ve done something a little tough on Friday or Saturday.”

Race day: On the day of the race, Greenberg again says to eat a breakfast you are accustomed to, though she recommends light granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs or instant oatmeal.

Throughout the marathon, sponsors will provide water, sports drinks, snacks and medical assistance, so it’s not necessary for runners to carry anything with them during the race. “While you’re running, it is important also to keep yourself hydrated,” Greenberg said. “You don’t have to stop at every single water station. I understand why people do that, but the more you stop and start and stop and start, that really will drain your energy. So I like to recommend taking it easy the first couple miles and maybe stopping at every other water and energy-drink station.”

Once you stop at a station, she says, it is important to keep walking as you sip your drink. One big mistake people make, including herself, Greenberg says, is starting out at too fast of a pace, because then you wear yourself out quickly. She recommends starting out with a 10- to 12-minute mile and then working your way up to your goal pace.

She also wants first-time runners to know that it is OK to walk the race and that there is nothing to feel ashamed about.

“For anybody running their first marathon, you’re a winner just for doing it. The accomplishment alone is phenomenal,” Greenberg said. “Do what’s good for you and remember that you will get to the end and you will be fine. … Just do it for yourself.”

Find out more

For more information on the LA Marathon, go to www.lamarathon.com. To learn more about Patricia Greenberg, go to www.thefitnessgourmet.com .