Ever since the Little Rock Marathon began 16 years ago, Tom and Hobbit Singleton, of Maumelle, have been training runners to participate in the 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon.


The couple, who will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary in October, manage nearly 2,000 people who sign for up the marathon-training program annually, including about 200 people who participate in weekly runs 50 out of 52 weeks per year.


“The only weeks they take off are the week of the marathon and the week after the marathon,” Tom said.


One of their favorite parts of the training program is the “Couch to 5K” program, which specializes in helping new runners who want to compete in the Little Rock Marathon’s 5K race.


“I want somebody off the couch and changing their life by changing their lifestyle,” he said. “For me, as a coach, it’s a win to get somebody in any of the four races. My first goal is to get any of you off the couch. My next goal is to keep you involved in training and make it enjoyable enough that you will accomplish your goal.”


One of the smartest things new runners can do to keep themselves motivated is to share their goals with people who will keep them accountable for their actions.


During training, it’s important to stick to a training schedule, take plenty of rest days, and to train at your own pace.


“You need to train slower than you plan to race,” Tom said. “I have never aspired to place. My goal is to finish, and I want to have a good time. The reason I tell you to run slower when you train is that you need enough energy to continue your training. You should never run the same pace as somebody else. You should run your pace. If you train for the marathon, you will meet other people who run your pace.”


In the days leading up to race, the Singletons advise making no changes to your routine.


“Don’t do anything strange in the days leading up to the marathon,” Hobbit said. “Don’t change your diet. Don’t eat 15 pounds of spaghetti the night before the race just because someone else is doing it. Don’t buy a new outfit. Wear what you have been wearing to train. If this is your first race, don’t wear your race shirt for the first time on race day. They will know you are a newbie, and you don’t want to find out your shirt is uncomfortable during the race.”


On race day, participants should arrive early to find a parking spot to minimize stress. Setting your own pace is important, Tom said, so that you don’t tire out early in the race. It’s also helpful to have people cheering you on, since that can give participants an extra boost of energy to complete the race.


For first-time racers, the Singletons suggest enjoying the positive environment of the marathon and having a good time.


“I wouldn’t get very serious,” Hobbit said. “I would train to make sure that I can do the distance, but I would use it as an opportunity to have a good time and have fun. I would just make sure that you can do the distance. A lot of the injuries I see are because people try to do too much too quickly. People often run too fast or too quickly too fast.”


For more information, sign up for the Little Rock Marathon’s free virtual training program at https://littlerockmarathon.com/official-training-program.