You’ve probably heard - running is a great way to stay active and increase your cardiovascular health. And according to Athletics Canada, two-thirds of people who like to hit the pavement to stay in shape do it recreationally.

For millions of Canadians, running isn't just something they do to stay in shape, it’s part of their daily life and routine. Of those who responded to an Athletics Canada Road Running survey, 39.4 per cent are part of a running club and a whopping 65 per cent pound the pavement each and every month of the year, chalking up an impressive average of 37 kilometers per week!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they also like to race, with nearly three-quarters of runners in Canada having participated in a 10k and 71 per cent in a half-marathon.

Then there's the full marathon - the ultimate test of endurance. An impressive 42.2 km race, marathons are as challenging mentally as they are physically.

And as anyone who’s taken part in one well knows, crossing the finish line is easier said than done. It takes a lot of preparation, practice, pacing and planning. While the body was made to move, the constant pounding can do a number on your joints, which makes recovery every bit as important as the training.

If you have a marathon in the not-too-distant future, here are a few things you can do to properly prepare, along with tips for recovery to make sure you’re ready for your next run.

"It takes a lot of preparation, practice, pacing and planning."

Invest in great sneakers
It goes without saying, but your footwear is crucial to performance. Individuals just starting out often think they can use any sneaker to run. However, every foot is different, as are running styles. As suggested by Runners World, get your running shoes checked out by a specialist at your local athletics store. They'll be able to identify your running style and set you up with the pair of sneakers that are comfortable and durable. There's nothing worse than uncomfortable kicks on race day.

Don't underestimate rest
You've hopefully been gradually increasing your kilometers, ideally no more than 10 per cent per week. Avoid the temptation to run daily, especially as race day draws closer. Try to keep it to no more than three to four days, making sure to include a week where you jog rather than run full tilt leading up to race day. You should also be sure to take a day off each week so your muscles have time to recover.

Prepare for the burn
Everyone knows the process itself is the biggest challenge, but so is the immediate aftermath - particularly when it comes to chaffing. Ask any marathon veteran, they'll tell you your inner thighs, underarms and other sensitive areas can feel like they're on fire post-race. Personal trainer Gerald Mayes told NBC News your skin will thank you for investing in anti-chaffing lotions and creams. Apply them liberally to high-friction areas to reduce this unfortunate side effect of long distance running.

Snack smart at the start and finish
It's a pretty simple formula: energy in equals energy out. What you eat before and after the race is key to performance and recovery. Ideally, aim for slow-burning carbohydrates – like whole-wheat spaghetti, rolled oats, or an apple – before a race. Post-race, Runner’s World suggests choosing a small snack 30 to 60 minutes after finishing and a bigger one a few hours later. Snacks like almond butter with pretzels, peanut butter on celery or fresh fruit are for great pre- and post-race.

Whether it's Ottawa Race Weekend, Marathon Oasis de Montreal, Bay of Fundy International Marathon or the GMS Queen City Marathon, proper planning will give you the strength and willpower you need to succeed.