Preparing for any big race takes dedication. Health experts say that's a good way to think about getting ready for Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia next month.

An estimated 1.5 million pilgrims and spectators flocking to Center City on Sept. 26 and 27 will be expected to walk up to 5 miles and stand for long hours to get a glimpse of the pontiff.

But how do you avoid the dangers of dehydration and overexhaustion on this holy trek when you do more couch-sitting than 5K racing?

Those with significant physical limitations should check with their doctors before even considering joining the public celebrations. But if you already can walk a mile or so, there's no miracle required. Just train for the big event.

1. Plan your distance.

Figure out now where you are going to park or be dropped off so you can calculate the distance and estimate the time it will take you to get to the events. Remember - you likely will be walking more slowly because of the crowds.

Brian Sennett, chief of sports medicine, University of Pennsylvania Health System, says that planning is especially important if you are traveling as a family with both young children and grandparents, and if anyone in your party has mobility problems. Make sure to assess everyone's capabilities and give yourself enough time to get where you want to go. Allow for time to rest and stretch as you go.

To get an estimate of how far you'll likely have to walk, view our interactive map here.

2. Build up your endurance.

Michael Ciccotti, director of sports medicine at the Rothman Institute, suggests starting a progressive walking program now. Remember, you have more than four weeks to prepare. You should walk at least two to three days a week, gradually increasing your distance until you can comfortably walk at least two miles. Don't feel like you have to be at five miles by the 26th. Aim to reach the two-mile mark, he said, and you should be OK.

3. Put your back into it.

Does your back ache just thinking about all the standing around you will have to do? Start training for that now, too. Incorporate core and leg exercises into your training, and also do some gentle stretching, Ciccotti suggests.

4. Gear up.

Wear weather-appropriate clothing, and comfortable, well-cushioned (but not brand-new) shoes. Take a page from runners and get good socks to avoid blisters. And don't forget to bring water and snacks to stay properly fueled up, as well as any medications you might need during the day.

Now is the time to make sure the pope's visit is memorable for all the right reasons. Ready? Set? Get off that couch now.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.