Marathon training takes you through a physical and mental transformation, you will be taking your mind and body to new limits, challenging yourself and discovering strength you didn't know you had. Many people have challenged the marathon distance and come through victorious, and you will surely be no exception! Here are the most important training tips to keep you in good running health.
Listen to your body
It's good to break up the time you have until the race and set goals for each week, but be prepared to be flexible in your training as your body responds to the increased mileage. If you find the mileage is coming easily and you are recovering quickly from your longest sessions then add in a speed session, or lengthen your long run of the week. If you are tired, and your body is struggling to recover, then look at cutting back a bit for a week, giving you a bit of extra rest and then go back to the schedule again. And always remember, it's better to complete the race in a slower than hoped for time, than to find you can't even start it because of injury.
Build up your mileage progressively
Enthusiasm or panic can set you running too much too soon, so be patient! Start with the distance (or time) you can cover comfortably, no matter how short, and build gradually from there. If you've left it late to fit in the training then do two comfortable runs during the week, of whatever distance leaves you nicely worked out but not exhausted, and then do a long run at the weekend, if it has to be far further than you've covered before then do a mixture of running and walking, and don't leave the walking bit till you're fatigued but introduce ten minutes running, two minutes walking from the start, varying the balance of running to walking as needed.
If you pick up an injury immediately visit a sports therapist
Being heroic and running through the pain isn't the smartest idea! The sooner you identify the cause of the pain, the sooner it can be fixed and the quicker you'll be out running properly again. It is common to experience muscle tightness, and fatigue the day after a long run, that's nothing to worry about, just try to get some extra protein in your diet, make sure you devote ten minutes minimum to stretching after each run, cut down on the alcohol and get to bed a bit earlier. But pain in your shins, knees, hips, Achilles can all indicate a common running injury, catch it in the early stages and you'll be okay. Leave it and continue training, it may settle down, or you may find you can barely walk let alone run! See our Sports Clinic.
Building up the miles
Everyone's body is different and you are going to learn when you can and can't push it. If you are just taking up running then you should aim to give yourself a year to build up to the Marathon, for those who've been running moderate distances for a while six months is good preparation time.
Build up to three or four runs a week, keeping one as you 'long' run. This long run will increase by a mile or two as your current distance begins to feel comfortable. Generally a mile a week increase is good, you'll find some increases easy and some far harder, in which case keep that mileage for two weeks and then try extending again.
The other runs can be easy recovery ones, or you can try some hill training or interval training which increase stamina and speed, repeating a short distance several times at a fast pace, resting for a minute or two between reps.
It's a great idea to build a cross training session into your weekly schedule to work the muscles differently, especially something that concentrates on core stability which will help your running. You might try swimming, weights, yoga or Pilates. Core strength is essential and can prevent hip injury and lessen the pressure on your legs.
Keep yourself going strong
Flexibility is important as tight muscles put a strain on other muscles and ligaments, so stretching should be an integral part of your training. As your long runs increase try taking some energy gels or energy drink, they really can make a difference.
Your most important piece of kit if your running shoes. Be sure to pay us a visit, we'll check your running gait and determine whether you need neutral or supportive shoes. Pick a few races to aim for during your training, a ten miler and half marathon will get you used to the race atmosphere and you'll meet others training for the marathon. This also gives you an idea of your pace - how fast you are running each mile.
If motivation is a problem then try to find a running buddy, or join a running club – they are very encouraging and you don't have to be elite and super fast to join – enjoy it! See the local running club listings: London | Edinburgh | Cardiff