Running a marathon: here’s something that crossed a lot of minds at least one time. But taking on the 26-mile race isn’t just a case of showing up at the starting line in your most durable trainers. It takes preparation, stamina and plenty of willpower. It takes training.
That’s what we’re here for. With our training pointers and tips, we’ll put you well on your way to race day victory. Ready when you are…
When should you start?
Though some believe that you should take a whole year to prepare for a marathon, that’s not the most attainable goal for all. Much more realistically, Runner’s World recommends beginning 16-20 weeks in advance (three to four months), running three to five times a week. This will give you ample time to get your body and mind prepared, without rushing the process.
What should I do on training days?
Your key focus should be on how far you can run – not on how fast you can go. Running 26 miles is no piece of cake and you don’t want to risk straining your muscles or injuring yourself because your body’s not prepared to go the distance.
With that in mind, we’d recommend swapping between three styles of running each week, building on your body’s stamina, endurance and ability to smash out lengthier runs in tandem:
- Long runs – See how far your legs can take you at least once a week or fortnight. Doing so will improve your ability to run further, boost your confidence, help you to burn more fat for fuel and increase your overall stamina.
Sporting goods company REI suggests a good way to go about it. Increase the length of your run over three weeks, then scale it back before going any further. For instance, run 12 miles one weekend, followed by 13 the weekend after that, then 14, then back to 12 before attempting 15 miles on the fifth week. By doing this, you’ll avoid overworking your muscles as you increase your endurance on-track. Continue this pattern until you’re comfortable with travelling 20 or so miles and the marathon will be a breeze.
- Interval runs – These are runs which consist of measured sprinting and jogging segments – you should do them at least a couple of times a week. It sounds simple, but fluctuating between speeds during a run has great effects on your aerobic capacity and ultimately will make the marathon much easier.
- Relaxed runs – Embark on some easy, outdoor runs once or twice a week (after your interval or long runs). These will keep your body flexible and muscles limber while you’re recovering from your more intensive sessions.
What should I do when I’m not training?
In the ‘run-up’ to a marathon, make sure you rest. Your muscles must relax after intense workouts if you’re to avoid injury – and, speaking of, use a foam roller before and after sessions, too. These correct muscle imbalances and will help you to avoid accidents and injuries later down the line.
You might also want to tweak your diet to fit your training. Runner’s World suggests that you stock up on high-carb, low-fibre meals three to four hours before running and take energy bars or fruit with you, supporting your energy levels on-track.
Learned something from our marathon training tips? Then you’ll want to check out our blog – it’s crammed with great advice!