Marathon Training Tips
Updated: Oct 2, 2018
Winter is traditionally the time for piling on the training miles for a Spring Marathon, and many runners I work with are now starting down the training path to the increase the miles. Long Sunday Runs are a common topic of conversation, and getting motivation to go training in the short days and winter weather a struggle. I thought I would cover a few tips.
The place most people start is booking a race. If you've not done that already try and look into the course profile (how hilly it is) and the race day organisation to check it will be easy for you to get there with the minimum amount of stress on the day. Also how to you get your race number and pack, does it involve going early to pick it up? That's another potential source of stress. For those of you not lucky enough to get a London place there are lots of other UK based Spring marathons to mop up the London overspill; Brighton and Manchester being the favourites with my runners.
The next consideration for most runners is to find or create a training plan, there are lots online. My advice would be that if you are able to get hold of a coach to write a more bespoke plan for you that's far better, as the one size fits all approach for online plans often means they don't suit most people. This is where a coach like myself can really help, creating a customised plan that fits to your life, fitness, goals and other sports and activities.
If you do start with an online plan to look into customising it. If you don't usually run 5 days a week, don't suddenly start now because a plan says so!
To customise a training plan; - Try to pick one that's closer to fitting you, by choosing one that's based on your pace at other races or how many times a week you currently run - Most plans are 12 weeks long, but marathon training takes longer than this, especially if you are earlier in your running journey. Build up to matching the runs a week (if you want to), the weekly mileage and type of runs each week before you start the plan itself. - If your plan says to do more runs a week that you usually run and you feel it's an injury risk to up the run numbers and mileage to that extent then drop the easy/recovery runs for a session of cross training; swim, cycle or walk. You get the recovery and cardio benefit without the impact. - Consider your longer runs and how they progress. Many plans ask you to increase your long run distance every week to 3 weeks out from the race. Most coaches will disagree with that and suggest you ramp up the mileage over 2-3 weeks, then drop it back again and build it up higher over the next three weeks. So following and easy, medium then hard week pattern; again this helps you to adapt to the training and reduce injury risk. - The easy, medium and hard week theory covers the other shorter runs in the week too, to watch how your mid week runs build or get longer and how your weekly total mileage ramps up. - My final tip is to do your faster runs faster and your long runs really easy (slower than target marathon pace)! Don't become a one speed runner, you won't get faster. Also when people run faster their form improves, so your body and brain learns better running form which increases speed and reduces injury risk. - Include some hill work if you can, it builds great leg strength and resilience
It's not just doing the training that matters for a good marathon, it's the recovery. Recovery is needed to let your body adapt to the training you are doing and for the training to be effective; making you faster, stronger and able to run longer. Recovery is also key for avoiding injury. Recovery covers a few key things; getting enough sleep, eating well and allowing enough time between key training sessions to allow the body to heal and adapt. This means resting after long runs and the toughest speed session of the week; or doing active recover like gentle cycling or cross training. It also means listening to your body, you will feel sore after training, but then the soreness should subside. If the soreness doesn't subside or the baseline level or soreness it subsides back to gets worse then take a look at adjusting your training to allow more recovery time.
Illness; it's winter, you will get ill. Don't be tempted to play catch up on training, stay calm and pick up again when you are well.
Start thinking about strength training, as it will really help to improve your running and decrease the risk of injury. Start with squats, lunges, calf raises and side steps. Then build in some core work; crunches, oblique twists, side and front planks.
Consider your nutrition early on, as you want to practice in training what you plan to do in the race. If you plan on using the nutrition/food/drinks given out of the course go buy some and use them in training - never try anything new on race day! If you want to take your own try them too and work out to carry the amount you need on race day. Consider too that part of the point of training is to train your body to go longer without burning/needing as much fuel so don't use as many gels/as much food in training as you plan to use in the race; that way your body will adapt to be more efficient and burn more fat.
Training motivation can be a real struggle in marathon training particularly in the winter. If you miss a session don't beat yourself up, and don't try to play catch up. Try telling friends or an online community about your training or race to help maintain commitment to it. A running buddy can help get you out the door, or running with a group or club. If you do get really behind on your plan re work it, and consider adjusting your goal for the race.
Of course I can help by writing a bespoke training plan just for you. Or providing ongoing coaching, support and an adapting training plan; I can even come up with an individual coaching package just for you!
Good luck with the training and enjoy :)