Are you about to begin climbing your marathon training mountain? The journey to 26.2miles is one not to be taken lightly, but to be enjoyed to the full. Training for a marathon doesn’t come with any magic rules to make the process effortless, but there are lots of hints and tips you can embrace to simplify the journey and maximise your training. Here are my top marathon training tips:
Find your why and use this to keep you motivated. Whether this is time, distance, charity or personal, your why is what keeps you going through those though workouts. Whenever something feels tough remind yourself why you started and why you want to finish.
Use a suitable marathon plan, and give yourself enough time! You might choose a free plan (eg runners world offer a free online plan here), one you’ve bought, or using a coach. Whatever your fitness level it’s not advisable to just wing a marathon, in fact most plans require 16 weeks of dedication. Those 26.2 miles are both physically and mentally strenuous and you need the time to prepare yourself. Having a structured plan ensures that you increase your mileage in a sustainable way to help prevent injury, don’t over train and wear yourself out before the big day, and are ready for your run. When things feel overwhelming during your training, which happens- especially as the race draws closer- having a plan and being able to trust the process is quite comforting and means that the miles you run add value in a structured way rather than descending into a state of panic a few weeks out.
But- don’t become a slave to your plan! One, two, or even more missed runs aren’t something to stress over, providing you have given yourself a suitable lead time. Taking time off due to injury, illness, fatigue or just general life is ok and the world will not end. If this happens consider what you feel to be your most important sessions and prioritise your time around those. But whatever you do, do not start trying to make up lost runs. Once they’re gone, let them go and think of the weeks ahead. Things won’t always go to plan, you’re only human and there are much bigger things to worry about.
It’s not all about running! Rest, recovery, stretches, sleep, strength, nutrition and cross training are all important aspects of marathon training. I especially find cycling and swimming great additions to marathon training blocks. Swimming offers your body a chance to stay active whilst avoiding impact and cycling is great for your cardiovascular fitness as well strengthening your legs, again without impact. My sub 4 marathon PB came off the back of a training plan which had less running and more cycling than my previous two marathons.
Working your core can also help benefit your running- you can read my top core exercises here.
Practice your fuelling as much as your running. Finding the right gels or mid race energy boosters, recovery products, pre run meals/snacks and hydration is a fine art and one that also requires practice. What works for one person may not work for another so use your training runs to experiment. Don’t leave this until the last minute as you want to feel confident and comfortable with your fuelling strategy and remember- nothing new on race day!
Start thinking about what you want to wear on race day. Use your training to practice with your kit. Make notes of what feels comfortable- from tops, shoes and leggings, right down to race belts, underwear and socks. If you have a charity vest start getting used to running in this. Similar to your fuelling you don’t want to wear anything new on race day.
Listen to your body! Learn the difference between sore muscles and pain that you should be concerned about. It’s likely you’ll experience ‘niggles’ or aches as your miles increase and these aren’t something to be ignored or ‘run off’. If something isn’t solved with rest it’s time to seek professional help from a physiotherapist or sports masseuse.
Treat your feet: You’ll be spending a lot of time on them! In between runs treat your feet to some foot creams/ sprays, file dead skin to avoid build up, keep your nails short and paint free. If you can afford to splurge on the occasional pedicure you’ll find your feet are extremely grateful! Post run- don’t forget to stretch/ roll your feet and if possible get your hot sweaty shoes off.
Break the distances down into less daunting chunks. Both on race day and in your training. It’s 8 and a bit parkruns, or 4 10ks plus a power surge. Or if you really love half marathons…. it’s just two of those!
Parkrun or race ‘sandwiches’ are a great way to stay motivated as the miles increase. Running to local parkrun or to a race then running home or just getting some miles in before/after is a great way to break your miles down into more manageable chunks and avoid feeling like you’re doing lots of your training on your own. Races especially offer a great way to simulate miles under race conditions, and help train you to not go out too quick and run your own race regardless of what those around you are doing.
A marathon is a mental effort too. Whilst your body may ache from the training and you might feel like mileage is your main focus, remember to look after your marathon mental health. When runs feel tough, you feel unmotivated or when that mental wall comes during the race- speak kindly your yourself, stay positive, think about your ‘why’ and visualise the sense of achievement upon finishing.
Stay positive and enjoy the process. Whether it’s your first or one of many, training for a marathon is a huge learning curve and one that will undoubtedly have its ups and downs. View the setbacks at part of the process and enjoy the challenges the journey offers. It’s a chance to grow and learn about what you’re capable physically and mentally.
If you want to hear more about what to expect in the 48 hours before your marathon or the marathon race day experience you can find my dedicated blogs here: