Training for your Marathon
Whether it’s your first or your 50th marathon the one thing you have in common with the other group of runners is that you know you have to put in your marathon training in order to complete the race.
The type of training you carry out depends on your current level of running though and getting the training right is a large part of completing the race.
For the complete beginner who hasn’t run since school then you need to start early and build up gradually. At Advance Performance we run our own Cambridge-based running group that you can join, while in Peterborough, we have close ties with Run4Fun. The coaches who run both clubs have loads of running experience and you could do a lot worse than to listen to their advice.
If the idea of running with other people makes you feel uncomfortable then alternatively there is the NHS couch to 5k programme. The reason we recommend it to so many people is that the progression is very steady indeed, as you move from one week to the next the amount of running that you carry out steadily increases. The programme is paced in such a way that it allows the body to adapt to the demands being placed upon it.
Too many beginners think that they can put their ten year old trainers on, pop out the door run three miles and relax on the couch. While this is true in some cases and achievable, the demand on the body is massive and your chances of injury increase if you have been previously injured or you are running high mileage per week compared to your current level of fitness ¹.
The obvious flaw to this programme is that it leaves you 23.1 miles short of your end goal! So, if you’re just taking up running the sooner you start training the better, you will have to combine the couch to 5k programme with a beginners marathon running programme in order to be ready to run the big 26.2miles. You may also be able to find a beginners marathon training programme that has a walk/run programme incorporated into it. Whichever programme you choose, it will, and should, take time.
We would also recommend running with a running club. Most running clubs have a wealth of experience within their ranks that can provide you with training advice and race-day tips for the event, in some cases they will have appointed coaches who will help you prepare your training runs.
For arguments sake we are going to classify intermediates as those runners who have completed half marathons before but have never completed a marathon. I realise there are elite 5k, 10k and half marathon runners, but for this article we are going to base beginner, intermediate and advanced runner on distance achieved in a race.
The focus here is on transitioning to longer runs, the increase in mileage on your runs can come as a surprise, but provided you start your training early enough it is achievable. A word of warning though, at Advance Performance we have seen elite half marathon runners struggle to complete a full marathon, they thought they could complete a marathon easily and went into the race underprepared, in other words they didn’t have the base miles in their legs.
Don’t fall into the trap of resting on your laurels, try to come to terms with the fact that you are going to run twice as far as any race you have run before. Your training should reflect this, you can read our blog on increasing you run mileage safely.
Any experienced marathon runner will confirm the marathon is not two half marathons back to back, it’s far more like three 10 mile races, illogical as it may sound.
So you’ve completed marathons before and you’re quite rightly feeling good about this, so what’s your goal this time?
For some, just completing another marathon may be enough, in which case follow the plan you did last time and stick to it, after all, it got you to the end of the marathon the first time. There are obvious exceptions to this, perhaps you crawled across the line on all fours, maybe a different approach would be beneficial this time around!
Goal setting allows you to stay focused, obvious goals include completing the race for a charity or beating your personal best time. You may not need any motivation at all due to your love for the sport, but on a wintery wet Sunday with twenty miles ahead of you, surely a small goal might help you get out the door? Read our Winter Running Motivation tips.
The one thing a training programme doesn’t know is you as an individual
Everyone is different
At the foot of this article we have provided you with four different well known resources for marathon training. Each site contains a suggested training plan catering for anyone from a beginner to an advanced runner.
However, the one thing that the programme doesn’t know is you as an individual. If you’re determined to train all guns blazing in an single minded way with no outside influence then you have to be very aware of your own limitations. You need to understand that just because the programme tells you to run today you don’t have to, a day of rest maybe exactly what your body needs.
Conversely, if you’re training alone you also have to recognise when you’re not training enough and get back on schedule. Running clubs are not for everyone but they do offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. If there is one thing a runner likes more than running it’s talking about running with everyone from the novice runner to the experienced runner looking for that elusive PB, the help and support from fellow runners and clubs is often the best. Local club links are listed on our website, RunTogether highlight run groups near you, just pop in your postcode and find a group.
If you’re unsure who to ask, then anyone at Advance Performance will be pleased to help.
Our staple service at Advance Performance is a gait analysis. It establishes the best possible shoe for your feet for running, the shoe for the way you run.
It goes without saying that you should run the marathon in a good pair of running shoes but you have to be aware of the mileage you have done in your current pair before the day. The mileage the shoes have done can increase dramatically in the last two months of training sometimes tipping the total beyond the rough 500 to 700 mile cap that we believe a shoe is capable of while providing enough cushioning and support for the feet.
Changing your shoes for a similar support level shoe or a newer version of the same shoe a month before the marathon is good practice as it will give you enough time to break the new shoe in and will be working at it’s best on race day. If you’re not sure if your shoes are still doing their job, drop in for a FREE shoe MOT.
Gait analysis establishes the best possible shoe for your feet for running – the shoe for the way you run
Strength and Conditioning
Strength and conditioning has gradually worked its way into running circles over the last ten years and many runners have felt the benefits of being strong enough to carry out the demands that running places upon the body.
When you consider Strength & Conditioning includes flexibility, myofascial release (foam rolling) and core function, it’s a powerful mix that can have a very beneficial effect on your running. We have already written a fairly comprehensive guide to strength and conditioning for marathon runners along with stretches and foam rolling techniques which you can read here.
‘The Wall’, every marathon runner’s nightmare, that point when your body completely runs out of carbohydrate and forces you to walk in order to burn fat stores instead. Your body holds approximately 2000 calories of stored carbohydrate in the form of glycogen, both in the liver and in the muscles. On average, you burn approximately 100 calories per mile of running so by mile number 20 your carbohydrate stores have been depleted.
Going into a marathon you have to have a way to replenish your carbohydrate stores, this can be done in various different ways but generally speaking runners tend to use gels or carbohydrate based drinks in order to quickly transfer the carbohydrates into their system.
It is important that your trial the use of gels and drinks in your training first, some sit better in the stomach than others but it is different for everyone. Find out if the marathon you have entered has gel stations as well as water stations. If it does, trial the gels they will dispense or practice carrying your own. Don’t leave it until race day to find out the gel you were going to use doesn’t work well for you!
High 5, one of the brands we stock at Advance Performance have produced a useful guide to using their nutrition during a marathon and we have a three part guest blog by Alex Carlow of Insight Nutrition on marathon nutrition. You can find all four Footnotes marathon nutrition blog posts here.
Marathon training is different for everyone but preparation and experience is the key to success, with every marathon you do or don’t complete you will learn something.
We have met runners who have bombed out of the race on mile eight only to come back the next year better prepared and complete their first marathon.
If you manage to pack the training, plus some strength and conditioning, into your busy schedule you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of achieving your goals.
Strength & Conditioning Article
Couch to 5K
Virgin London Marathon training Plans
BUPA Marathon Training Plans