How to start marathon training

So, you’ve signed up to do a marathon (or half marathon) and you don’t even know where to start with your training. You know the scenario; you have a few drinks and agree to run a marathon….. now what?
Motivation and willpower can only get you so far; adequate training, nutrition and a proper recovery strategy is the key to success.

Have an ideal finishing time in your mind – do you want to complete it less than 4 hours, less than 5 hours or would you be happy just finishing in as long as it takes? You can then get split times to make sure you train at roughly the correct speed for your anticipated finishing time.

There are plenty of different training plans on the internet, you need to make sure you follow one which fits into your existing schedule – there’s very little point in trying to follow a plan in which you have to run 5 times a week, when you struggle to get out more than twice a week at the moment. Yes, you need to increase your mileage and running, but you still need to be realistic as well.
There’s a school of thought that you can get by just on the long runs alone (usually coupled with other physical activity, but not necessarily running), but try and get out building your base mileage up.

Essentially you need to get your legs and feet used to being pounded for the total time you expect to finish the marathon in, and this is where many people slip up. Training for a maximum of 2 hours, but expecting to finish the marathon in 5 hours, means there’s 3 hours of the unknown. How will your body cope for the 3 hours that you’ve not even planned for? This doesn’t necessarily mean running for 5 hours, it can be a mixture of running and walking but you do need to attempt this at least once.

A good pair of trainers is essential. Get fitted properly early into your training and don’t have a new pair for race day. (The Running Shop in Northampton offers a great service for this). Get used to the kit that you’ll be wearing on the day. This includes the vest or t shirt if you’re running charity,– no-one wants unnecessary chafing when all they want to concentrate on is getting round.

Long runs will zap your energy for a few days afterwards, so you need to make sure that your diet and hydration is top notch. This can be as simple as planning your meals for the rest of the day and the few days before and afterwards – plenty of protein, carbs and veggies, alongside at least 2 litres of water per day. You don’t necessarily need anything special when you’re training; just don’t expect to get decent recovery off the back of a Chinese takeaway and a few beers.
Once you get closer to the event, you need to think about energy gels and drinks but I know plenty of people who just rely on water. Choose whatever works for you. Whatever your strategy, ensure you’ve trained with it – DO NOT TRY A NEW PRODUCT ON THE DAY OF THE MARATHON, it can only end in disaster (or throwing up your breakfast on the side of the road), which no-one wants. If your chosen event uses Lucozade*, try and train with that.

Marathon training is hard; I’m not going to lie.
You’ll be tired, physically fatigued and probably a toenail or two less once you’ve finished (and throughout your training), but I can tell you that it’s totally worth it.

If you have any specific questions or need any advice on a training plan, get in touch 🙂

*other energy drink are available.

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