So you want to run your first marathon or you want to improve on past marathon performances?
Step 1, select your choice of marathon either typical on road or less typical off road.
Step 2, now choose where and when?
From here we can get you up and moving in the right direction. For first timers I would suggest a gradual build up over 6 months, more experienced marathon runners may need less time or could even be in a brief lull before the pick up to the next marathon.
At this point I will deal with the debutantes, so you have chosen your marathon and now the work begins. A complete newcomer to running really needs to build slowly by getting your body familiar with running (couch to 5k, park runs both are good initial stepping stones). Cross training is always a sensible course of action to take, be it some swimming, aqua jogging, cycling or rowing. These options interspersed into your running regime will serve you well whilst giving your joints a bit of respite but not allowing your cardiovascular fitness to drop.
As your body adapts to the training you will get to a point of planning some smaller goals such as a 10 km race to test out your competitive edge and to see how your training is going, however bear in mind that this is just short of 1/4 marathon distance 🙁
Hopefully things are now progressing along nicely and with your increasing confidence you should be starting to not feel out of place amongst other runners and the aim now should be to pinpoint a half marathon event 2-3 months prior to the full marathon. The peak time for your mileage during your training should be around one month before the big day and after this you should go into the tapering zone, in other words with plenty of mileage in your legs it’s time to ease up a bit which should freshen you up nicely for the marathon. Everyone will have a slightly different view about how much tapering to do but as long as your main body of training has gone pretty well then don’t be put off by the idea of very short freshen up runs 3-4 times per week over the final 2 weeks to the marathon, sometimes less is more and you will not be compromising your fitness level. If by any chance training has been interrupted for whatever reason do not feel the urge to play catch up with any missed sessions and certainly not in the last week or two of training, you have more to lose than gain by doing this!
There are a few other things to consider whilst training for a marathon, firstly good quality running shoes and a second pair for the race itself though make sure they are well broken in by race day. Try connecting up with other runners through one of the many local running clubs, good company to run with and no doubt lots of running experience to share with you. Plus of course a good healthy diet with the final top up of carbohydrates as you reach the big day. On the subject of food do pre test your chosen marathon breakfast in the weeks building up to it and likewise with liquids, most marathons will offer carbohydrate enhanced drinks as well as water so make a point of checking what your event offers and pre test it, nothing worse than stomach cramps 10 miles in to a marathon.
So whilst this has mainly been for the first timers there are still quite a few points for more experienced runners. Learn from your past performances, get your pacing right, don’t get carried away in the first 5 miles otherwise you will pay for it in the last 5. An often used saying in marathons is treat the 20 mile mark as halfway and you won’t go far wrong.
This has been just a brief introduction to the marathon and there are many more useful pieces of information which will set you up for even greater performances but to overload you at this point may be counterproductive.
Whether this is your 1 and only marathon, the first of many or as an experienced 26.2 mile specialist the same thing applies –ENJOY and when you reach the finish line be proud of yourself, as it is some feat that you have just conquered!