Top tips for marathon runners
Preparing for a Marathon?
Preparing for a marathon requires dedication, careful planning with set goals for each training session. This is the key of making your marathon training successful, rewarding and particularly a more enjoyable experience. Approximately 90% of athletes will suffer an injury whilst training for a marathon and some athletes will not even make the start line. To help prevent such events from occurring, below are some top tips to help guide you on how best to prepare for a marathon.
Top Tips for marathon Training:
1. Establish realistic goals
Ask yourself what is your primary goal for running a marathon? To beat personal best time, for sense of achievement or simply complete the marathon for charity? To know what you're planning for will help you fulfil your goals and establish your training schedule.
2. Select the right training schedule for you
This is probably the most important decision you will ever make as this will determine your injury risks and running performance. Being over confident too soon may lead to increases in mileage, injury risks and a rapid visit to a local sports injury clinic! Selecting an insufficient training schedule will likely prevent you from reaching your personal best time. My advice is be realistic with yourself from the start on how much time you can allocate for each training session. If possible work with a running coach who can help guide you with your training program.
3. Setting baselines
Keep a log book to help record and set baselines on mileage you have achieved from week to week right up until the marathon. Gradually increase your mileage by approximately 10% per week to help maintain running comfort. If you start to experience discomfort such as aches reduce your training intensity for a week or two.
4. Persistent / Intermittent aches and pains
If you experience any of these problems that won't just go away during your training schedule it is highly recommended that you get it seen to ASAP by a sports injury specialist. If left untreated this can become a runners nightmare. Once treated this injury may likely be gone before continuing with your initial marathon training run.
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5. Strengthen and Condition (S&C)
Research has shown by applying strengthening and conditioning training into your training program will help reduce your injury risks but also improve your performance. This will help promote your body to cope with demands of training loads. For best results you may wish to seek advise from a sports health professional for a personalised programme to suit your needs. However you may wish to start off with the most general approach such as strengthening your calfs, quadriceps, gluteal and hamstring muscles.
6. Time Management
Manage your time accordingly.
7. Plan your time and be imaginative
Organising time to train for a marathon can be difficult especially around everyday family life and work commitments. Runners I have worked with balance their training plans successfully by planning early morning or evening runs whereas others prefer to commute to work by running to and from work. Walking the family dog can be turned into a running session or having friends to cycle besides you can also help rather than run alone.
8. Supportive Networks
Contact local running communities such as clubs, groups etc, as they normally offer free training sessions for all levels of abilities. Some clubs offer pacers to help guide you as well as giving fellow athletes the supportive networks they may need such as a recommended sports physician for injuries or running coach to improve performance. It is also the opportunity for you to ask around and to see who's good etc.
9. Organise your kit
This is the time to pre-test your kit such as new trainers, tops, hydration fluids, recovery drinks, gels and GPS watches etc ensuring you are comfortable with your kit on race day.
10. Adequate Rest & Sleep
Allowing adequate time for rest and sleep is a critical part of your training, as this will allow time for your body to recover.
11. Fuel Adequately
Make sure you are fuelling adequately by calculating the right amount of kilo-calories to consume. Frequently fuel throughout the day, and continue to check how you are feeling. Make sure you are sufficiently hydrating throughout the day too, particularly at work by keeping a bottle of water with you.
12. Build Up Your Long Run Distance
Build up your line race distance to the amount of time you are expected to finish whether you are running a half marathon or full marathon (see 3 setting baselines).
13. Alternate Routes
Running the same routes can be boring as you become familiar with the approximate distances to certain landmarks. By exploring and alternating multiple new routes in and around them at various distances will help you plan your training schedule. If competing in a local marathon, try and cover that as much as possible in your training.
14. Set New Challenges
Experienced runners often include practice runs which may include small distance races before hitting the The Big One. This can be very rewarding for novice runners too, to gain the vital experience they will need for greater distances as well as the opportunity to try out their kit for any adverse affects.
15. Book Early
When you are satisfied with your training progress it is always advisable to book your marathon early as many of them get booked up quickly.
Training for a marathon varies for each individual therefore keeping it simple is key. In my clinical experience working with runners and coaches 3 runs a week combined with 2 strength and conditioning (S&C) sessions works very well. It is imperative to build strength in key areas as training progresses as well as to alternate runs between strength sessions. The remaining S&C sessions can then be utilised to help maintain strength and flexibility throughout.
This helps build the runners capacity whilst at the same time eliciting neuromuscular adaptations for improved economy.
A preparation training example may look like this;
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The purpose of this intervention is to limit your risk of injury and to promote your performance by constructing a baseline to avoid greater sudden increases in mileage and S&C training. Rest days are allocated ensuring adequate rest periods prior to long runs and to avoid multiple consecutive days of training sessions.
Like in most sports there is only so much a runner can achieve to develop their skills due to their daily time constraints and lifestyle. For that reason some of you may feel the above tips detailed may even be unrealistic or perhaps unnecessary for achieving your personal goals.
Therefore my advice is;
See what works best for you and your training schedule
Gradually build up your baselines
Think about your training schedule
Set realistic targets
Deal with any injuries you may have