With the arrival of autumn comes race plans for potential Spring marathons. Whether it’s the London Marathon or the hundreds of other amazing events in the UK and further afield, now is the time to start getting ready.
There are a few basic factors to bear in mind prior to starting marathon training. There are many more, too – but these are some of the key points to consider:
If you’re new to running – or marathon running – your preparation will be a little different to a more experienced marathon runner. You’ll need to focus much more on the basics, like building your aerobic base, your running form, and your strength and endurance.
For those more practised, you’ll know more about the elements involved and you can draw on your previous experiences to identify improvement areas. Your goals will likely be different, too – perhaps with a focus on a personal best.
Your current fitness
How much running, or other exercise, have you been doing recently? How fit do you feel? If you’re in good shape, you’re essentially starting a little further on than if you need to build or rebuild some fitness first.
It’s not realistic or feasible to jump straight into a marathon training plan from a standing start. You need to adjust to regular running and have some good base fitness first.
If/when you last raced
This will affect not just your experience of race days and race preparation, but also potentially how fatigued you are. If you’ve recently raced (especially if it was a marathon), don’t expect to or assume you’ll able to better that performance.
Ideally, you’ll peak somewhere between 1-3 times per year – meaning most people can’t relentlessly achieve great finishing times through the year.
Running is a sport of patience, and you can’t force the training. You need to prepare well and respect both what your body is capable of as well as what you’ve recently asked it to do.
The recipe for success isn’t just about running X times per week, covering X mileage through your training plan. This may well work, but to give yourself the best chance of success – whatever your goals are – you should also focus on the following:
If you’re not already doing this, start as soon as possible. Include it in your base training as well as in the main marathon training period.
Your body needs to be strong enough to cope with the impact of running. The trap a lot of runners fall into is feeling strong because they feel aerobically good. Your aerobic capacity (essentially, how comfortable and sustainable the run feels) develops much faster than your musculoskeletal strength (the bones and muscles).
To bridge the two, work to improve your core strength as well as the strength in the key muscles used in, and supportive to, running.
This is low-/non-impact exercise, such as cycling and swimming. It gives you good cardiovascular benefits without the impact of running. It also helps to build some of the smaller supporting muscles to help when it comes to running.
Build this in 2-3 times per week to boost fitness and help to reduce risk of injury.
Running creates tension and tightness in the active muscles that you use when running. You need to work on both stretching these to help release tightness, while strengthening the muscles not used so prominently in running. This helps to create good balance and strength in the body.
Stretch after each run, and ensure you hold stretches for at least 45 seconds. When initially stretching, your muscles react by tightening – as a protective mechanism – so you need to hold the stretch to help the muscles relax.
Yoga and pilates are both great options, too.
Training for a marathon can be a daunting prospect! But you don’t need to tackle it alone. Share your endeavours with those around you to help them understand what you’re doing and why.
It’s a long and hard process, and it’s why completing a marathon is such an amazing achievement.
Read up on marathon training to arm yourself with extra knowledge. If you find all the information out there too much or too confusing, or if you just want to ensure you’re training in the best way possible, then get a running coach to work with you.
This ensures you’re training smartly and it means you have someone there to be accountable to as well as to get any support or questions answered whenever you need it.
Do get in touch using the box below, or via the contact forms on the Run with Ben website, should you need anything or if you’d just like to discuss options.
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