Preparing for a marathon

Marathon preparation is a lengthy one and it is worth spending some time planning it. If you have just finished one or a half marathon and thinking about your next challenge. It may be stepping up to the marathon or looking at setting a PB in the next marathon. Whatever challenge the next race is it’s worth setting some goals and formulating a training plan.

It’s estimated that for those tackling the marathon around 90%, yes you read that correctly 90%, will pick up some sort of injury. This is simply down to the training being tough. You need to get used to spending a lot of time on your feet and it gets to the stage where a short run is 5 or 6 miles. Not all of these injuries will be significant in terms of lost training time but it still highlights how demanding the training is.

Given that the training is as though as it is it is worth putting in some extra time so that you can increase the over all volume of training reasonably slowly so you might want to think of adding in a couple of months on top of the standard training programs. In doing this you can not only take a bit more time in building things up but also spend more time training at higher volumes, something that is important if you have a quick time in mind, there is no substitute for accumulating good quality training time.

Elite runners will have a  year round plan that incorporates goals in every session, every week and every month. You may not be an elite runner but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a year round plan. Now this doesn’t mean you need a detailed plan for every session but having goals for each month and looking to when you want to run so that you can tie all this together is a good idea. This way you can have easier periods of training when you know there is nothing coming up that allow you to build a good solid foundation, target 10k’s and park runs as speed sessions or a half marathon as a means of testing out different race day preparations.

Here we go with a few tips to make preparing for your next marathon, or other race, much more enjoyable and, ultimately, successful.

  1. Set yourself a goal

    It doesn’t matter what it is but have a good think about what it is you are looking to achieve. Simply getting round is completely different from looking to set a PB. If you identify your goal then coming up with a plan is a whole lot easier.

  2. Pick a schedule

    There are many training programs out there for the less experienced runner and even for the experienced runner it is important to get this right. Set the bar to low and you come in under cooked and unlikely to hit the times you want to. Too demanding and you end up spending more time with someone like me than would be ideal. running magazines generally have a lot of good info for the less experienced runner and if you are more experienced it can really be worth getting a coach of some kind, be it in person or online that can help put together a more detailed plan based around your previous experience.

  3. Build a base

    If we look at most training plans for a marathon they take around 16-20 weeks. It is definitely worth taking the extra time and even pushing this out  to the mid 20’s in terms of weeks as this allows you to gradually build things up but just as importantly allows you to spend more time at the higher volumes that will, ultimately, lead to better performance. This extra time at higher training loads also has a preventative effect in terms of injury too providing you take the time to build up to it.

  4. Don’t let the aches and pains build up.

    Sounds obvious but it is really important when you think about what you are embarking on. Anything that lasts for more than a couple of runs needs to be dealt with. Deal with it quickly to stop it becoming a training interrupting injury. Letting anything that hits more than a 2/10 in terms of pain hang around pretty much ensures you’ll miss some training time. Getting things addressed when it’s a low level niggle means you can sort it out whilst you continue training.

  5.  Get stronger.
    You can’t go wrong getting strong, to quote Adam Meakins “The Sports Physio”, and I can’t agree more. The addition of strength training has been shown to significantly reduce injuries in all sports, with one study in the BJSM showing that it cut injury rates by roughly 70% in comparison to those that didn’t include it. In the base period this may be twice a week and perhaps dropping to  once in the latter stages of the training.
  6. Time management

    The sheer volume of training means it can be a challenge to still have a social life. It is well worth looking into running to and or from work if you can. Given that this is “dead time” it is a great way to reduce the need to find time to run. Running in the early morning is another option,  rubbish in our northern latitudes in the winter but can be a blessing in the summer as it warms up.

  7. Test your kit.

    Try out new shoes, tops etc well before the race. This is especially important with any food that you are thinking of using during the rac. You really don’ want to react badly to anything on race day. It’s worth having several pairs of everything than you think you need just in case the washing doesn’t get done for a day or two. No one likes putting on stinky wet clothes for training.

  8. Join a running club or group.

    Some sort of support can be a great help keeping you motivated as you work through the harder parts of the program. Shoe shops like Run and Become, Run4it will be able to put you in touch with a group.

  9. Explore the city

    Running the same routes isn’t too bad when you are just out for a quick 30 minute run. When the  distances increase it can be helpful to find new routes to try out. It would be worth getting in your car and out into the Pentlands for some off road work. If you can get off road it can act is a very useful change of scene. The requirements of trail running are quite different. The surface mean that you are constantly moving to adjust for the uneven surfaces under your feet.  This is a great in terms of changing the nature of the running stress.

  10. Use other races

    As part of your training look to try out a few different races from 10k to a half marathon. These are great ways to fine tune your race prep. If you are more experienced you can try out some different tactics. If you aren’t experienced it gets you used to what the big day will be like.

Your training in the initial stages may go along the lines of

Monday – weight training

Tuesday – short easy run

Wednesday – rest

Thursday – weight training

Friday – Speed work

Saturday – rest

Sunday – long run

As things progress this might change into

Monday – weight training

Tuesday – short easy run

Wednesday – rest

Thursday – easy run

Friday – Speed work

Saturday – rest

Sunday – long run

There are many variations that you could use but the above two give you plenty of scope to play around with.

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