First of all note this post is entitled ‘training’, the actual run should be enjoyable if you've put the hard work in first. And who’s to say the training can’t be fun too… I know I’m lucky, I like running, it helps me clear my head, an escape, a challenge! However I know that some people don’t see the joy in it but will endure it for a reason and people enter a marathon for many different reasons; a fitness challenge, to raise money for charity, to chase a PB - the most important thing is to know why you are doing it and keep that close to you throughout your training and on race day.
Start with the end in mind
It's important to approach training with your final goal in mind and work backwards and staying kind and respectful to you body in the process. For example if it's your first time, you may just want to get round uninjured and with a smile, if you're aiming for a time or chasing a PB then brilliant. However don’t cut yourself short - I’d recommend aiming 5-10 mins ahead of that time to work out your pace... Eg if aiming for 4hours... work out your pacing plan for 3.55-3.50 to factor in any race day hold ups at water stations/bathroom needs. This is the pacing tool I used to help me plan Amsterdam, my aim was to do it in under four hours, so I aimed for 3.50 using this Marco technique and it worked out to be pretty spot on: https://feelrace.com/fr.pl?th=_Marco
Your Training Plan
The thought of a training plan can be daunting and realistically you will probably not be able to stick to it run for run (full time job-late nights / a holiday / the flu or a cold), it’s so important not to get disheartened by this and you should celebrate and enjoy the training process. I'm lucky enough to have parents who have run over 20 marathons between them and I have finished and loved two (London 15 and Amsterdam 17) so have been passed on numerous tips and pieces of advice as well as first hand experience.
Everyone is different, your daily routine, fitness level and motivation - an online plan might fit perfectly for someone but maybe not you. So, get creative - find a base plan from some of the great resources like the below... but adapt it to you needs e.g. I’m currently slightly obsessed with spinning, so I’ll be taking that as one or two of my training sessions each week rather than a run (still an awesome cardio work out and helps build strength and prevent injuries - read more on why runners should spin here).
Teddy’s Base Plan
I formed this plan for myself after unfortunately getting a recurring calf muscle injury when I was training for Copenhagen 17 in May, however I took all the learnings from this and used it to help form me train and get a PB in Amsterdam Oct 17.
With three to four months training and a hectic schedule:
3 runs each week (great if you can do more but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t)
Long: Each weekend steadily increase your distance / time on your feet. The longest you should do is 45mins/30mins of what you are aiming for and should be a month before race day so you can taper
Intervals: Go hard and fast, give it your all - count lamp posts or trees / set a timer / challenge yourself to go faster and further each week - this is what will get you faster
Steady and short: Time to feel what race pace feels like and get used to it
A Half Marathon should ideally come 6/8 weeks before race day - to remind you of what it is like to be in a crowd
Core strength: Don’t forget to strengthen your core - yoga/pilates it will only make you a stronger runner. I love this flow from Adrienne
Mix Up Your Training
Can you run to and from work? It can make a run so much easier if you have an end destination, commuting is a great one (or even half the commute)
Grab a Buddy. Get them to take you on a new route or just have a laugh and a catch up
What are you listening to? Good music can make or break a run for me, Defected podcasts are what I look forward to most or sometimes Spotify Daily Mix and on a long one an interesting podcast
Cross Training: Swap a steady run in for a spin session or a class like Barry’s / 1Rebel which have treadmills in
Which green spaces haven’t you been to? Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park, Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Regent’s Canal, along the Thames
Join a free running club: Tribe, Adidas Runners or Nike Run Club
Try Parkrun: I like doing a long run and finishing off with this, race like feel
Time On Your Feet
One of the best pieces of advice I was given from my parents when I was starting to stress about following a plan that had miles in for my first marathon - I just wasn’t getting up to the miles in the plan. In your long runs, “It’s not the miles but the time on your feet that counts”, so have faith that if you can jog slowly, it doesn’t matter how slow for that 45mins under your target time, adrenaline and excitement will kick in and get you to the finish line.
Love those legs
Remember to stretch! Before and after… and again after Invest in a foam roller or massage stick to help ease tired muscles
Epsom Salts & Radox Muscle Relax bath bubbles are a winning combo after a hard session
Vaseline: Before any races or long runs, a smothering of Vaseline will help ward of any blisters
Trainers: Get them fitted properly and a new pair for the race and training. Break them in gently
If this is your first marathon, you’ll be running the furthest you’ve ever run in your long runs, which is awesome. However let’s face it, it’s probably going to get tough - tired legs, pains in your feet, weird stitches, your mind playing tricks with you. Find a mantra that you can go back to, that connects you to your goal and that you can repeat over and over. Here’s a nice post to inspire you to create yours.
Look your best, do your best
Another piece of advice from my father, this one isn’t just for running but it will definitely help. Treat yourself to a new pair of leggings or running top - if you feel good when you set out, you’re more likely to have a more enjoyable better run! Sweaty Betty here I come…
Remember to try out any energy gels or drinks that you’ll plan on using on race day. I really like GU and Sports Beans (I’d probably have a couple of beans on the start line and then take my first GU 1hour in, followed by every 45mins - topping up with sports beans if necessary)! Everyone is different though - so test them out and see what works well for you. Your half is a good time to test this out and figure out where you’ll carry everything. I have a very handy waist band from Nike which works well for me.
Make sure you do a dress rehearsal. Wake up at the time you will on race day, have the breakfast that you are planning on having, wear your outfit and take all things with you. This will help race day nerves on the morning as you’ll know you have everything covered.
Race Day - Another post to come! But now you'll have done all the training, it is time to kick back, relax and enjoy!
Thank you to all the wonderful people who have given me advice, support, put up with my running chat or been out training with me!
Bring on the next one xxx