If you’ve just had the good news that you are one of the lucky few who got a place in the London Marathon or another Spring marathon, you might be having mixed feelings at the moment. You might be flip flopping between elation and doubt or panic that you actually got in.
Hooray! I’m going to run a marathon!
What have I done?!
What was I thinking?!
Whose idea was this?!
I can’t run that far!
Don’t panic, you’re definitely not the only one. Sit back, relax and check out some top tips.
1. Failing to plan is planning to fail
A good training plan is a great place to start. There are loads of 16-week plans online that will get you to the finish line. Finding a plan and making a note of when you need to start will help put your mind at ease.
For most plans, you will start in January. If you’re a complete beginner, it’s worth using the time before Christmas to start building your distance and working towards being able to run for 30 mins. The Couch 2 5km training apps are great for this.
If you’re like me, I love a plan stuck to the fridge. It helps me focus my time and organise myself. I also enjoy crossing off each run (probably a bit too much!) as it helps me to focus on the progress I am making and see how far I have come.
2. Increase slowly
Weekly mileage should be built slowly, giving your body time to adapt. The general rule of thumb is to increase your distance by no more than 10% each week.
You should also include ‘adaptive’ weeks into your training, usually every 3-4 weeks. During adaptive weeks, you reduce your mileage and give your body time to adapt to the previous week’s training. It also gives your body chance to recover and reduces your chance of getting injured.
3. Don’t neglect other training
As part of your marathon training you should include a variety of cross training (doing other activities such as swimming or cycling), strength training and flexibility/stretching.
Many seasoned runners will admit they neglect other forms of training. They just want to run and that’s all they do. Unfortunately, this continuous repetition of the same movements is the perfect recipe for injury.
Along with avoiding injuries, mixing up your training will also keep things more interesting.
4. Listen to your body
Rest and recovery are key parts of your marathon training. Running for extended periods puts your body under a lot of strain and it’s important that you give yourself adequate time to recover.
You should also not push yourself too hard or put yourself under too much pressure. If you are feeling ill, give yourself break and let it recover. One symptom of ‘overtraining’ is getting continuous colds and other minor ailments. It’s your bodies way of telling you to rest – make sure you listen.
5. Enjoy yourself
Ultimately, training and running a marathon should be enjoyable. Sometimes the sense of dread when you see 20 miles on your plan might not feel like much fun at the time but try and find ways to make your training fun.
Training with a friend can help relieve a bit of boredom. If you don’t know anyone running a marathon, you could always ask people to join in for shorter distances. Aim to mix up your runs and try different routes. You could get dropped off somewhere and run home or plan a scenic route somewhere you haven’t been before.
Podcasts and audio books can be a great way to make a long run fly past. I’ve even found enjoyment in running short loops and counting down the laps as I go.
Georgina is a seasoned marathon and ultramarathon runner. She signed up for her first 100km ultramarathon in 2016 with only half marathon distance under her belt. She has a special skill for running and eating at the same time and, every now and again, she swears that she won’t do any more long runs… She is currently training for 106km ultramarathon around the Isle of Wight.