Running a marathon can appear to be a daunting challenge even for regular runners who have completed half marathon distance in the past. However, it doesn’t have to be. With some sound advice and tips, it can be a brilliant experience. There are training plans available which could help you train for a marathon whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced runner.
No one plan is the best. The most important thing is to find a plan that fits your lifestyle and current fitness levels. Some runners base their running plan on time, some on distance. What matters is time on your feet, distance, speed, recovery, fuel and other forms of training.
Several of our therapists are keen runners, one of our senior physiotherapists has competed in the Paris Marathon along with several half marathons and one of our Sports Therapists is an experienced runner having completed several marathons, below are some things to consider when preparing to run longer distances, whether that be a half marathon or a full marathon.
Key Tips for Running a Marathon
- Achieve a base level of fitness before training for a marathon. You should be able to run, cycle or be comfortable participating in another form of aerobic activity for at least 30 mins before you start a plan.
- If you are a beginner to running build up over a longer period and start with 5 kilometre runs and work your way up to 10 kilometres, half marathons etc. so you get the feel for a race environment.
- Always complete a thorough warm up/cool down routine before and after running. In addition, running drills can help to improve your running style and help prevent injuries.
- Always wear correctly fitted footwear and don’t leave until the last minute to buy a pair of running shoes. It is highly recommended that you get your biomechanics and gait checked by a podiatrist.
- Always wear correctly fitting clothing to prevent chaffing and dress for the weather. A lot of the big city marathons you train in the winter when its cold but race in the spring when its warm. Check the weather forecast for the day and dress appropriately.
- Wear your running bra/vest a few times before your marathon to prevent chaffing.
- Build your running distance up slowly, don’t get ahead of yourself. Your weekly total mileage should not increase by more than 10%. For example; if you ran 20 miles in total during week 1, then you would aim to run 22 miles in week 2.
- Nutrition is key to injury prevention and performance. It is important to maintain your energy levels throughout your runs. Experiment during your training, by trying diverse types of carbohydrate foods and drinks.
- Along with a good balanced diet, many runners use energy gels. There are many types of gels out there but what works for one person does not mean its going to work for another. Some people prefer fruit loaf, jelly babies etc over gels. Get if right or you could deplete your energy stores and risk putting yourself out of the race on the day. Use your training to experiment with nutrition and gels to find out what works best for you.
- Hydration is a very important element of your training and race day. During a marathon you see a lot of people around the 17/18 mile distance suffering from dehydration, this is sometimes referred to as ‘hitting the wall’. They have depleted carbohydrate stores and have a low electrolyte balance. To avoid this take regular drinks on board during long runs and during the race. Most people prefer water every 4 to 5 miles and they can add their own electrolyte tablet if needed, don’t leave it too late.
- Do not underestimate the importance of strength training and core stability work. All elite athletes do some form of strength training and core work. We are not talking body building or strongman training but training 2/3 times per week working on the upper body, legs and core, the stronger the core the better you will perform. Pilates and yoga are very good for maintaining and strengthening the core.
- Your body needs time to recover when training for a half or full marathon. To reduce the risk of injury it is important that you do not over train. Always plan at least 1 rest day a week and every few weeks plan to do a shorter mileage week. There are things you can do to help with recovery from training runs, these are correct nutrition refuelling (a good balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats), hot baths, cold baths, walking, cycling and regular massages. This helps to prevent injury and burnout. The aim is to reach our peak on race day, not burnt out.
- It is equally important to get excellent quality sleep as this helps the body recover and heal. Aim for at least 7 hours per night. To aid a full and restful night sleep refrain from using mobile phones, tablets, computers etc an hour before bed, make sure your bedroom is as dark as it can get. For those who struggle to sleep well, magnesium supplements may be of benefit as they are known to aid sleep and help in energy production. However, always check with your GP before self-prescribing sleep aids.
- Keep a running plan and diary to let you know if you are on track with your training. Remember, if you miss a run its not the end of the world.
- Run with a friend, this can be very motivational and makes long runs seem shorter, just don’t make Mo Farah your running buddy.
- Music can also help motivate you through a run, everyone is different when it comes to music but generally the best styles to get you moving are upbeat genres such as dance, rap and rock music.
- Consider joining a running club, there is always someone your speed training for a marathon.
- Regular stretching routines after a run or on their own are very good at maintaining flexibility.
Most importantly, at the first sign of injury seek medical advice. Early diagnosis and treatment has been proven to speed up recovery and reduce the risk of requiring more complex long-term treatments. Therapists here at Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic are sports injury specialists and will always create bespoke treatment and rehabilitation plans specifically designed to fit the needs of the patient.