If you're training for a marathon and want to run to the best of your ability you need to train sensibly. Train too hard too soon and that start line will seem a very daunting prospect. So with that in mind, lets take a look at these 10 essential tips marathon runners need...
Do not over train
This might sound simple enough, but the marathon is a long way and the training that leads up to it has to be done in a sensible way. You need to stick to a schedule and don't get carried away if you feel good one week. The result of the training is a combination of the weeks and weeks of work. Running well one week and then having a shocker the following week isn't the best way to do things. Consistency is the key word.
Do other races
Sure you're training for the marathon, but there are plenty of other races around the country you can do during the build up, to use as part of your training. An ideal option would be to do a half marathon 5-6 weeks before the marathon itself and maybe aim to run at marathon race pace. This will help you get used to the pace and find out how you’re getting on. If the pace feels really easy, then that’s great. But if it feels too hard, you might need to adjust your target time (or train harder - but remember tip number one!)
Practice taking drinks
Do you know how difficult it is to drink a decent amount of fluid, while running at pace and not spill the whole thing over your vest? During the marathon there will be drinks on the course, and it is a good idea to find out what they are beforehand and practice with the same fluid. Generally the drinks will be in cups and even grabbing one of the cups will result in a spillage of at least half the amount. The best way to drink out of the cup is to squeeze the cup together and form almost like a funnel. This will help keep the remaining liquid in the cup and make it easier to drink.
These are key to your success, whether you're an elite athlete at the front of the field or running at the back of the race in 10 hours. At some point it is going to hurt, and the more your body is used to running for long periods of time the better. There are two ways to look at the long run, either by measuring the distance, or by going on the time spent on your feet. For the faster runners I think the best approach is to get close to race distance, so the most I would go up to is 24 miles. Otherwise you just need to focus on the amount of time spent running, getting as close to your predicted time as possible.
This may seem pretty straightforward but it is something that can cause serious problems in the marathon. During the week when you're training, get used to topping up your fluids throughout the day. During the marathon you might find your stomach is empty with the exception of the fluid you’ve drunk on the course. You may find it swirls around in your stomach, so it might be wise to get used to that feeling on some of the long runs. But make sure it doesn't cause a stitch or anything like that.
Be confident in your training
There are dozens of training plans out there that people follow to get them through the marathon. The most important thing is to research these plans and find one that suits your lifestyle. I have said it before on my blogs, but if you can only get out the door three times a week, make sure those three days are quality days. Follow the program and stick to it. They are designed over a 12-16 week period, so don't expect to be ready to run a marathon after just a month!
Get used to the race time
Marathons have a habit of starting quite early. So get used to running at this time of the morning, perhaps starting your long run at the same time, so that your body is ready. You can also practice what to eat and work out the timings for your food. The more prepared you are going into race day, the more relaxed you'll be!
Have a clear plan of the pace you want to run
You've done all the training so don't spoil it all by going off too enthusiastically in the first few miles. Anyone can run a quick couple of miles but it takes patience and a lot of training to run the full 26.2 miles. Stick to your pace plan and if it feels easy, great. Ask yourself if it still feels easy at 20 miles. This is where doing a half marathon beforehand will really help you tune into that pace.
Don't over think
This tip comes from my own personal experience. The marathon is a long way and is too hard and too tiring to be worrying about a lot of little things in the build up. At the end of the day running is pretty simple, put one foot in front of the other and repeat. If you’ve done the training feel confident in that. It is far better to go into race day under-trained than over-trained. Not every session or every run in the build up is going to be GREAT. So if you have a session that's not quite what you thought it would be, move on, and get ready for the next one. It’s an accumulation of ALL the training, not just one session. During the race, if you miss a drink on the way round don't panic – just go with the flow.
The marathon is one of the biggest mass participation events you can do, everyone is in the same boat and you might find someone to run with during the race. So take it all in, the crowd, the noises, and even the support you might get from the other runners. I'm not a fan of running with headphones, I know some people are - but the marathon is the one race I would say leave the headphones at home.
Picture Credit: mimohe / Shutterstock.com