Identify your goals but do not lock them in
If you are a distance running beginner you may not understand your ability, your fitness and the impact your marathon training will have on you. That means that you may not have a specific goal to aim at – other than ‘I just want to finish!’
Put any predictions aside at the start and just focus on getting stuck into your training regime gradually. You will be able to reassess your goal as your training develops and you gain more experience and confidence.
If you’re a more experienced runner, possibly someone who’s run half-marathons before, it’s likely you’ll have some idea of what you can achieve. Try and identify what time you would like to complete your marathon in and ask yourself if that goal is attainable.
Look back at your previous best times for longer runs and break down your training into separate parts. Look at what mistakes you made and what worked well. Was your diet good? Did you do enough long training runs? How organised was your training week? Be harsh on your previous attempts and make it a resolution to improve your weak areas.
Be realistic but also commit
This is possibly the most important question - so ask yourself how much time can you realistically commit to your target? Being committed 100 per cent at the start of the project is great, but you have to remember the training itself is a marathon, not a sprint! So that means you need to be committed for the whole training programme and not dip in and out of it like it’s a gym membership you signed up to in the New Year.
Experienced coaches will tell you to run when you can run - because you will always have days when you cannot and wish you had! This includes still running when you 'just don’t feel like it', as you can never predict what might happen during the training. Bad weather is a perfect example. There are some nights when it is to hazardous to go out. Being on top of your training will mean that you have some flexibility when something comes up.
However, let’s not make out this is a complete life changing moment. You are being asked to make at least a 12-week commitment to your training and diet. That leaves another 40 or so other weeks free in your year.
Share the pain
Try and find someone you can go out and run with early on, someone to share your training campaign. Running on your own in horrible weather can be hell, so why not share this pain with someone else! Particularly if it’s someone who’s already run a marathon and knows what’s involved.
Find a running buddy or even better go out and discover a friendly running club. Running with other people can also be fun and it’s a great way of meeting new people.
Plan ahead with your events
This tip might be a bit too late for some events. But there are so many races and runs that you can take part in before you tackle the big one, including half marathons.
Entering another long-distance race a decent amount of time before your full marathon attempt is great because it will give you a mini-target that will boost your motivation. And completing the event can give you a big psychological boost. Self-belief and having a positive mental attitude are as important as your actual physical training routine.
Watch your diet and hydration
Do some basic research into your diet. This is not only important for performance, but also for your recovery! Try to eat some carbs before your long runs, have a protein filled meal afterwards and keep your breakfasts simple.
Keeping hydrated is also important throughout your training regime. Energy drinks have lots of calories, so drink them in moderation and look for an alternative. At this early moment in your training avoid the use of gels. It may be early days but make sure you start to learn about carbo-loading and fuelling your body correctly for the race.