The spring marathon season is almost upon us, with just over two months to go until the London Marathon 2019. Most people will be nearing the half-way point of their training programmes and ramping up the mileage on those long hard runs. Hopefully there’ll have been a rest-week in that training somewhere around now, so you should be feeling rested and raring to go! Follow my five top tips to help get that mileage in and get to that start line fully prepared.
1) Strengthen your legs – so many marathon training programmes out there are all about the running and there is no mention of strengthening at all. Running alone doesn’t strengthen your legs! Core and lower-body strength will give you a great basis to train from, enabling you to train harder and longer. Being stronger will also reduce your risk of running-related injury. Try incorporating two lower body strengthening sessions a week into your routine that targets your core muscles, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves.
2) Plan your route – there is nothing worse than going out on a long-run and not covering the distance you set out to achieve, then having to do an extra loop around home at the end to make up the mileage. The best thing to do is plan out your route in advance so that there’s no surprises and you know what’s coming. I like to run around the London parks and landmarks to keep myself entertained or explore parts of town I’ve not been to before. A loop tends to work well. Although if you really want to punish yourself, an out and back route is great. When I was last training for a marathon, I found this cool bike track through the Chiltern Hills so ran 11 miles out and 11 miles back to get my longest 22 mile run in. It was gruelling, but I enjoyed the fresh air and views of the countryside on the first half, then zoned out to music from the half way point knowing that every step was one step closer to home.
3) Fuel-up – there is nothing worse than running on empty and feeling depleted in energy and sluggish. Fuel up with some carb-heavy food the evening before a long run, although stick to what you know won’t upset your stomach. Get up a few hours before you’re due to run to get some breakfast inside you, I find porridge with Nutella and bananas is a great source of energy. Also, ensure you carry some nutrition with you on your run. It makes a huge difference to refuel steadily throughout, rather than wait until the 90-minute point when your muscle glycogen stores are depleted. If you keep refuelling, you should not hit the wall come mile 18-20. Don’t forget the post-run refuel either with a meal rich in protein and anti-oxidants. Aside from the running, my favourite part of marathon training is getting to eat all those carbs guilt-free…. enjoy!
4) Take it easy – those long training runs are there to get the mileage into your legs. They’re not the time to be pushing for that PB (personal best). Start out with a steady, comfortable pace. Once you get more confident with the longer runs and you know your body can tolerate them, you can then start building race-pace sections into them. You will naturally get fitter and faster anyway. Especially if you strengthen your legs and use your shorter runs to do your tempo work.
5) Give yourself a talking to – when the going gets tough, remember it’s just as simple as one foot in front of the other. Right, left, right, left. Breathe through it. Count. Talk to yourself. Distract yourself. Do whatever you need to get you through it and the miles will roll by. Also, remember not all runs go to plan, you’ll have good and bad days. Celebrate the victories, but if you have a bad day, don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself a talking to, draw a line under it and go out and smash the next one!