Top 10 Tips for Training for a Marathon
It’s common knowledge that training for a marathon is no walk in the park. But there are things you can do to make your training easier on yourself, and (dare we say it) more fun. Here are our top 10 tips to get you out the door and relishing that challenge.
1) Plan your routes
When it comes to training for a marathon, having a few planned routes of varying lengths in mind will prove invaluable. For example, knowing you have a 5-miler that can quickly fit in around your schedule is useful for those days when you’re short on time. Planning set routes in advance will also allow you to concentrate on how you’re running, rather than on where you’re going.
2) Get kitted out
Get down to your favourite running shop. The big ones, like Runners Needs, will get you on a treadmill to asses your running style and pace so you can get trainers that work for you. Don’t underestimate finding the right clothes, either – go for flexible and comfy running leggings and / or shorts, plus a running vest that regulates your body temperature.
3) Outsmart the weather
Whether it’s drizzling, chilly or even a little warm for the time of year, get your trainers on and get out there in all weathers. That way, you’ll know how your body reacts in different types of weather and there will be no surprises come race day. (Because, let’s face it – no one can predict what the weather will be up to on the big day.)
4) Find a buddy
It’s hard to constantly motivate yourself during the many months it takes to train for a marathon, so find someone to run with, or at least motivate you to get out the door. If you’re running for a charity, ask if they offer a buddy-up system like #TeamBarnardos do, or perhaps they have a training day or regular meet-ups where you can find a new running pal.
5) Listen to your body
The majority of drop-outs for a marathon are due to injury. We all inherently know what our bodies need, so if that’s an unscheduled rest day, take it. If you feel a niggle or pain somewhere, get it checked out – your GP should be able to advise on the best course of action. Don’t forget, if you have an injury that means you can’t take part, it’s not the end of the world. If you’re running for a charity, most will defer your place to the following year, along with your fundraising total, so all is not lost.
6) Get chatting
If there’s one thing that bonds marathon runners, it’s taking about their experiences. The moment you start telling people you’re training for a marathon, you’ll likely find unexpected people revealing that they too have taken on the challenge. Talk to them about their training, what they ate and what worked for them. (Just be aware that you will likely get different stories and advice from everyone!)
7) Sign up for a half marathon
As soon as you’re comfortable with running a half marathon distance, sign up for one! If you’ve not completed a half before, it will get you used to running with others, as well as the noise and excitement of race day. If you have run a half before, working one into your marathon training just plain makes sense.
8) Refuel on glucose, not sugar!
After long runs, you may fall into the habit of refueling with sugary treats. Your body loses glucose when you run and replenishing this is key. However, instead of reaching for the Jelly Babies, consider various sports drinks and gels that are designed to aid recovery. It’s just a matter of finding ones that work for you.
9) Rest on rest days
It sounds obvious, but many would-be marathon runners fall at this very hurdle. Be sure to factor rest days into your training schedule – and then stick to them. Rest days are crucial to your training, and your body needs them. Over-training is as damaging as under-training, so also remember that your longest run before race day should be no more than 20-22 miles.
10) Have a secondary motivation
Other than being able to say, ‘I did it!’ it’s useful to have another motivation for running your marathon, particularly one that’s personal to you. This will spur you on when you’re a few months into your training plan and it’s cold and dark outside. Be it running for a personal best or raising funds for a charity close to your heart, find another reason to take on the best 26.2 miles of your life. Trust us, it’s this that will finally get you over that finish line.
For runs and marathons across the country that you can get involved in this year, check out our Runs and Marathons page.