Running a marathon is not only a rewarding achievement, it’s also a great way to keep in shape. Before you hit the road, you’ll need to get your body race ready, and that means it’s time for marathon training. Keep on reading for our tips on how to train for a marathon to make sure you are in peak condition on the day of the run.
Assess your level of fitness
Before you begin your marathon training, it’s advisable to first assess your levels of fitness and be sure that you can complete the race. Marathon training is not easy, and can be a shock to the system for those who have not trained before or do not regularly exercise.
If you are worried about your fitness levels and whether or not you will be able to complete the race you should speak to your doctor. They will be able to give you a health check and advise you on how hard you can push your body.
If you feel as if a full marathon could be too much for you as a beginner, why not try a half-marathon? Take a look at our guide to half-marathon training for some useful tips.
You might be wondering how to train for a marathon? Physically speaking, when training for a marathon there are a number of different types of run and exercises that you should be doing to get your body race ready. The four types of training you need to be focusing on are as follows:
- Standard runs hitting weekly mileage: These are the staple miles you need to put in to get your body ready for race day
- Long distance run: Once a week you will need to undertake a long distance run to get your body used to the strain
- Interval training: Interval training will increase your speed and cardio capacity
- Recovery: Recovering from a run is key when marathon training
Racking up the weekly miles
By the time race day has arrived you should be in a position where physically you can run around 50 miles per week. Doing this will make sure your body is in a good condition to run the race. You will need to train to get to this stage though, and it won’t come easily.
If you are a beginner or have never run a marathon before, we recommend that around 20 weeks before the big day you start running 3-5 times a week. You will not be capable of running 50 miles a week to begin with, so expect to start a little smaller. Instead, you should start off by lowering weekly mileage to as low as 20-25 miles per week. Then over the course of the 20 weeks you should gradually build up your average amount of weekly miles. By the end of the training period, you should be able to complete 50 miles on average a week.
When it comes to competing with yourself, steady often does ‘win’. It’s perfectly fine to complete these base runs at a steady pace that you feel comfortable with. You do not need to go as fast as possible when completing this part of your training, it’s more important that you complete the miles you are aiming for.
Long distance run
Once every 10 days, you should do a long distance run to prepare your body for a full marathon. The length of your weekly distance run should be built up gradually over the course of the twenty-week period, in a similar way to the base mileage you cover.
As an example, your first long distance run could be around 10 miles. By the time your next long distance run comes up, you should up the run distance by a mile or two. Then, aim to up it again 10 days later. This will make each run gradually harder and allow your body to adjust to long distance running. Once you reach the 20-mile mark you should stop upping the distance of your long run, this will prevent you from pushing your body too hard before you race. Marathon training in this way will help to condition your body so that it is able to complete the 42 kilometres on race day.
Interval training is an optional part of marathon training that you do not need to complete to be race-ready on marathon day. However, for those of you that are competitive, interval training will help you become faster over long distances.
The principle of interval training is to run at a fast pace over repeated short distances, with a small break in between. An example of this is to run for a mile at a fast pace, then break from this pace for five minutes by jogging at a much slower pace. After maintaining this slower pace for five minutes, you should do another mile at a fast pace and repeat the process.
Interval training like this should be built into your weekly training schedule once a week if your aim is to become faster over long distances. You may want to build this into your weekly training plan 4-5 weeks after you begin. Incorporating this into your marathon training plan when you first start may be too much, especially if you are a beginner.
Remember: recovering after each run is essential. If you do not recover properly from your marathon training, you will not be able to complete your run to your best ability the next time you train. This will halt your progress and delay your training schedule and if you don’t recover properly it could lead to injury.
When training, you should make sure you build rest days into your programme. Most training plans allow for 2-3 rest days a week, depending on the types of training that you have done that week. These rest days are especially important the week of the race, so your body can be in tip top condition on race day.
Staying hydrated whilst marathon training
When training for a marathon, take it from us that one of the most important things you can do is to make sure that you stay hydrated. Think water! When hydrating prior to your run, remember to take all factors of your planned run into account when considering how much water you need: temperature and run distance, for example, are both important considerations.
Water contributes to the maintenance of normal physical and cognitive function and regulation of body temperature, therefore it’s important to drink while you are out on your run. You will lose water through sweat whilst exercising and any water that has been lost will need replacing for your body to function at its best. Whilst on your run, you should make sure to take small sips of water regularly. This will stop you from feeling bloated and keep you hydrated. At least 2L of water – from all sources – should be consumed per day, as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Okay, let’s do this Britain! If you follow all the advice above you should be marathon-ready once race day arrives. Good luck from everyone at Buxton Water. Remember to stay hydrated before, during and after the race!
For more advice around hydration and running take a look at our article on hydration when running a marathon.