Many major marathons this year have moved to autumn - including Virgin Money London Marathon and Brighton Marathon Weekend. If you’re signed up to an autumn marathon, now is the perfect time to start training or build on what you already have.
Although tackling 26.2 miles can seem daunting, we’ve got some top tips to keep your training simple and fun! Keeping your training in balance, enjoyable and healthy will ensure you arrive at race day fit, positive and ready for action.
Correct your kit
Invest in a proper pair of running trainers to prevent injury and make your run more comfortable. It’s best to go to a running shop, such as Runner’s Need, and ask for a gait analysis – this will ensure you get trainers that work for your feet and running style!
It’s also worth investing in running kit, especially kit made from technical fabric. This will make you more comfortable in any temperature, will help wick sweat away from your skin, feel less heavy than your old t-shirt and support the correct areas.
Get in the mindset
If it’s your first marathon, it’s easy to feel a little bit of fear for what’s on the horizon. It’s a long race but respect the challenge rather than fearing it – fear can lead to poor training decisions and trying to progress too far, too fast, too soon. Take ownership of your training and make it work for you, your lifestyle and your fitness.
Your marathon journey won’t always be a smooth and linear process – you’ll have runs that don’t go to plan, days where you don’t feel great, and runs you’ll need to miss or change. Make sure you focus on positive outcomes each week – it’s about doing the best for your body and what you do complete, not what you don’t.
Take it slow
If you’re not already running regularly, avoid ramping it up to the max from the word go. Starting with 3-4 runs a week is great, making sure there are rest days between your runs. Practice patience and be prepared to walk/run if building fitness, gradually reducing the amount of walking in the weeks ahead. Make sure you pace yourself and start by running at the speed of a chat – it can be tempting to push along at a steady effort, but you’ll miss out on the benefits of easier runs.
Your long run with 12 weeks to go could be anything between 30 minutes and 90 minutes depending on how long you have been running and your level of experience, and it might be a structured mix of running and walking – for example 10 minutes easy run, 5 minutes brisk walk.
Spread your volume
It’s easy to get caught up in the long run. Of course, it’s important to build up more time on your feet over the coming weeks but balancing with your other runs is just as important. Remember, it is the collection of your training that will see you over the line, not just your longest run.
Quality as well as quantity
While you’ll increase your running volume as the weeks go by, marathon success isn’t just about miles. Adding some controlled faster efforts into your running week can help speed up the rate of your progression!
Try including some blocks of ‘controlled discomfort’ effort into one of your weekly runs – this will help make your heart stronger and get your mind used to pushing. Start with something like 5 x 3 minutes at a 3-4 word answer effort, building to 5 x 5 minutes, 5 x 6 minutes, or even 3 x 10 minutes with a short 1-2 minute recovery.
Fuel it right
Nutrition is key to marathon success – from your daily meals and training fuel to race day!
Day to day: Keep your meals varied and mindful. Don’t exclude foods unless medically advised, and ensure you’re getting plenty of complex carbohydrates, protein and vitamins/minerals with every meal.
During training: It’s always advisable to train with what you plan to use on race day. On shorter runs and easier runs, keep yourself hydrated with an electrolyte drink like ZERO. On longer runs or weeks where you’re ramping up your training, take on an Energy Gel Aqua or some Energy Drink to make sure your muscles are fuelled with carbohydrate. Read more about sports nutrition for runners here.
Race day: Check out one of our nutrition guides to help you fuel on race day.
Adjust your goals
12 weeks of solid training can seem quite daunting, so we recommend adding some interstitial targets – such as a half marathon – to help you check your progress and focus your training.
Plan it out
Get yourself a training plan to support your goal. Your plan should include a range or running to get you marathon fit, such as weekly threshold running, hills to build strength and pacing work.
Try a variety of exercise
Adding in core work to your training plan will help strengthen your body, support your running and prevent injury. Keep it simple – even just spending 10 minutes doing an ab workout can make a difference. Read our blog post on the best core exercises for runners.
Your body gets fitter through stress and then recovery. Where training creates a stress, it’s the recovery after that will leave you fitter. Make sure you balance your training with recovery, and you’ll get there. Look for the signs of over training, such as inconsistent sleep, regular small colds or niggles and a loss in motivation.
Every 3-4 weeks, include a lighter week of training, cutting back on your volumes to allow your body some more adaptation time. Respect your rest days, and your body will respect you back!
Want to know more? Check out our other guides to help you smash your marathon:
- The Major Do's and Don'ts of Running a Marathon
- The secret ingredient for your marathon training
- 9 things to do in the final 24 - 48 hours before your marathon
- The importance of the ‘long run’ and how to progress it
- Top 5 Tips on Marathon Race Day
- Sports Nutrition For Runners
- Marathon Nutrition Plan
HIGH5 Run Pack
The HIGH5 Run Pack contains the nutrition essentials to support your next run or race with a combination of our most popular Energy, Hydration and Recovery products for runners. Get yours here.