It’s the time of year when runners are embarking on their 20-week marathon plans. We’ve put together an oversight on how to get going with your own marathon training.
Training for the marathon is unlike anything many people have ever done when they embark on this journey. We need fitness that is unlike anything you will have done at school, unlike football or netball.
Not only do we need to train the cardiovascular system to run, but we need to prepare your body to handle the impact of running 26.2 miles.
You are spending the next few months following a training plan. Make the training all about you.
Don’t become fixated on the Long Run
It’s a crucial part of training, but it’s so easy to become obsessed with this one run in your week.
The long-run is the most injury risky part of your training week. You are spending the longest time on your feet, and your muscles will get fatigued. This is where injuries happen.
You can take this long run off-road too if you that’s possible. It’ll be softer on the legs and often more interesting. This will help build strength too.
Focus on keeping the effort level Easy for the first few months of training. All you are doing is spending time on your feet.
We would recommend no more than 180 minutes as your longest long run. You may add some more with some walk breaks, but it really doesn’t want to be much longer than that.
Remember that “Long” will depend on where you are starting from. It is all relative. If you’ve only ever done 10kms, then 10km is a long run.
A lot of the Long Run is about getting you able to “endure” exercising for that length of time. There’s a training of the mind that goes on during these sessions.
A couple of questions we often get around the long run.
Do you need to eat before your long run?
Yes. And No.
It changes the session whether you have eaten beforehand or not. As the long run gets over 2hours, I would definitely encourage you to eat before it.
Play about with this.
Do I need to take on nutrition and hydration during the long run?
Yes. And No.
I am not being helpful here! In terms of nutrition, any run over 90 minutes, you’ll want to take on something on the run. A gel, jelly beans or some dried fruit every 45 minutes will be great.
In terms of hydration, drink to thirst. As we move into summer, you might need to drink a little more.
Run / Walking in the Long Run
This can be a fantastic way of extending your long run, keeping your effort level in check and reducing the impact through the legs. There are loads more about this in this post - https://www.fullpotential.co.uk/post/2014/11/01/run-walking
Train at different effort levels
A way to get yourself out of the “long-run only hole” is to make sure you are working at different effort levels.
By running at different effort levels, you are challenging your system in different ways. We want to mix things up so that the body doesn’t get used to what you are doing.
Threshold Running is the one session we would want you to have in your training week.
This session will develop your Speed Endurance, your ability to run fast for an extended time. The
Threshold we are working at is your Lactate Threshold. At this point, your body can use Lactate as fuel and can clear out acid that’s created as a by-product of running hard.
I can’t stress enough how much you will get from this training session.
Not only will your easy runs feel more effortless and faster, but you'll be finding the threshold sessions themselves more manageable too.
Cross Training, not Training Angry
Cross-Training refers to the action of training in a sport that is not the one that the athlete competes in. You are a runner, and cross-training refers to an activity that is not running. You can:
• Aqua jogging
• Cross trainer
• Rowing machine
All of these sessions will be fantastic cross-training sessions.
It’s important to remember that your heart doesn't know what you’re doing when you exercise. Whatever you are doing, the heart muscle reacts the same way.
Cross-training allows us to develop your endurance without the impact that comes from running.
If you proactively put cross-training in your plan, it’ll reduce the injury risk from marathon training. It’ll be a break from running and allow you to train consistently.
This way, you’ll remain injury-free and not cross!
Don’t neglect the little things
We can’t run all the time. You will just pick up an injury. We can still do training without needing to run, and you will become a better runner.
Conditioning and Mobility work want to be part of your training schedule.
It is during our recovery after training sessions that we get fitter!
Training sessions act as the stimulus for fitness. Still, if your body isn’t given a chance to recover, you won’t get the benefits of the training sessions.
Check out Blog on strides https://www.fullpotential.co.uk/post/learning-to-stride. They can be so helpful in the early parts of marathon training. When you are building the volume and legs, feel they lack a bit of bounce, a few sets of these might be all you need.
Training to Heart Rate
This can be such a great way to train, especially for the marathon. It takes you out of focusing on how far and fast you are going, and we can really focus on just building endurance.
We’ve written all about that here https://www.fullpotential.co.uk/post/2018/01/29/the-value-of-training-to-heart-rate
A practice race allows you to practice your race day routine before the big day. There’s so much that happens on race day. So much that can go wrong if you are prepared.
We like to recommend a half marathon as part of training. It’s a great distance to race as a build-up for a marathon.
With the result of this half marathon, you’ll have a better idea of your predicted marathon time. We generally advise to double the half time and add 20 minutes. On occasions, that can be tweaked.
As we move out of this COVID era, we may not be able to do a race before your primary race. We can still do a Time Trial. Learn more about how to maximise that opportunity here - https://www.fullpotential.co.uk/post/racing-a-virtual-race-or-time-trial
Putting that plan together
If you put your own plan together, you have downloaded one online or got a coach to write one for you. There are some basic rules the plan ought to follow
You want the weeks to have a flow to them, with more challenging and easier training days. You don’t want your training all focused on a few days in the week.
Also, make sure you have easier training weeks. If your training just keeps building and building, eventually, you will fall off the edge. The body needs a chance to absorb what you are doing.
The training plan needs to work for you. It should take into account your marathon goals but also where you are starting from.
To see fitness gains, we need to be doing more than your “normal”. If your “normal” is 2 runs a week, then adding one extra run is a significant increase on your “normal.”
The plan must not get you doing too much too soon, or you will end up overtraining and injured.
Does that plan work for you? You don’t need to do your Long Run on a Sunday. If you work on a Sunday or have family commitments, you want a plan with the long run on the best day of the week for you.
When all is said and done, your running training wants to be fun. A word of caution, it won’t all be fun - there will be days where it is just hard and a bit miserable. That’s normal.
However, in the main, make the training fun. Enjoy your running.
Good luck with your training and racing.