If you are one of the over 400,000 people who entered the ballot for the 2019 London Marathon then you may have spent this week checking your email and letterbox more frequently than usual. And if you are one of the lucky runners who have got a place in the ballot then you know that the difficult part may be done, but the hard part is to follow! Yes, I’m talking about your training!
So here are my tips on how to prepare for a marathon, no matter what marathon you are training for!
Know when to start your training
Whether you should follow a 24, a 20 or a 16 week marathon training plan depends on your experience and your goals.
If you have run a marathon before and still have a good base fitness then a 16 week plan might suit you. If you are a novice marathon runner and need to build your endurance levels then a 24 week plan will allow you to do so at a gradual pace.
And to help you work out what date you need to start training here is my handy table of popular big spring marathon in 2019 and when you need to start training.
Choose a plan
Now you know when to start training it’s time to find a training plan.
You can either work with a running coach, like myself, who will devise a plan for you that takes into consideration your running history, your goals and how training can fit into your non-running life.
Or you can choose one of many off the shelf, generic plans. Whilst I’d always recommend a personalised plan, if you rather use a generic plan keeping the following in mind. Look for a plan that is similar to your current training load, if you run 3 days a week now don’t follow a 5 day a week plan as you can overload your training which may lead to injury or loss of motivation. Look for a plan that has recovery weeks, something that doesn’t just increase the milage run each and every week. You’ll be thankful for a lower mileage week and it will help your body to adapt to the training.
Join a club
Being part of a running club can be really beneficial for all runners whether you are training for a marathon or not. Many clubs have fantastic marathon training sessions in the run up to spring races. Some may put on marathon specific speed sessions to help you with a time goal and most will organise regular group long runs at the weekend. These long runs can range from an informal group with a leader who has planned your route to fully organised runs with paced groups, water stops and places for you to leave jackets and gloves.
Of course, not everyone can attend a club regularly, and for those of you who can’t but still want the support of a club during your training I have created the Running Happy Run Strong Marathon Club. This club will include a personalised training plan for you and a friendly group to support you through training. If this is something you could benefit from do sign up to the waiting list to be the first to to know more.
Start building your strength
If you don’t already include strength exercises in your weekly routine beginning now will give you time to make it a habit before you start increasing your mileage. You will really see the benefit of stronger muscles as your training increases.
If you don’t know where to start try these four exercises which work your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and core muscles. Start off with 8-12 repeats of each of the following exercises, for one or two sets (ie a set of all the exercises repeated) and concentrating on your form rather than how quick you can do each movement.
- Stand tall with a neutral spine and feet hip width apart
- Keep back straight and squat down as if sitting on a chair
- Keep knees in line with hips and ankles, bend knees to 90 degrees, making sure your knees don’t do over your toes
- From here drive back up using the powerful muscles of the legs and buttocks
- Lie flat on your back, arms out to the side, palms facing down
- Bend knees to approximately 45 degrees
- Take a deep breath and engage your core
- Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips until they are fully extended. DO NOT arch your lower back
- Hold for a 2-3 seconds, keep squeezing your glutes
- Lower down with control
- Lay on your side on the floor. Bend your knees but keep your shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line.
- Keep your feet together and raise your top knee to the full range of motion whilst keeping perfect form.
- Keep core engaged and hips square (do not allow the top hip to move forward or back)
- Repeat on opposite side
- Kneel on all fours with hand and elbows under the shoulder and knees under hips
- Lift right arm and left leg until they are parallel to the floor or as near to parallel as you can without rotating hips or shoulders
- Hold for 3-5 seconds before returning to the start
- Repeat on the opposite side
But most importantly relax and enjoy the weeks you have before you start your training in earnest! Meet friends, spend time with family and just enjoy the gentler pace.