Whether this is the first time you’ll run 26.2 miles or you’re a marathon veteran, our experts have the must- know advice to make it a race to remember.
DO STRENGTH WORK
When you’re training, don’t just run round the park strength work is vital to build power and speed and help prevent injury, says Mara Yamauchi, former Olympian, Britain’s second fastest female marathoner (2:23:12) and England Athletics running coach. ‘Read Strength and Conditioning for Endurance Running, by Richard Blagrove (Crowood, £21.99),’ she says.
VARY YOUR TRAINING RUNS
Keep your body guessing to get the most out of it. ‘Don’t just vary your mileage when training for a marathon,’ says running coach Karen Weir (runwithkaren.com). ‘Too many people make the mistake of running every session at the same, steady pace. Even if you’re a novice runner, incorporate at least one faster-paced session each week. Get out of your comfort zone and improve your running economy, and physical and mental strength, through structured intervals such as 800m reps, beginner-friendly sessions such as one-minute hard then one-minute rest, or fartlek sessions (doing faster sections and slower sections within your run).’
How to Run Faster: 10 Tips for Training and More Photo Gallery
HAVE A, B AND C GOALS
Keep your motivation up by having different goals to suit different scenarios. ‘If you targeting a specific time, set yourself ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ goals,’ says Weir. ‘This will help keep you motivated even if things don’t go to plan during the build-up, plus you’re more likely to feel a sense of achievement afterwards. For example, say your dream to do a sub four-hour marathon and yourcurrent PB is 4.12. Your ‘A’ goal assumes you’ve hit every single session in your training programme, had a great build-up no injury or illness and conditions on the day are ideal. Your ‘B’ goal assumes you had a pretty good build-up, only had a couple of niggles and only missed one long run. Your ‘C’ goal is what you aim for should the build-up perhaps not go at all toplan. For example you’ve had a prolonged illness, but you’ve still got up to 16 or 18 miles in training. So these might be: A – 3.59.59 B – 4.05C – 4.10 and if things went really pearshaped it might be just to finish.That way, whatever the outcome, you’ve achieved a goal to be proud of.’
PACK SPARE SHOES AND SOCKS
Little things can make all the difference to your event experience. ‘Travel to the race in your comfiest, warmest trainers and cosy socks,’ says Nell McAndrew, co-author of Nell McAndrew’s Guide To Running (Bloomsbury Sport, £12.99). ‘Have the trainers and socks you intend to wear for the run in your bag, timing chip attached. This way, if the grass is wet or it’s raining, you have a dry pair of socks and shoes to race in. Then you have spares to put on again afterwards too, when you’ll be desperate to get your sweaty racing shoes and socks off. I also pack lots of warm clothes for before and after, baby wipes to freshen up and carrier bags to put damp, dirty kit in afterwards,’ she says.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO WALK
Walking definitely allowed!‘It’s not cheating!’ says Weird And it’s especially fine in your long training runs. When you’re training for endurance,more time on your feet is what’s key (but you shouldn’t walk during speed or interval sessions!). During a marathon, run/walking is a valid strategy, especially if your build-up hasn’t been what you hoped. Try nine minutes of running to one minute of walking, for example. Or just walk for one minute every time you get to a water station,’ says Weir.
During the event, if you’ve still got several miles to go and you’re struggling, break down the distance in your head. ‘Set Yourself small goals, such as getting to the next mile marker, to help yourself mentally,’ says Yamauchi.
REFUEL STRAIGHT AFTER
Stash your favourite snacks in your kit bag for when you finish. ‘I’d advise packing plenty of food in your bag so you can snack as soon as you reclaim your baggage,’ says McAndrew. ‘Even if you don’t feel like eating, it’s there for when you do want it. You might feel like heading to the nearest pub for a burger and pint, but if you can eat nutritious food and rehydrate well, it’s better for you than eating any old junk. And if you have a long journey home, you’ll be glad of it,’ she says. Here are some of McAndrew’s favourite post-run snacks.
• Banana and nuts
• Normal milk or a protein shake• Dark chocolate
• Mackerel in tomato sauce (with ring-pull top) and a couple of slices of brown bread
•so you can make a sandwich A tub of Greek yoghurt with wheat germ,berries and cinnamon – soothing on your digestion (don’t forget to pack a spoon!)
REVIEW YOUR PERFORMANCE
It’s not all about physically bouncing back after your event – you should reviewit. ‘Did you eat breakfast too late or set off too fast perhaps? Or maybe you got to the race early, which helped calm your nerves. Writing notes in a training diary can help you build up a picture of what works for you so you can improve,’ says Tom Graggs, coach with running with us.com.
LOOK AFTER YOUR LEGS
Your legs have been through a lot, so give them some attention and rest afterwards.‘Compression tights, ice baths, massage – I’ve used them all to help me recover after a marathon and in training,’ says Yamauchi. ‘Experiment to find what works for you. Have a rest day the day after your long run, to allow your muscle fibres to repair and rebuild. ‘How much rest you need after a marathon depends on how hard you ran the race, how tired you feel afterwards, and how well-prepared you were,’ she adds. ‘I’d say no running. Do light, non-weight bearing exercise only (such as swimming or cycling) for at least a week. Then you can start gentle running in small amounts and build up gradually.’
QUICK TIPS FROM MARATHONERS
readers and experienced runners share what they’ve learned over 26.2 miles
‘The best thing to prevent or protect blisters is the really cheap zinc oxide tape you can buy from chemists. Forget expensive blister plasters – they’ll just come off as you run. This tape is like a second skin – before a marathon, I tape any areas of my feet that I know I’m prone to blistering.’Jane Craigie-Payne, 44, from Kent Whenever you do a big race, save the space blanket they give you afterwards and keep it in your kit bag for next time. I use them on marathon day for sitting on before the start of a race, and wrapping around me to keep warm as I wait in the starting pens, instead of using an old top.’Heather Martingell, 51, from Middlesex It’s far easier for you to spot the spectator than vice versa. Find out which side of the road your spectators will be on, nearest which mile marker, and tell them to wear something bright. Then you just have to look out for your boyfriend on the left, at mile 16, in his red hoodie!’Ashleigh Ferris, 25, from Bristol.
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