Wow… when you put it in numbers, the training actually sounds scarier than the race.
But, being completely honest, that’s about what you can expect from a marathon training regime.
It’s proper-mega-well-full-on, and then some.
It makes you suffer; you regret every late night, every hangover, every fast-food-binge; because, when you wake up on a training day, you have to haul your sorry self up and face the distance regardless.
Not that I want to put you off, or anything.
So, with such a significant amount of training on the cards, you have to be kind to yourself and give yourself the best preparation possible. It’s going to be tough, but you can make it manageable with the right steps (ha, geddit?).
Getting the right trainers is absolutely vital. It takes time to get the right pair, depending on how you run and what shape your feet are. I absolutely recommend speaking to a specialist shop like Sweat Shop where you can get a gait analysis done. Even then, you need to try a few pairs out. Most shops will give you 30 days no-fuss return, so take them out as soon as you buy them and do a few short runs in them.
All trainers will feel odd and slightly uncomfortable at first and your feet do adapt. Expect a blister or a little cramp in the arches of your feet, but if you’re in a lot of pain (particularly in your knees or hips) then maybe they’re not right for your gait and you should take them back and try some others.
Personally, I love Asics. I ran over 1,000 miles in my last pair until they fell to pieces. My current pair is from the Nimbus range.
It gets cold in the winter so it’s well worth getting yourself some running leggings. Yes, boys, that goes for you too. Get yourself some man-tights, you’ll thank me when it starts raining and it’s -3C.
Lightweight running gloves are another easy win as well, and a warm hat that covers your ears.
Decathlon is a fantastic place for running clothes – cheap, cheerful, lots of brands and always plenty of stock in all sizes.
Sites like RunKeeper let you sign up for free virtual training programmes with detailed outlines of how far to run each day. There’s also a smartphone app that integrates with GPS so you can track where you’ve been and the app’ll tell you via your headphones what your pace is and how far you’ve travelled.
Really could not be easier – just sign up, download, and you’re on your way!
I totally recommend getting a water-pack, one of those lightweight rucksacks with a plastic reservoir inside connected to a drinking tube. If you’re out running for 2, 3, 4 hours at a stretch then they let you carry enough water in a balanced way – holding a water bottle knocks your stride a little off balance and over several miles you can end up straining yourself.
Also you can chuck your keys, wallet and maybe a light snack in there. No-brainer!
People recommend a lot of low calorie, vitamin-rich food when you’re leading an active lifestyle. I’m not knocking salads for one minute but marathon training is hungry work so DO NOT STARVE YOURSELF.
Get plenty of protein and a mix of raw and cooked vegetables. Don’t go mad on stodgy foods like potatoes, bread, or anything with high sugar like sweets, cereals or even fruits. Too much carbohydrate from any of these sources will affect your body’s ability to release energy so you’ll get partway through your run and feel absolutely dead.
A lot of people think they’re unfit because they feel this way when they exercise – I’m convinced that being overloaded with carbs has to take some of the blame for that feeling. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, there’s an excellent discussion of our dietary needs as dictated by our physiological evolution on this blog.
This is more important than you think. Get enough fibre and sort your rhythm out – there’s nothing worse then feeling all bloated when you’re out on a long run so eat prunes, bran, even some fibre supplements like Fybogel.
To be clear, I’ll spell it out: poo *before* your run. Not after. Certainly not during.
I know a girl who thinks of ghosts
She’ll make ya breakfast
She’ll make ya toast
She don’t use butter
She don’t use cheese
She don’t use jelly
Or any of these
She uses vaseline
– The Flaming Lips
Ahem. Yes. Vaseline. The greasy stuff you put on your chapped lips.
Always carry a little tin of it with you when you’re out running. If you feel a chafing happening then slap some on quickly. I’m not kidding here – whack it on your nips, down your pants or between your legs if they’re feeling sore. Getting raw skin or even an abrasion is so painful and it can stop you running for a while as you wait for it to heal.
It happened recently to a friend of mine – don’t let it happen to you!
Sleep and Recovery
It’s really important to rest yourself properly so get an early night before a long training run and be sure to recover properly afterwards. I really recommend a recovery drink like PhD 2:1 Recovery, which contains barley carbohydrates to replace your muscles’ stores of glycogen, the body’s short-term energy store.
Drinking a recovery drink really helps your body adapt to training 3/4 times per week so invest in some and keep it in the boot of your car with a shaker cup.
Booze and fags
You can train-for and complete a marathon as a smoker and regular drinker but it’s amazing what a difference you’ll feel in your energy levels if you reduce your intake or even temporarily give up these sweet, delicious vices. I personally love a whisky but not the night before a long run as it does take the wind out of your sails.
Even if you wake up without a hangover, just a couple of drinks is enough to kick your body into toxic-recovery mode and it really does take the edge off your game.
So that about wraps it. Personally, I think every able-bodied individual could run a marathon (hell, plenty of disabled people are up to it). It takes time, patience and perseverance. But preparation is key.
As my chemistry teacher always said in high-school: Proper Planning Prevents P***-Poor Performance.
If you’re still wondering whether a marathon is for you… well, there’s only one way to find out 😉