marathon running

Marathon training 101

Wednesday, 20 March 2013
My first race was Run to the Beat half marathon in 2010. I loved it but said that I will NEVER run a full marathon.  I guess the saying "Never say never" is very true!

My first race was Run to the Beat half marathon in 2010. I loved it but said that I will NEVER run a full marathon. I guess the saying “Never say never” is very true!

There are 18 days left until my first marathon. I’m not panicking. Yet :) When I started logging my miles and increasing the weekend long run in January, my main goal was to get to the longest run without any injuries and with some joy of running still left in my bones.

Now that the longest run is behind me, what have I learned about marathon training? What are the things that I didn’t know at Christmas?  Here’s my list, in totally random order, of everything marathon training related that popped into my head:

  • The main component of marathon training is to increase the long run little by little every week, but every 3rd or 4th week to scale the long run back again to 20-25km.
  • Niggles with joints/muscles, etc. start after week 5 or 6. Take care of them (stretch, take time out, see a physio), don’t push through the pain.
  • Regular sports massages from week 6 onwards are essential. Schedule them for your rest days or after exercising – don’t exercise after the massage.
  • If you do weight training, keep it up but don’t max out on the weights – you don’t want to be totally sore on the days you need to run and you don’t need to risk any weight training injuries while running is your main focus.
  • If you don’t do any weight training, incorporate some simple things into your evening routine that will benefit you greatly: planks for strong core, squats and lunges for strong quads, hamstrings and glutes.
  • Even if you like running on your own, runs over 2 hours can get a bit lonely so see if you can find a running buddy.
  • Wear compression socks when running and travel socks when not running – they make sure that blood flows through your calves and doesn’t get stuck there – less chance of tight or sore calves/shins that way.
  • Ice on legs after long runs might speed up the muscle recovery. I hate anything freezing so after long runs I just let the coldest water flow on my legs for 5 minutes and then switch to a warm shower.
  • Know where the toilets are on your long runs. Even if you don’t ever have to use one, knowing where they are gives you the peace of mind.
  • Twitter is awesome for encouragement and advice. Lots of people are training for marathons at the moment and it’s great to read about everyone’s training efforts / mishaps / injuries and get advice about niggles that pop up or suggestions for gels or clothing to try.
  • Have something with protein right after runs for muscle recovery. Chocolate doesn’t count :)
  • Do a short run (8-10km) on the days after your long run – it aids recovery. Rest day can be the day after that.
  • Test your marathon kit on long runs – clothes, shoes, Camelbak, etc.
  • Test you marathon nutrition on long runs – I found out quickly that dates will not work but energy gels will probably be ok.
  • The night after your long run you might be so overtired that you can’t fall asleep – try to have a little nap in the afternoon so that you’re not totally wired by the evening (I haven’t managed to do that yet but if you don’t have kids and can – go for it!)
  • Listen to your body – take an extra rest day if your legs just won’t carry you on as fast and as enjoyably as they should. Take an extra rest day if you have a cold. Don’t skip your long run but short ones are ok to forgo if necessary.
  • Unless you have a very specific training plan written up by a professional coach and know what fartlek and interval training is – just make sure that you run your short runs fast and your long runs slow. (As for me – fartlek makes me want to throw up so I count on Crossfit to be the component in my training where my muscles learn to speed up and slow down and speed up again)
  • When you feel bored/tired/slow during the last 3km of your 30+km runs and wonder why on Earth you are doing this – think about how far you’ve come (both literally and not), think about how few people find the strength within to run a marathon and feel proud of yourself!

What have I missed? What have you learned about running and/or marathon training?

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  • Steve Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 10:37

    Wish you’d written this so I could have read it in January when I was knocking out 5 runs a week as part of my prep for VLM! The niggles certainly started in weeks 5-6 and I ended up with a suspected stress fracture! I also think my long runs might have been a touch too fast, one of the downsides of occasional runs with a big group I think. Anyway, I’ve just returned after a 6 week break doing 5 minute run/walk sessions in the mud. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things so hopefully you’ll love your first 26.2!

  • MuMuGB Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 10:23

    You deserve a medal for being so disciplined! Honestly, I don’t think that I could do it.
    MuMuGB recently posted…Stuck In The PastMy Profile

    • MrsB Tuesday, 26 March 2013 at 12:22

      Do you mean the food or the running? :) The thing is that I don’t think of either one as a matter of discipline – I love to run so I do it and I love the way clean eating makes me feel so I do it! (I do have days where I pig out on bagels but I guess that’s where I exercise discipline before a race – I only let myself have these days if there are no races in sight)
      MrsB recently posted…Marathon training: Week 9 – Only two weeks to go!!!My Profile

  • fortnightflo Wednesday, 20 March 2013 at 21:00

    Brilliant advice – wish I had it before I did London last year which took me 6 hours (boo). I’ll definitely refer back to this if(when) I do my next one. Well done on your training – just the taper to enjoy now!
    fortnightflo recently posted…A run cut short…My Profile

  • Bari Wednesday, 20 March 2013 at 14:56

    Awesome list there! I also said I’d never run a full and I ran one last year. I won’t say never again, but it’s close.

    I’d add hand sanitizer to your list for the 3 weeks leading up to the race :)
    Bari recently posted…Weigh-In Wednesday: 10 pounds goneMy Profile