Running a marathon is one of those landmark achievements that you can put on a CV, or tell anyone you meet and get an impressed response. Forty two kilometres is a long way in anyone’s books and it’s something that many of us aspire to achieve. It is a mark of fitness, but also a mark of perseverance and it’s something that only the fittest can achieve. In fact performing a marathon is actually quite taxing for your body to the point where it is quite damaging and not recommended as a regular practice. So how do you get yourself to that level of fitness that would enable you to make that claim?
The best way to train for anything is to practice it. As they say – practice makes perfect. If you practice running this will improve your technique, your CV fitness levels, your running speed and more. However it’s very important not to just launch yourself straight into the marathon as this can be far too much strain on your body to begin with.
Instead, come up with a routine for how often you want to go running – just as you would make a gym routine to get stronger. This can mean you practice running two times a week, or three times a week, so long as it is regular and leaves you lots of time to recover (your muscles will need to repair the microtears inflicted on them from running and your joints and bones will likewise need to heal). Make sure you space the sessions apart as much as possible in the week.
Now you need to go running at that time and set yourself a target each time you do. Make sure your target is something that you can achieve fairly easily – say five kilometres. Do this for the week or two until it feels comfortable and then next week increase it to ten (you’ll want to have at least a few months before the marathon so you can gradually increase your target by five kilometres each time). When you aren’t increasing your distance, try and beat your previous times.
Eventually you will reach roughly half of the distance and should be able to perform this relatively easily. However don’t go to more than half a marathon as you will begin to damage joints.
During this time, eat a diet that is high in both protein and carbohydrates. If you are overweight then you should let yourself lose the weight before you increase your carb intake too much as a lot of extra weight will make it difficult to run. If you are at a good weight though, keep eating lots of carbs to supply your body with the energy it needs to keep running. At the same time you should eat lots of protein as this will supply your body with the building blocks it needs to repair and strengthen your muscle and other tissue.
Indoors or Outdoors
If it is raining outside or you have bad joints, then practising indoors on a treadmill will be a find way to practice for the marathon. However if you can practice outside then this will be a lot more beneficial – as the terrain changes gradient and texture this can train the smaller muscles in your legs more, and as you will be running in the cold this will train your body’s ability to extract oxygen from the air and improve you ‘VO2 Max’. Essentially, the marathon will be outdoors so you should train outdoors.
The Build Up to the Race
In the build up to the marathon give yourself two weeks. Now run two thirds of the distance which will give your body and your mind a good ‘taste’ of what it will be like. Now let yourself rest and recover and eat lots of carbs and protein ready for the race itself. On the day, make sure you are well hydrated and eat a large meal of carbs before the race – making sure though that you leave enough time for it all to go down.
Things That Can Help
Tailor made running shoes: These will work with your gait and will prevent things like shin splints during training (which can set you back drastically).
Knee/ankle supports: If you have problems in these areas.
Distance counter: There are many gadgets that can measure the distance you run. Some of these will attach to your shoes and others will work via the GPS on your phone. Some work by letting you plot a route while others work by counting your foot strides. Either way, something along these lines is crucial for saving time when choosing a route and how far you are going to run.
Timer: This will be useful for allowing you to try and beat your time and for measuring your progress.
Drinks bottle: A good drinks bottle with an isotonic sports drink is important to keep you hydrated and nourished around your runs. The best ones will come with an in-built handle so you can hold it while you run.