If you love a challenge, have an ambition to raise lots of money for charity, or you’re simply little bit mad, you may just be planning to run a marathon this year.
And, if it’s your first one, you’re going to need all the help you can get to make it through those gruelling 26.2 miles.
So, here are our top five training tips to get you race-ready and feeling fit for the big day.
1. Run a half before you go for the whole thing
Check to see if there is an organised half marathon you can sign up for, ideally about a month before your race. This is a chance for you to get a great mental boost as well as giving you a good benchmark as you start to taper runs, forcing you to rest either side. Because, crazy as it may seem, you may need this focus on your recovery days, fighting the temptation to just keep running! Try to run the half a little faster than your marathon goal pace to really set yourself up for the big one.
2. Copy the course
All organised marathons will release the course well in advance, so make sure you study it carefully. You don’t want any big surprises on the day! If it goes up and down a lot, make sure you get your hill training in, at the same time remember that flat courses can be just as tough, you’ll be using the same muscles for hours and hours of running. Both types will need specific preparation. If your usual running route doesn’t reflect the course at all you are going to have to be imaginative; up and down stairs, round a track or on a treadmill. Find a way. Your knees will thank you.
3. Carbs are your friend
You know all the pasta, potatoes, pizza and pies you’ve been avoiding for the past year while you’ve been hitting that fitness regime? Well, here is the reason we run marathons! Three days before the race you can enjoy all the carb-rich foods you’ve been denying yourself. Because it’s carbohydrates not protein that will fuel you on race day. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean you need to eat a whole lot more food, you will still need to watch your fat intake, but a plateful of pasta the night before is a nice treat and will calm those nerves! This goes for breakfast on the day as well. Two or three hours before the starting gun make sure you eat a carb-rich breakfast, because your body is going to need all that power to get you round.
4. Sodium will make all the difference
Use your long runs before the race to practice drinking as you run. Experiment with both sports drinks and energy gels to discover what works for you. You could always try and find out what drinks will be supplied on the day, and how long it is between stations if you want to be super prepared. You are going to need to replenish those electrolytes and ensure your sodium levels remain high.
Tom Hollis, Consultant Dietician at Supplicity says: “The risk of hyponatremia is hugely increased by endurance events like distance running. Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, confusion, headaches and vomiting are not exactly ideal for runners and the chronic impacts of hyponatremia can include kidney, liver or heart failure, all of which are serious risks to an athlete’s long-term health… If an athlete is sweating a lot, and thereby losing a great deal of sodium, a combination of salty foods or snacks and electrolyte-rich drinks may be preferable for keeping sodium levels up.”
5. See the finish line
Before you go to sleep in the nights leading up to the race visualise yourself crossing the finish line. Or imagine yourself running round the course, feeling strong and amazing. Sports psychologists will tell you that, to the human mind, there is no difference between an actual experience and an imagined one. So become a mentally strong athlete and train your brain, like an actor would rehearse his lines. You can do this!