Preparing for a Marathon

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The ballot for the 2019 London Marathon has now closed and if you’re one of the many people who have applied for a place, your attention will be turning towards your training plans should you be successful at securing your spot on the starting line.

Of course, there are alternatives closer to home including marathons right here in Perthshire. The Strathearn Marathon, Loch Rannoch Marathon and Highland Perthshire Marathon all take place in our very region and given the stunning scenery we are blessed with around these parts, I’d say they trump running past Westminster or Buckingham Palace any day.

And, if it’s one of the more local challenges that you fancy, your training will really need to get underway sooner rather than later.

Thankfully, we’ve put together some useful tips for preparing yourself for 26.2 gruelling miles. Whether you’re doing it for charity or just for your own personal sense of achievement, prepare yourself properly and you’ll make your chances of completing this monumental challenge a lot more likely.

Plan Your Training

Whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned professional when it comes to long-distance running, you need to plan your training programme accordingly.

Aim to run between three to five times per week for 16-20 weeks. Beginners should aim to cover 10 to 20 miles a week to start off with, gradually building up to a ‘peak week’ which should cover between 35 to 45 miles. More experienced runners can start at a higher number of miles. Experts don’t recommend completing the full marathon distance during training because they believe the risk of injury outweighs any potential benefits.

At least one of your runs each week should be a designated ‘long run’ – the distance of which should gradually increase week on week throughout your training programme. Your training plan should build towards at least one 18 to 20 mile run but no further than this. Experts don’t recommend completing the full marathon distance during training because they believe the risk of injury outweighs any potential benefits.

Finally, make sure that you never try anything new on race day. The best way to ensure this is to pick a couple of longer runs in the month or two before your big day and treat them as ‘mock marathons’ or dress rehearsals.

Wake up at race day time, eat and drink what you’ll consume before the race, and wear the clothing you plan to wear for your run. The dress rehearsals give you the chance to notice any potential pre-race problems and rectify them before you reach the start line.

Eating and Drinking

With training sorted, now you need to know how to fuel your body. Ideally, before you run you should eat a meal high in carbs and low in fibre, three to four hours before you start. That gives your body the best chance to fully digest and reduces the risk of any mid-run stomach issues.

We live busy lives so we know that might not always be possible. However, do try and leave at least one hour before your run for food. Eat 50g of carbs and add in a little bit of protein – a hard-boiled egg is a good choice for this – to help sustain energy levels.

During runs, you want to make sure you keep your blood sugar levels even and your energy levels high. Whether it’s training runs or the real deal, you should aim to consume between 30 to 60g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise. For best results, spread it out evenly (every twenty to twenty-five minutes ideally). You can consume this through real foods such as raisins and jelly babies, or through sports drinks or energy gels.

You need to work out what works best for you during exercise. Use the training runs to try different ways of managing your fuel intake so you know exactly what you need on race day.

Post-run, you want to eat something within an hour of finishing and it should be a mix of carbs and protein to aid recovery. Especially after the race, you should reward yourself with something nice – maybe even a juicy steak – to give your muscles the protein to recover.

Staying hydrated is also of paramount importance and even being just two-percent dehydrated can have a significant impact on your performance. Water is great but you can also supplement with sports drinks during longer runs which will replenish your sodium levels with carbs and electrolytes.

Other Tips

Try to incorporate other forms of training into your programme that are not just running based. Strength workouts in the gym, yoga classes and stretching will all benefit your body while preparing to tackle a marathon.

Sleep is another crucial aspect and making sure you get enough to recover properly after each day of training is crucial to getting yourself into the right shape for race day. Getting the right running shoes is possibly the most important thing you can do to prepare for the challenge of a marathon.

What you wear is also incredibly important and that’s not just so you look the part at the start line! Getting the right running shoes is possibly the most important thing you can do to prepare for the challenge of a marathon and getting expert advice on this is highly recommended.

Also be aware of chafing and wear clothing to protect against that. Things like Vaseline can help provide protection against this and trust me, speaking from experience, running long-distance without protecting yourself against this is not a pleasant experience!

So, there you have it, some tips to get you ready for your challenge. Whether you choose to tackle the iconic London Marathon, test yourself in one of the more local events, or even decide to complete one of the many great races abroad, if you prepare properly and train hard you’ll be able to accomplish 26.2 miles and come out smiling at the other side!

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