There are around 7 months to go until the London Marathon, and people everywhere are strapping their trainers on and beginning their running preparation. The Marathon is a significant life event and challenge that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Getting started is often the hardest step, especially if you’ve never done a marathon before. But you’re not alone, and everyone begins somewhere. To help find your feet, take a look at my preparation advice below that ensure you’re training safely and effectively. I’ll be going into some of these points in more detail in later blogs, so keep your eyes peeled!
London Marathon initial preparation
Get a health check: The London Marathon is an endurance event and involves a lot of effort and potential strain on your body. You need to make sure you’re able to do it safely. Therefore, before starting any training you must see your doctor and get the all-clear.
If you do have health considerations, you shouldn’t necessarily let it stop you but you might need to make alterations to your training. If this is the case, it’s worth consulting a professional like a personal trainer to keep you safe.
Preparation is key: Don’t go into your Marathon training without a plan. It’s a long time to train and having a plan will help you get into a routine, make progress, and decreases the risk of you missing training sessions.
That goes hand-in-hand with consistency. Persistence equals progress, and it’s not about how quickly you start, but how much you achieve over time. Build a routine and your training will quickly become a habit.
Understand your limits: This is where ego should take a back seat. Your experience level will determine your training and how much you can achieve safely. If you’re a beginner, you’ll need a different schedule to an avid runner.
Get the right gear: If you don’t have a good pair of supportive running trainers, now is the time to invest in them. Go to a specialist running store to get a pair, because they differ according to the type of runs you do and your running style. It’s worth getting a pair of gym trainers as well, ones which are versatile enough to do lots of different training – from functional to circuits, weights and bootcamp.
Apart from that, other equipment to consider include fitness clothing, specifically running jackets when training outdoors and a belt that can hold your keys and other valuables. Get a good quality water bottle. Armbands and weight gloves as well. Build up your collection over a few months and shop around for items like weight gloves, so you’re not spending too much initially.
During your training preparation
Get a routine: A routine will help you stay on track and will build your pace and stamina more quickly than ad-hoc training. It should fit in with your lifestyle and work/life balance – so if you run better in the morning, schedule in the majority of your training then.
If you like to spend weekends with your family, then avoid lengthy and time-consuming runs and instead do shorter training. You could also use those times to vary your routine with some family fitness activities.
Pay attention to your diet: You can’t expect a car to drive 26 miles without fuel. The same goes for your body. Diet is everything and if you’re fuelling your body with beer and burgers, you won’t make it very far. Instead, stick to balanced meals with plenty of protein and vegetables. Try to get something in you within 30 minutes of any physical activity – if it’s not practical to have a meal or snack, then I recommend my clients have a teaspoon of high-quality honey right after training.
Include a cheat meal once during the week to treat yourself and keep yourself going. You’re more likely to stick with your healthy meal plan if you know there’s a pizza waiting for you on Friday!
If you’re beginning, consider consulting a nutritionist or personal trainer to work on a meal plan for you. Don’t be tempted to cut calories for weight loss at this point – your body needs everything that it can get. Weight loss and toning will come with your training in any case.
Condition your body: Your plan shouldn’t just include runs but also exercise that will train your entire body. Mo Farah’s coach Alberto Salazr understands the importance of cross-training, saying that, “Good runners condition their whole bodies. The arms drive the legs. Keep your upper body and core toned with a lot of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and back raises….”
Injuries might happen: 7 months is a long time to train and sometimes an injury might occur. If you do get injured, don’t beat yourself up too much about it. Try to do what you can, but if you cannot train then focus on your recovery and pick up your training again once fully fit and healthy. It’s worth getting help if you do pick up an injury – especially if you have recurring sprains or twisted ankles because your running technique might need altering.
Breaks are essential: Your training period is likely to include holidays, family occasions and of course, Christmas. Don’t feel like you have to keep to your meal plan or an intense training routine during these times. Everyone needs a break occasionally and it’ll help you remain consistent in the long run.
Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and a NYC Marathon winner explains, “If you miss a workout, don’t feel guilty. We’re all human. Just start again as soon as possible. If you miss many days, you may need to start again at a gradual pace.”
Partner up: It can help to have someone there to hold you accountable and keep you going. Find a running buddy who can join you for part or all of your training – even better if they’re planning to do the Marathon with you! Alternatively, a personal trainer will become your own personal cheerleader throughout your training, keeping you on track and making sure you’re putting in the optimum effort for your body.
Listen to your body: This is crucial. You need to be in tune with your body to avoid injury and overtaxing it. If you wake up one morning feeling completely drained and unable to do your morning run, don’t do it. It’s your body telling you it needs more recovery time. If you constantly feel sluggish, look at your diet or training schedule. This is where having a professional coach or personal trainer can really help, because they’re a phone call away and can help you make the essential alterations to your routine.
Edna Kiplagat, London Marathon champion and two-time world champion explains, “While it’s important to have a training programme, you must also listen to your body and make adjustments if you are very tired or worried you are about to become injured.”
Get your head in the game: Your mind really affects your body. Work on your mindset for the long haul and understand that it’s not always a race to the finish. The journey matters too.
So enjoy your training, challenge your body, and remember the important reasons behind you signing up for the London Marathon in the first place.