Marathon Training

A number of people in the club will be running marathons this year. The most popular ones with club members are:

  • Manchester
  • London (click here for a sample 14 week training plan)
  • Paris
  • Brighton
  • Edinburgh
  • Berlin

Our coaches have come up with a few hints and tips for those preparing or starting their training, with some links to useful resources.

1. Run your long runs slowly

When you do your long runs in training, you are preparing your body for running beyond its normal limits. For most people their body will have enough carbohydrate energy (glycogen) for about 14 miles. With carb loading before a race and taking on fuel during the race, this will add a few more miles, but not enough to get to the end.

Therefore you do the long runs, not only to build strength and stamina, but also to train your body to store glycogen (and burn fat). If you run your long runs too quickly your body will be burning this energy rather than conserving it. Finally running slower than race pace will have you on your feet for longer getting your body used to running for a longer period of time.

Aim to run long runs at least 45 seconds to 1 minute a mile slower than your target race pace. There is some good background material here

2. Run intervals / tempo runs once a week

Doing a speed session or hill session is not only great for improving your strength, fitness and VO2 max, it is also a good way to break up the monotony of the training.

Clapham Pioneers offers free interval sessions every week on a Tuesday, run by our England Athletics certified coaches.

3. Mix up your long runs

Let’s face it the long runs over a training period of 4 months can get quite tedious. There are some great routes in an around London, which will keep you interested. Your long runs should also match the profile of the race you are preparing for. If you are going to do a hilly marathon, you must do some hill runs. Even for flat marathon courses running a hillly long run will build strength and endurance. Here are a few ideas for some long runs:

Sydenham Hill (12 miles)

Hyde Park (14 miles)

Royal Parks (18 miles)

South to North (20 miles)

River to Richmond (22 miles)

Even better, try and get out to the countryside and do something different once or twice during the training.

4. Don’t run a half marathon race 2 weeks before the marathon

By all means put in a race or two over 13 miles as part of your training but give yourself plenty of time to recover before the big day. If you run a hard half marathon anything less than 3 or 4 weeks before the marathon itself you will be draining your energy.

Try a half marathon 6 or 7 weeks before the marathon to test your speed and fitness.

5. Listen to your body

During training twinges, aches and pains are inevitable. We would recommend the following:

  • After your longest run in training (either 20 or 22 miles) only run 12 the following weekend to help rest your body
  • If you are tired or have more serious niggles, then rest. Get advice from a physio but don’t run through the pain
  • Stretch after every run. Even 5 minutes each time will help
  • A cold bath (especially after the long runs) can help improve recovery. Try and stay in for at least 5 minutes

Try yoga or pilates to help your body to re-balance and recover during training but take it easy if you are new to them.

6. Be realistic about your target time

The best way to calculate your expected marathon time is to talk to other people who have run one especially if you have never run a marathon before.

Compare their times for other distances to your own and work it out from there. Many people take their half marathon time, double it and add 10 – 15 minutes but this is rarely accurate and in reality your marathon time is likely to be slower.

Try the online calculator at Runners World (though we think this is still a bit optimistic!)

7. Don’t necessarily run 60 miles a week

Many training plans for marathons will have you running 6 times a week and get up to 50 to 60 miles. If you have the time and inclination that’s fine but it’s perfectly possible to run a good marathon time with 3 – 4 runs a week. The secret to still getting a good time is:

  • Do interval training once a week
  • Try doing hilly long runs to build endurance (this will be especially effective if your race is relatively flat)
  • Cross train on one of your non-running days (swimming, spin class, weights sessions etc)

Search for ‘marathon training plans’ online and find one that suits you.