Thursday, 4 January 2018

How to run a marathon

My brother told me recently he was running the London marathon. I'll be honest: I was gutted! I've been trying to get in for years and consider myself the runner of the family so to be beaten to the London start line by Jon was, well pretty annoying! But then I found out he is running for Crohn's & Colitis. My nephew battled some pretty grim things when he was younger and the research that C&C do as well as the support they offered my brother's family was pretty amazing.

Like most people Jon's plan was start training the first week of January. Well January is here people! If you're training for your first marathon it's totally possible to start now and run at the end of April but you do need to start now.

Berlin marathon 2017

Plans
So first and foremost you need to get a good training plan and I've got three suggestions:

1. Nike+ Training App
The Nike training app is really good - it takes your specific info (like when the London marathon is) and builds you a custom plan - and it's all free. You can also 'go for runs' through the App with the likes of Mo Farah. Great inspiration!

2. Non-Runners Marathon Trainer
When I signed up for my first marathon 7 years a go, I couldn't run even round the block! I got this book recommended to me and it got me through that first marathon - it looks at everything from training to psychology, helps you set realistic goals and makes you write everything down which is pretty vital as a form of accountability with yourself.

3. London Marathon guides
The London Marathon have a series of 17 week long training plans it calls 'No nonsense guides'. My amazing colleague Louisa used the beginner one last year to get her to the finish line of her first marathon. They're clear, simple and well put together. The beginners one is here and the others are here.

How to get motivated
I firmly believe that one of the best things you can do is arrange to go running with other people. This way someone else is checking you made it and you'll get the fun of being out with a group even if you don't necessarily enjoy your run! Whether that is your friend cycling along side you once a month on a long run (my Dad did this for me when I was starting out) or being part of a running club it makes all the difference.

Local running clubs often have friendly new runners groups you can join. Parkrun is INCREDIBLE. Or see my blog post on a guide to free running clubs.

Kent Costal Marathon 2017

Should I do things other than just running?
Yes. If you want to reduce your chance of injury then definitely.

Strength and Conditioning
Truthfully when I did my first marathon I did pretty much nothing else than run. But I got really injured too! Now I do strength and conditioning once a week (should be twice but hey ho) and I try and swim once a week plus I cycle about 50km a week. All that hard work meant I ran 2 marathons in 6 weeks in Sep/Oct including Running sub-4 in Berlin. And I haven’t been injured this year!

It’s a bit cheesy but I really recommend Casey Ho’s videos on YouTube - she has a challenge you can sign up for for January that’s all about core work - it’s reaaaaaally hard work but it’s designed for beginners and tells you what to do. If you can commit to doing it every day in January you’ll be so strong come February. I did the January challenge last year to launch my Ironman training and it worked a treat.

What about my diet?
Eating better and getting your diet right is really helpful. I’m a lot lighter than when I ran my first marathon and I swear it’s made such a difference. Studies have shown time and time again that if you're overweight and you lose weight you have the potential to really see a difference in your speed.

What's your ideal weight? Runners World

I’d really recommend trying to eat well. Focus on eating some protein after you run. You’ll also need to look at proper nutrition while running over 15km. This means normally entering the scary world of energy gels. I'd really recommend Science in Sport's range. They have a nutrition calculator online that helps you work out how much you need to take on.  But you need to practice. And research. And find out what works for you.

I love SIS Re:Go for easy recovery after a hard run

And of course: Stretching
It’s dull but vital. Stretch after you run. Hold everything for 30 seconds. Take it seriously. There are loads of guides online: this one from Runners World is pretty good.

I also use a foam roller and have sports massages. I've struggled for many years with back problems and both these things have really helped. Foam rollering is cheap and can relieve a tight niggle post-run but it does take some getting used to!


Finally
To encourage you: I ran my first marathon in Edinburgh 7 years a go when I was overweight and went from not being able to run for the bus to crossing the finish line. If I back then can do it, then anyone can do it. You just need a training plan and to commit to the training a bit. You'll be great!

Got any questions about running your first marathon? Comment below!


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