It’s the time of year when runners hit overdrive as they prepare for the ultimate running challenge – the marathon.
One of the most famous of them all, the London Marathon takes place on 28 April. Thousands of people will take to the streets of the capital to run the 26.2 miles. But the next few months will also see runners pushing themselves towards the finish line in marathon events across the country and further afield.
If you have a marathon in your sights then you will have been training and preparing for several months now. But here are just a few helpful pointers to help you either refine your preparations for this event or fine tune your training ready for your next endeavour.
Think about nutrition
It’s not just about what you pack into your bag for your pre-run meal or your mid-race refuel. You need to be eating well during the months you are training for the event. A study by researchers at Aalborg University in Denmark found that marathon runners – from elite athletes to leisure runners – who ate a diet consisting of fresh, unprocessed products improved upon their running times, by as much as up to 10 minutes.
And once the race is finished, don’t run to the nearest fast-food outlet. What you eat during the recovery stage is equally important. Fill up on carbohydrates after the race to replenish the energy you have used. Also, take on board protein-packed fuel to speed the repair of tired muscle fibres.
Cross training is the way to a great marathon time
When you are training for a marathon, make sure you concentrate on preparing the whole body. Yes, it is your legs that will help you cross the finish line but you need the support of the rest of your body too. Your core is particularly important as it is a strong source of power and stability for your legs and arms. If you have built a good cross training mix into your workouts then you won’t tire as quickly on the day and you will also be preventing injuries.
Recovery, recovery, recovery
After tough training sessions, you want your body to recover as quickly as possible. Your hamstrings, quads and calves are likely to be tight and prone to injury so spending time on recovery is vital. Saunas or warm baths, stretching and yoga will all help you avoid tight IT bands, sore calves and painful hamstrings.
Train for mental toughness
To complete a marathon you will need more than a strong core and powerful legs. Mentally a marathon is very, very tough. From the highs of the starting pistol and first few miles to the panic when you realise just how far there still is to go. From the negative thoughts and general disillusionment with running to the sudden realisation that the finish line is just ahead. A marathon can be a rollercoaster of emotions, so you must give some thought as to how you will cope with each phase of the race.
Tapering for the race
As race day approaches you must be prepared to take a rest before a race. There is no point, or need, to train hard in the seven days before a marathon. You have spent the past few months training, now is the time to let your body relax.
Of course, this doesn’t mean stopping completely. In the last week just do a couple of light runs with plenty of stretching afterwards. Certainly don’t do any exercises or activities you haven’t done many times before. As legendary marathon man Ted Corbitt said: “If you can’t run as fast as you want to, you haven’t rested enough.”