• Helen Phillips

The Get-Ahead Guide to Marathon Training


We're in the middle of summer and spring marathons seem years away! But if you're planning to run your first marathon, London, Manchester or Brighton next spring now is the time to plan and prepare for your training, making the most of the long days to get out there and train. Leave it too late, once VLM ballot results are announced and come January you'll be playing catch up!

Your success with training for and running a marathon is really down to organisation and planning. So here is my Ultimate Guide to Preparing to Train for a Marathon to get you started.

1. Set a Finish Time Goal

Whether you're (relatively) new to distance running or a seasoned half or marathoner, it's important you have a goal so you can tailor your training towards achieving it.

If you've already run a marathon, you're probably looking to run Spring 2019 faster and achieve a PB, but if you're new to the distance it can be tricky to work out what a realistic and achievable target time might be.

A marathon is not 2 x 13.1 miles of effort. So if you're a 2 hour half finisher, unless you're training appropriately for a step change in performance, you're unlikely to finish in under 4 hours.

If you have a recent 10k or half time, plug it into a race time predictor to get an idea of your marathon finish time for a pretty good estimate of what you're likely to achieve.

2. Choose a Training Plan

There are loads of tried and tested training plans around. A good training plan should include a weekly long run, that progresses distance and time to peak at around 3 hours or 20 miles running, a speed session and hills to build strength and stamina in your legs, heart, lungs and mind.

Some plans include active recovery runs, others swear by non running rest days. Stick to the plan and don't try to outsmart it. The recovery and rest days are super important for your body to repair, recover and prepare. Ignore them and you risk over training and injury.

Having good quality rest days also means you can really push it in each of your training runs. Pushing outside or on the verge of your comfort zone is where the magic happens and your body starts to make adaptations to enable you to run faster, stronger and harder. Training tired, it's harder to puss, you risk running with poor form which could lead to injury.

I love running Parkruns on a Saturday morning and social runs with my running club. Unfortunately but when i'm training I have to sacrifice 'fun' running, or risk not recovering between hard workouts.

3. Schedule Time for Strength, Conditioning and Stretching

Runners like to run and we're notoriously bad at doing other types of exercise. But you need a strong body (not just strong legs) to get to and around a marathon course.

Now, before hard marathon training starts, is the best time to start to focus on strength and conditioning. Focus on legs, hips, glutes, your core and any weak areas in your body.

Learn how to stretch properly and invest in a foam roller for ironing out those sore tight niggles.

4. Start Fundraising Now

If you've secured a charity place, you should start fundraising now. By the time you get to spring all your efforts should be on training. Also, friends and family are usually surprisingly generous around Christmas. So plan your fundraising events now so you're not running around with a collection box in the spring when you should be training.

5. Invest in New Kit

Invest in new trainers now (so you can break them in training). Right now you'll need cooling lightweight summer kit and in a few months winter weather clothing, which should be made from 'technical' fabrics the wick away sweat from your body. If you're planning to train this winter after dark invest in a head torch, and you'll also need a good water bottle or bladder pack, hats and gloves for winter marathon training.

6. Get Your Nutrition Right Now!

It's notoriously difficult to lose weight training for a marathon. All that additional running can leave you 'rungry', and you risk eating 'all the food' which can be more calorific than the training you've completed that day!

So if you need to tune up your diet and lose a few pounds, now's the time to start ... and don't make the mistake of putting it all back on again on your holidays or during December festivities!

Marathon training you burn up a pile of calories, largely from glycogen stored in your muscles, you need protein for muscle repair and plenty of fruit and vegetables for essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep you fit and healthy.

Tuning up your diet now, means you could be well on your way to losing any excess weight before the new year when training starts, and a new balanced healthy diet will set you up for marathon training success.

I've pulled together Your Ultimate Marathon Preparation Guide, which is packed full of useful information to prepare you for the onslaught of marathon training. So if you're planning on running a Spring marathon why don't you download a copy now and set yourself up for success in the spring.

Click here for Your Ultimate Marathon Preparation Guide.