• Helen Phillips

5 Training Essentials for a Successful Marathon or Half


​If you're running a marathon or half next spring once you've found yourself a good training plan, that fits with your lifestyle, the time you have available for training, your current fitness level and your race day goals ... you're good to go!

Follow and trust in the plan and you'll get to race day fit and ready to run!

Take a look at your plan. There will be a weekly long run, as well as speed work, maybe hill training, easy runs and rest days.

To find out more about each of these types of run, check out 5 Training Essentials for a Successful Marathon or Half.

1. The Long Run

All marathon and half training plans will include a weekly long run, that progresses distance and time to peak at around 3 hours or 20 miles running (for a marathon), and might go to 13 or even 15 miles for a half.

The objective of the long run is to make physiological adaptations in your body so that you are more able to burn fat as fuel

To do this long runs should be run at about 50% effort, which is the pace you could hold a conversation, not run at race pace! This can feel hard, slow and frustrating, but it's an important pace to get right if you're going to be working in that all important fat burning zone.

Novice marathon runners are often concerned that their plan only goes up to 20 miles or 3 hours maximum of running.

How come I don't get to run 26 miles?

There's a good reason, it takes a long time to recover from running 26 miles and you get no physiological benefit from a super long run in marathon training. Trust in your plan and trust experienced runners, who will all confirm come race day you'll make it round!

2. Speed Work

Your marathon training plan will probably include faster tempo and threshold runs and might also include intervals. It's important not to ignore these runs and think running a marathon is all about distance and time on feet.

Speed work is important to build your overall aerobic capacity, speed and endurance

Tempo and threshold runs are run at 70 or 80% effort and will feel uncomfortable the first few times you run at this pace. You'll feel your heart, lungs and legs feeling strained and I bet your brain will want you to stop! Make sure you're holding the effort for the duration of the run, relax and go with it.

A marathon training programme won't generally include a lot of interval training. But if yours does, make sure you bash out your intervals at a fast pace, one that you can maintain for the full time period of each interval. An interval session will be short and sharp and work on your aerobic capacity, to push out your lactic threshold. Don't be fooled by interval training being a short workout. Intervals will hurt! But like thresholds, this is where the magic happens.

For your speed work sessions learn to regulate your breathing and breath deep from your diaphragm. Focus on maintaining good running form throughout the interval or threshold period, and tell you brain to "go do one" when it tells you to stop!

These runs will really work you and are so important to build your strength, endurance and aerobic capacity

Make sure you take a well deserved rest afterwards so you can give your next training session max effort too!

3. Hill Training

Everyone loves a good hill ... don't they? Running up, and down hills is demanding on your body, but well worth it!

Hills will build strength in your running

Find a hill that's about 5 - 10% gradient and long enough for you to run up for at least 1 minute. Your programme might start you running up the hill and then walk down and progress to running both up and down.

The most important thing to remember when running up or down a hill is running with good form

Run up a hill with shorter strides, some people find running on their "toes" makes hill running easier. Also, be careful about running down hill. It puts more pressure on your body than running up hill.

4. Schedule Time for Strength, Conditioning and Stretching

Runners like to run and we're notoriously bad at doing other types of exercise.

You need a strong body (not just strong legs) to get to and around a half or marathon course

Make sure you schedule in some strength and conditioning work. Focus on legs, hips, glutes, your core and any weak areas in your body.

Also, learn how to stretch out your tired muscles properly and invest in a foam roller for ironing out those sore tight niggles.

5. Schedule Time for Rest and Recovery

Rest days are a critical part of any marathon or half training plan. Some plans include active recovery runs, and other runners swear by non running rest days.

Stick to your 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 push and you risk running with poor form which could lead to injury.​

If you're running a spring marathon and would like some Cheesecake Runner tips for getting prepared this autumn, download my FREE Marathon Preparation Guide. Click HERE to download the guide NOW.