• Helen Phillips

10 Top Tips for Training for Your First Marathon


WOW You Want to Run a Marathon!

Running your first marathon is an amazing experience, one you’ll never forget, especially if you were never ‘the sporty kid at school’.

When you entered your race, or the ballot for London, I bet you felt top of the world. But how do you feel right now?

HEEEELLLLLPPPP!!! What the heck do I do now????

If you’re entered in one of the big spring marathons, London, Manchester, Paris or Brighton, then you’ve got around 50 weeks to train. Plenty of time to get fit, in shape and ready to run the race of your life.

To help get you on your way, I asked class of VLM18 newbie marathon runners what tips and advice they’d give to My-First-Marathon-20 runners to get them off to a storming start.

This blog is a summary of their 10 Top Tips for Training for Your First Marathon

Tip 1: Commit to Your Training

Committing to your marathon training is key to getting to the start line and having a brilliant race day experience. But be prepared for your marathon to take over your life … for 6 months!

“Be prepared for the marathon to take over your life physically, emotionally and mentally. If you aren’t our running then you’re thinking about running and planning your next run.”

You want to get to the start-line knowing you’ve done everything you can to get there and have a fantastic day.

“Plan getting there, plan your training, then just enjoy the day and soak it all up.”

If you're not a runner and you're starting from the couch, get yourself onto a C25K plan (that's 'couch to 5k' ... your first piece of runner jargon!)

Once you're comfortable running 5k you should progress to 10k and then, later this year, to a half! You want to feel confident and strong in your running by the end of the year so you can run strong for the 'final' 16 weeks training that'll take you to the race.

If you've been running a while, ran a few halves and fancy stepping up to the full, use the summer months to train properly for a half. Following a training plan for your half, rather than just winging it, you'll build up gradually to become a stronger runner that'll help when you get to training for your marathon next spring.

Tip 2: Don’t be a Slave to Your Training Plan

You've got plenty of time right now (to train for a spring 2020 marathon) and need to plan out how you're going to build up your running this year.

You need a plan, not just any plan. You need a plan that’s right for you, for your current fitness, running experience and marathon goals.

But running a marathon isn't all about running! If you're going to run for a charity you'll probably have a massive fundraising goal. As well as planning out your running plan your fundraising. Brainstorm events to hold and raise as much money as you can this year, before your marathon training starts in earnest next spring.

“Life happens, and it's usually more important than a training run.”

Twelve months is a long time to put your life on hold. There will be holidays, festivities and family celebrations. And when you start your 'marathon training' next year, you’ll be training through winter, so expect to catch a cold or minor flu at the minimum, which (in my experience) usually knocks you out for a few weeks.

But if you start early, you'll be building a great running base so won't be tempted to play catch up nearer the day .

Trust that if you do the majority of a training plan you WILL get round.

Tip 3: Find a training buddy

It can get lonesome training for a marathon on your own. Long runs, go on forever and it can be tempting to quit early if you’re feeling a tad tired and the weather is terrible.

If you're a running newbie find a club. Lots of running clubs across the country have C25K groups. So you'll start and build up your running with other runners at your level.

Then as your experience, distance and stamina increases, running with a friend, or family member can really help with motivation, to get out the door, commit to training and completing your runs.

Find running buddies that will run all or part of your long runs with you, or to act as an ‘accountability partner’ to keep you on track.

Tip 4: Run in All Weathers

Winter 2018 we trained in some bitter horrendous weather, then London marathon day it was a scorcher! You have no idea what the weather will be like on the day.

So when it’s raining get out there, if there's wind it'll be tough but it'll build your strength and if it's warm and sunny get used to running in the heat.

Tip 5: Do Some Strength & Conditioning Work

Training for a marathon is not all about running. You need a strong body, legs, hips, glutes and core to run well and with good form, and protect you from injury.

So make sure you include strength and conditioning work in your week, and make sure you stretch!

Tip 6: Rest Days and Sleep are Important for Training

You don’t get fitter and faster from just bashing out hard runs and workouts day after day. Rest and sleep is when your body recovers from the work you put it through. If you don’t take enough rest days and get enough sleep you’ll be putting yourself at risk of injury.

Getting to the start is so important. Rather than risk injury, if you have a niggle that won’t go away take a few extra rest days.

Remember rest days and sleep are all part of the training.

Tip 7: Record Your Progress

Document your journey, keeping a record of all your runs both the good and the bad right from the start. It’s great to look back and see how far you've come, especially when you're struggling with long training runs in horrendous weather next year.

Post your progress on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Strava). This helps you friends know what you’re up to and can be a great boost to promoting your fundraising too.

Talking of which …

Tip 8: Start Fundraising NOW

If you have a charity place, start fund raising NOW. Marathon fundraising targets are huge, so the sooner you start the sooner you’ll raise the cash you need.

A cake sale and a car boot are easy ways to kick it off!

Tip 9: Don’t Try Anything New on Race Day

You’ll hear this over and over again. Don’t try anything new on race day.

Use your long runs to practice your nutrition on your long runs and wear your ‘race’ running clothes on at least one long run to make sure it doesn’t chafe.

Practice eating on the run and find what food suits you both before and during your run, and practice drinking too.

Also try and do a couple of races for your long runs to get to experience what race day will feel like.

Tip 10: Ask for Advice and Share Your Worries

If you have a question ask it - there’s no stupid or too embarrassing question. There is a wealth of experience in the London Marathon Training & Support Facebook Group (click HERE to join). If you’re not already a member come on in, regardless of which marathon you’re running!

“Share your worries and experiences with this group. I learned so much on here and didn’t feel ‘lonely’ in the starting pen because I knew we were all there and feeling the same.”

Bonus Tip: Believe you can do it

Most importantly believe that you can do it. Mental strength is as important as physical strength, especially for us slower runners in the race.

Everyone has times when they have doubts about completing a marathon. Focus on and trust in your plan and the process of getting there, and just keep saying to yourself “I can”.

“It’s the training that matters! Race day should be enjoyed. Soak up the atmosphere of the crowd”

If you're training for a spring marathon and know you're going to need support along the way, why don't you come join Marathon Club Hub, my virtual coaching and preparation club for marathon first timers. Join us right now for a plan, plus all the advice, tricks and tips to succeed, PLUS Ask Me Anything coaching calls. Click HERE to join now.

Good luck with your training, have an incredible journey and see you at the finish line!

Helen x