• Helen Phillips

Tell me about training for my first marathon


“I have no idea if this plan is right” is something I’m hear a lot.

“I don’t know how to start ... how am I ever going to run further than 1 mile/10k/a half ... Relax, it's ages away, I'll just train next year!”

I get so many messages from new marathoners confused and bewildered by how to start running and mass of advice and plethora of marathon plans they’ve found on the net.

Is that you?

Have you got a plan for how you're going to build up your running this year? How will you find a marathon training plan that's right for you? Or will you grab the nearest, and free-est and give it a go … Chucking it out after a couple of weeks because it’s either too hard, too involved or getting you running too slow.

Steadily building up your running and doing the right training for you, your experience, your current fitness and your current busyness and life, is so important for marathon training. If you don’t have a plan, have a plan that's not right for you or don't trust your plan you’re likely to throw it out and do your own thing.

Winging it wont work!

If you feel the same way, take a deep breath … then exhale … and read on for my Tell Me About Marathon Training Tips.

What does a great Marathon Training Plan looks like?

A lot new runners think training for a marathon is about running for miles and miles, day in day out until race day comes around ... and if you start right now, and increase by a just half a mile each week ... you'll get there!!!

You could prepare to run that way, but I don't know anyone who has ... and it’s not the most efficient or effective way to get yourself marathon running ready!

Yes, you need to build up your ability to run a long distance, but there’s more to it than that. You also need to build your ‘running efficiency*’, build your body to become a better fat burner and learn how to manage your mind that’ll play tricks with you after mile 20 on the day.

* I apologise to running nerds for not using technical terms, like lactate threshold and VO2 max … there are thousands of blogs with more data detail you can read if that’s your thing.

Speedy runs in marathon training

Running a marathon is hard, so let’s not waste any effort running the race!

One way you can improve the efficiency of your running is by including speedy runs, like intervals, threshold or tempo runs in your training.

Speedy training improves the body’s efficiency in using oxygen as well as glycogen (your body stores carbohydrate as glycogen, ready to be used to power your running), which is important in the latter stages of a marathon, when your glycogen reserves are low.

Speed work is tough and if you’re doing an extended ‘speed’ session then you need to learn to pace yourself, so you don’t give up towards the end of your running.

Learning to not start off too quick and pacing yourself in your speed workouts or running a fast 5k run will stand you in good stead running your marathon, where going out too fast can lead to suffering in the latter part of the race.

Speed work is also mentally hard work.

You’ve probably heard that running a marathon is part physical and part mental, and you need a strong mind to be able to push through towards the finish when running gets hard.

Rather than running endless super long runs in training, you can ‘train your brain’ running fast instead. So use your faster runs to work out how you’ll respond to the “I just want to stop now” message that will come your way at some point during marathon day.

Become a better fat burner

Running a marathon you’ll be using both fat and carbohydrate to fuel your running. Whilst your body has enough fat to run countless marathons it can only store enough carbohydrate to fuel about 90 minutes of running, so you’re going to need to call upon your fat reserves to power you around on race day.

The good news is that you can train your body to be a more efficient fat burner, by running your long runs SLOW.

When you run you use both fat and carbohydrate as fuels. When you run fast (and if you run your long runs ‘fast’) you will be burning a greater proportion of carbohydrate, than if you run slow.

By running your long runs SLOW you can train your body to become a better, more efficient fat burner, that will really help you manage your energy reserves on race day. Running your long runs too fast you won’t make the same super-fat-burner physiological adaptations and could pay for it on race day!

If you’re looking for a marathon training plan with information and advice on why, when and how to run each of your marathon training workouts, plus advice on how to eat right for your marathon training, strength & conditioning workouts for running and tips and advice to get ready and prepared for race day check out Marathon Club Hub, my Marathon Plan PLUS that’s perfect for beginners.

You get all the training and advice you need, PLUS support from me in regular Ask Me Anything calls. Marathon Club Hub has just reopened for 2020 training. So if you're planning on running next spring it's the perfect time to join!

Run Happy folks!

Helen x