Running a marathon is one of the toughest challenges that we can set for ourselves. It can take blood, sweat and tears to get through the gruelling 26.2 miles, but the feeling of euphoria as you finish makes this feat all worthwhile.
There are many reasons you might want to run a marathon; maybe you love the adrenaline of running or perhaps you want to raise money for a charity. No matter how fit you are, a solid training program should be in place.
With an impressive 14 marathons between them, our CEO and head of marketing have put their heads together to share their top tips when preparing for a marathon:
1. Don’t expect to run a full marathon on the first day of training.
Warning: the initial temptation to run as far you can as fast as you can will be strong. However, the general consensus is that you should build up your distances over a period of about six months. We know it’s hard - you’ve been eating your greens and watching back-to-back videos of Mo Farah and like any rookie runner you’ve convinced yourself you’re a pro athlete. BUT unless you are actually a pro athlete, don’t fall into this trap. One word: injury.
2. Listen to your body
Talking of injuries, the quickest and easiest way to sustain one is to ignore your body. If you think that the niggling twinge in your knee might benefit from a rest day, you’re probably right. We know it’s hard when you’re following a training plan, but ignoring the aches and pains does more harm than good. The older you get, the more you will relate to this one - you’re not 14 playing Wembley singles in the playground anymore. Looking after your body should always be a priority - you’ve only got one.
3. Run for a reason
Whether you’re running for a person, a charity or a personal health goal, knowing why you are doing it will make all the difference. A lot of people run the marathon for selfish reasons – and that’s okay. Doing it for the challenge itself, or to shift a few pounds are perfectly good reasons. Having a solid purpose will give you the discipline to get out of bed at 6am on those winter mornings to run a 10k.
Instead of using the power of visualisation to rehearse an argument over in your head, put it to better use by visualising your run. Simply imagine yourself crossing the finish line with a time that you’re proud of - then imagine that ice cold pint and epic portion of cheesy chips that you’re going to demolish afterwards. This is an amazing psychological hack, which can significantly improve performance.
Get ready for the paradox: although you feel more awake from all the exercise you’re doing, runners need more sleep than ordinary mere mortals. Recovery is crucial to marathon success and the best way to speed up the process is by getting enough sleep. It’s best to get all the rest you can get before the big day - aiming for 7-9 hours per night is a good guide.
6. Monitor your progress
The best way to monitor your distance and times is by downloading an app to your phone. Runmeter and MapMyRun are tried and tested favourites and can give you an accurate idea of how far and fast you’re running. Alternatively, if you really feel like pushing the boat out, a Fitbit might be for you. These little guys can tell you your heart rate and steps as well as tracking your distance. Any of these are great options if you want to monitor your progress and improve your times.
7. Mix up your routes
Running the same 5k route over and over gets boring pretty quickly. A great tip to get the most out of your marathon training is to be adventurous with your routes. Running can be a great way to explore a new area and enjoy some fantastic views. The best way to take advantage of this is to plan your route beforehand and remember to be brave. Sometimes getting lost on a run is the best way to inadvertently up your distance.
Don’t forget to eat enough before you embark on a long run. We’re not saying order a domino's and go into a food coma before a race, but a good amount of food and some coffee should see you through. Jonno recommends having a couple of coffees and a big bowl of fruity porridge to keep you going before a big run.
This year the Learning People are running the Berlin marathon on 24 September 2017. Our CEO, Pat and head of marketing, Jonno, will be running on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society – a charity that envisions a world without dementia.