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Marathon training tips

Updated on April 21, 2013

Running your first marathon is all about remaining positive. It is more a game of mind over body. Here are quick marathon training tips to get you started

Secrets to long distance running

Typically our bodies work in a weekly biological cycle, and it is important how much distance you run per week and not per day basis. So if you are running a full 42 km marathon, you need to run 42 km per week for about 4-6 months before your marathon

First marathon

First marathon is always special, it is an adventure, it is true test of your character how you keep up and motivate yourself. It always helps to get along with a group of runners, as it is a long journey as you train and as you run your first race

Goal for first marathon should be "to complete the marathon", it is test of how long you run and not how fast you do it

What motivated me for my first marathon

See results

Training program

Typically you run 2 days in a week outdoors for say 5-8 km runs, 2 days work out in the gym with short 3-4 km runs, and run a big run for 10-25 km on weekend. Allow yourself two full days of rest per week

You go through a pattern, even if you keep your total distance per week more of less constant. You increase your long run in steps like 15 km, 20 km, 22 km, 24 km, .. 32 km, and then again come back to 20 km, and start again

You can download readymade training schedule from websites like Marathon Rookie, and then modify to suit your running style

Warm up, stretching and cooling down

Before you start running, it is important you spend enough time understanding these three aspects of running. They are essential part of your run, whether you run for 1K or 42K

Warm up tips

  • If you start stretching straight-away as you hit the running track, you will increase your chances of catching an injury, as you are stretching when your muscles are "cold"
  • Start jogging or brisk walking as you hit the track or reaching there. Jog for say 5-10 min and then slow down for stretching

Stretching tips

  • Once you complete your warm up run, start stretching
  • There are various techniques and variety of videos are available on YouTube to get you started
  • Ensure you are stretching most parts of your body like hamstring, calf, back, hips, triceps and so on
  • Enjoy yourself as you do this, as it is like "getting ready" time before your run

Cooling down tips

  • Always slow down at the end of your run and relax. If you sprint in the end of a long run, there is more chance of catching an injury
  • Always stretch after your run, even though you might be very busy or want to rush to work etc. Longer is your run, you need to stretch longer
  • Stretching can be similar to you did during warm up

Stretching tips for running

Interval Training

As you get used to long distance training, you need to slowly look at techniques which can boost your performance, give you an edge in a competition or race situation

Interval training means running in small intervals of hard & regular training. You start of like in regular running, and then run about 2-3 minutes at your peak (about 80% of your Maximum Heart Rate), followed by regular training pace for double the time, and repeat this sequence again and again.

You use Interval Training 1-2 times a week, and never more than 2 times a week

Important tip for Interval Training :

It is more important reduce the length of your regular pace intervals or recovery runs, than to, achieve the fastest speed on hard sections

How Interval Training helps in race situation

Interval training boosts your overall fitness, it teaches you to conserve that "extra bit", which then you can use in relevant parts of the races to gain advantage over your opponents or just motivate yourself on way to achieving your intended result

Hill Training

This is another productive training like interval training, but is much easier. Hill training has lot of advantages

  • When you run uphill, it is less damaging for the body, compared to running downhill or even on flat hard surfaces
  • Hill training really helps to build strength over a period
  • It is a great way to mix up your training activity once a week with Hill training

Where do you go for Hill Training ?

  • Look for a hill near your house, which has decent running trails, and is not too steep
  • Go to gym and run with 7-8% gradient
  • Please do not run on too steep surfaces or try to run uphill and fast at the same time, it can be very exhausting and de-motivatingĀ 

Resistance Training

Resistance training or weight training helps to improve your performance and at the same time, kind of keeps you in shape.

Some tips on resistance training (weight training)

  • Always ensure you run or jog for 20 minutes or so before you start lifting weights
  • Find a right weight or machines settings for you which can give you repeats of about 12 to 15
  • Over a period try to increase the repeat sets, and over a longer period increase the repeats per set
  • Exercise different muscles everyday, as they take time to recover. It is important to ensure you do not try to stretch your body or muscles in different directions one after another

Running shoes

First thing you need to invest on, is a pair of good running shoes. There are big brands like Nike and Adidas. But my advice just use Asics, they are the best for long distance running. Nike & Adidas are good looking, but it takes a while to break into new shoes and get used to. With Asics, you start running in your new shoes as if you are using them for couple of months. Please change your shoes every 3-4 months if you are training for marathon

Tips for selecting your shoes

  • It matters if you are a heel-striker or a toe-striker, it matters which side of the shoe wear when you run, left right or it is uniform. It matters when your stand straight, which part of the foot touches ground. Basically how you balance the center of gravity while running
  • Running shoes do not need "breaking in", so ensure when you wear the shoes in the shop, you should feel very comfortable like you are about to run
  • Running shoes are different to cross training shoes or tennis shoes, they are defined for straight line motion and particularly going forward vs crosswards
  • For first time it is good to visit specialty shop by popular brand, and get to understand the details of selecting the shoe, and particularly something which your feet need
  • It is important how you often you change your shoes. It is determined based on how often you run, duration of your runs (weekly total distance), if you are training for a big event like marathon
  • It is also important to have proper socks. Best are the duel layer socks, which have two layers which rub against each other, instead of rubbing against the feet

Listening to your body

As you get into training programs and long distance training, you are running and running all the time. There are times you feel like giving up, finding reasons not to get up early in morning, you pick up small injuries, or sometimes pain comes back as you run beyond certain distances etc

It is important "to run slow to run fast", meaning you need to listen to your body, take a back seat at times, take a break for couple of days or even weeks, rest your body so that the small injuries go away. And then pick up the lost distances or milestones in training when you start running again

There is a fine line at times between say being lazy to get up in the morning, vs listening to your tired body and not over train. Every person is different and it is good to set your own mechanism to find out what is happening to you

Fuel belts

As we run we loose lots of water, during long run one can easily loose 2-3 kg weight due to water loss. Water is used in cooling down the body. When water level drops, it is invitation for cramps and drop in performance. Hence it is very important to keep yourself hydrating

Tips on drinking fluids during runs and fuel belts

  • It is good to drink at every opportunity. It is not good to drink lot of water in one go, but to just sip. If you see marathon videos you can see the leading runners never stop during a run for water, they just slow down. It is good to learn such a technique
  • When you are training, it is good to carry fuel belts. This might seem fashionable to new runners and some might feel they should do it at a later date, but it is not so. Fuel belts are really good investment, as they allow you to carry your favorite drinks, in quantities you need
  • Fuel belts also serve as the only thing you need to carry, as you have attach the phone, valet and other accessories in one place itself, and much better than carrying water bottles in your hand
  • It is not necessary you carry fuel belts on shorter runs every day like 7-8K, but definitely necessary for your longer runs on weekends
  • During marathon run, it is not necessary to carry the fuel belt, as you have good water & drink stalls along the way
  • When you are training it is good idea to take a few drink stops, buy a drink at the vending machine, cool your body down with cold drink, and then get going again

Diet for marathon

Eat lots of carbo foods, like rice, bread, pasta, potatoes and similar along with lots of water. Avoid alcohol, junk food totally. For first marathon, it helps to eat more than you would usually eat and gain a few kilos during the week, which you then lose over the long runs

It is important to become very strict about the diet about 2 months before the marathon

Listening to music while running

If you are running a long run and running in a big group it is nice to listen to music, so that you can feel good and time passes quickly enough. But if you are running along the roads, crossing traffic signals, it is a big "No No" to listening to music, as you will get lost at times and invite trouble

Runners' "high"

There are scientific reasons, how you body feels "Runners' High", as sources of energy change as you run long distances. I like the emotional reasons for "Runners' High". As you start running, you feel like you will not go long, but as you run long say 45 min, time comes you feel like going on and on, and feel like you should never stop. That is in my opinion the "Runners' High", something which motivates every runner every day and every run !

I am sure you do not need more tips than these to start running, and getting to your first marathon !


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      aditya mishra 

      6 years ago

      very nice and favourable tips


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