As so many of us (including myself) are now starting to build towards an autumn marathon, I thought I would share some of my top tips for a marathon build-up, to help you be in the best shape possible for when race day arrives.
I have just started my 8th Marathon training cycle. So, here is what I have learned over the last few years:
1. Build fatigue and learn to manage it
Marathon training, unlike 5k, 10k or even half marathon training is more about building up
fatigue and learning to manage it.
I am a big advocate of keeping speed sessions in marathon training blocks but I also complement this with dedicated “marathon pace” sessions. These are usually much longer in duration (10/14 miles) and although not as intense, can really build up that fatigue quickly as the weeks progress. To manage this, I do my best to eat more, sleep well and relax as/when I can.
2. A good shoe rotation
Getting a good shoe rotation in place before marathon training starts really helps settle my mind. Running shoes are now being designed for specific areas of our training so its really hard to find a shoe that “does it all”. Just having 2/3 shoes that I can rotate for my easy days, speed work and long runs helps massively as not only do I mentally “feel faster” in a lighter shoe, feel “recovered” in a cushioned shoe and “feel fresher” after using a softer shoe, the break of usage between each pair gives the midsoles a chance to decompress and help prolong the life of the shoes as well as aid with injury prevention.
3. Keep things simple
Keeping things simple in a marathon build-up helps the miles pass by much quicker and the increased volume easy to manage. There are often points during marathon training where we can overcomplicate things to a point where our minds get mentally tired just thinking about the complex workouts we might have to do, or the duration of the long run we might have at the weekend. For the last 2 or 3 training blocks I’ve done, I’ve moved over to a “time” based training plan where my workouts are all done by time rather than miles/km and I have found it to be much more mentally refreshing. Thinking in time is something we do on a daily basis in all aspects of life so engraining this into our running can really help make things feel so much simpler.
4. Mix up the Terrain
Mixing up the terrain of your runs during your training block can help you stay mentally refreshed. If you always run the same route or loops the monotony can be soul destroying. I appreciate this isn’t an option for everyone depending on where you live but if you are lucky enough, then aim to mix up your terrain between road, trail and treadmill. The roads provide a great place to work on our speed in a controlled manner, the trails are there to soak up nature and the treadmill a great place to work on cadence/form alongside virtually running with others in apps like Zwift.
5. Stay hydrated
Keeping hydrated is absolutely the number 1 thing to keep on top of, especially during the hotter weather. Being dehydrated can have a massive effect on our training, which can then lead to mental fatigue and even injuries. Daily electrolyte tablets can help us replace what we lose when we sweat. Regular drinking throughout the day is also crucial. I like to fill up water bottles rather than glasses of water because I find myself drinking more! Those are my top tips for a marathon build-up.
I wish all of you the best of luck with your marathon training this summer. Make sure you share your stories on social media so that you can keep inspiring others around you!