Getting your hands on a robust training plan is the easy part of marathon training. The challenging part is actually putting in the hard miles. I have seen countless runners over the years having to face the reality that they just have not done the training required and will have to try again next year.
I always say that you can take shortcuts preparing for a 5k, 10k and even a half marathon, but when it comes to the marathon, you better be prepared.
While daunting, marathon training can be a lot of fun and will leave you with a great sense of satisfaction.
To help you, I have put down 10 tips that will help you stay the course:
1. Find a running group in your area to join up with. Spending time with other crazy people will help you feel completely normal and there is nothing like knowing there is a group waiting for you at the start to make you feel guilty for still being in bed.
2. If you are still running in the same pair of sneakers from High School, it is time for a change. Training in old shoes is an injury waiting to happen. If you know that your shoes are going to reach their end sometime during your build up, plan to replace them well in advance of race day so you have had time for some long runs in the new pair before the big day.
3. If you will be training through the winter, invest in a good rain jacket, running gloves and running hat. These few items will turn the worst of days into a running adrenalin adventure.
4. Keep a training log. If ever there was a time when "time flies" becomes real and scary it is when preparing for a marathon. Before you know it one missed week becomes 6 and you are two weeks out from race day and hopelessly unprepared.
5. Involve friends and family. It is important to not neglect your biggest fans. You will need their support on race day! Find ways to include them in your training runs and races. For guaranteed backing, pick up fresh croissants and coffee on the way home from weekend long runs.
6. Get even the slightest hint of an injury seen to as soon as possible. One of the biggest reasons runners end up with side lining injuries is that they run through the pain for too long before seeking help. Anything that gets worse as the run progresses and forces you to change the way you run to avoid the pain, needs help.
7. Get clever with time. Find ways to incorporate your runs into other activities such as community to work by foot or packing your kit and going for a run while you wait for your kids to finish soccer practice.
8. Get adventurous with your routes. Variety is one of the fundamental training principles. With so many miles needing to be logged, this is a great opportunity to discover parts of your city that you have not explored on foot before. There is nothing like a sunrise or sunset at the top of a big climb!
9. Schedule some build up races to track your progress. It will help to have some goals that are a little sooner than your marathon to keep the pressure on to get going with your training. Preparation races are also great for an honest review of where your fitness is at and provide a great guide for setting a realistic marathon goal time.
10. It is okay to talk about your marathon, but not all the time. Your friends are interested, but not that interested. Remember, you want them cheering you on race day and celebrating with you afterwards. So try change the subject, now and then.
Onwards and upwards!
Professional running coach
Cape Town, South Africa