Preparing To Start Marathon Training

Now that warmer weather is upon us (oh come on, you remember that sunny day a couple of weeks ago!) many runners, especially in God’s Own County, will be turning their thoughts to training for the first Yorkshire Marathon in October, or other autumn marathons. It seems a long way off, but will be here before we know it. I’m sure that at the moment some folk who’ve signed up (like me ) will be thinking “I can’t wait, bring it on!” and others, probably first-timers (like me before the Manchester Marathon) will be thinking “$*#%!, what have I done?”. If you’re one of the latter, don’t panic – many of us have been in that position and there’s lots of good information around to help you with training.

The most useful piece of advice I can give you if you’re a beginner, based on my own experience, is to follow a proper structured training programme. There are lots of them around to choose from, and they’re all devised by experts who know a lot more about running than you and me. It’s really important that you find a schedule that looks realistic for your own needs and abilities, and that you can fit it around your other commitments; this is much better than being over-ambitious and missing half the sessions. For my Manchester marathon training I followed the Women’s Running beginner’s plan. This is what the first half looked like.

 I chose this one because you only had to run for three days a week as it also involved some cross-training and core work, and I wanted to be cautious with the workload as it was my first marathon and I’m not exactly in the first flush of youth! Remember, whatever training you do, the most important thing is that you make it to the start line in good shape – better to be slightly under-trained than injured! A web search will bring up hundreds of training schedule possibilities, but as well as the ones at Women’s Running and Men’s Running there are good ones on the Runner’s World and Bupa Running websites. I find reading the occasional running magazine quite inspiring and also found this book really useful, although obviously there are lots of others available.

Most beginner’s marathon training schedules are 16 weeks long, so you might be thinking “Great, I don’t have to do anything until July”. But they do assume a certain level of fitness before you kick off; so if you lay down some good foundations now, you’ll be able to hit the ground running (quite literally) when your training programme starts. Ideally you want to be able to run comfortably for at least half an hour, or preferably an hour, before you begin. Don’t worry about the speed, just being able to keep going for that length of time is fine. When I’ve chosen a training programme I like to write the sessions in red in my diary (see, I am old) so I can’t conveniently ‘forget’ about them.

Hopefully it should go without saying that you’ve already bought yourself some decent shoes after having a gait analysis. But what else can you do to prepare for training? Well, the obvious things are eating well, sleeping well and not boozing too much. You might think that during marathon training you can eat and drink whatever you like and get away with it. Well yes, you will be burning more calories than usual… but if you replace them with junk you won’t be doing yourself any favours. Think of your body as a performance car – you can’t run a Ferrari on diesel! My previous post Marathon Nutrition for Beginners will give you some good pointers on what to eat. If you feel you need to lose a few pounds you don’t need to ‘diet’ as such if you’re running a few times a week – just eat good, nutritious food, cut out the junk and pounds will drop off.

 Finally, you might like to consider joining a running club. I haven’t yet – although our postman is always trying to persuade me to join Knavesmire Harriers! But that’s simply because I work from home and prefer to be able to fit my runs around my commitments during the day if possible, rather than having to stick to a set time in the evening. Many beginners are a bit scared of approaching a running club, thinking everyone there will be super-fast and snobby, but they actually cater to runners of all abilities and are very welcoming. Some people find it easier to train and become motivated in a group rather than on their own, and the more experienced club runners can pass on the wisdom of their running knowledge. There are also running groups such as Run York, which has a specific York Marathon training group, and of course the weekly Parkrun on the Knavesmire, where you can run a timed 5K with runners of all abilities in a friendly environment. I still haven’t managed to make it along there yet, but hope to rectify that soon! So if you’re feeling a bit lonely or self-conscious on your runs you might like to give club or group running a try for some support and like-minded company.

 Whatever you’re doing between now and July, enjoy getting used to running and thinking about the challenge ahead! I’d love to know how you’re getting on, either in the comments below or via Twitter @ilovelivingwell.