Top Tips for Marathon Monster Month

If you (like me) are following a standard kind of 16-week raining plan for the London Marathon (or indeed any other marathon at around the same time) you’re probably now just into what’s known in running circles as ‘Monster Month’ – the four week period where you do your hardest block of work, before you start to taper. It’s a time when you can build on the previous nine weeks of training to give yourself a bit of a beasting before you start to back off a bit in the three week run-up to the big day.

It’s also a time when you might think either a) “I’m starting to feel really good now” or b) “Why in the wide world of sport did I ever sign up for this?” I’ve done quite a few cycles of marathon training now, and I’ve felt both ways at various points! But I haven’t run a road marathon since London last year, so feeling I’m slightly nervous about this year. I’m not a running  expert by any means, but I have learnt that Monster Month is a time when you have to look after yourself if you want to make it to race day feeling on top form. So here are my top tips for surviving it!

Listen to your body and don’t be a complete slave to your training plan. If you pick up a niggle or feel ill, don’t try to push on through just because the plan says you have to run today. Better to take a couple of days off than have to give up completely because you aggravated something by ignoring it. Nobody gets through a whole plan without missing a few sessions – that’s just life.

If you do have a niggle that doesn’t go away after a couple of days, or gets worse when you run, see a physio. They’ll probably be able to help you find a way to manage it if it’s not serious. The longer you leave it and the worse it gets, the harder it will be to deal with.

Look after your immune system. Hard training puts a huge strain on it, and will make you more susceptible to any bugs floating around. I sometimes take an Omega 3 supplement after a long Sunday run for its anti-inflammatory properties. If I feel like I might be coming down with something I take some immune-boosting echinacea. Pay attention to hand hygiene too, which is how most bugs get passed on.

Get plenty of sleep. Sleepy time is when your body can rest and recover from all the stress you’ve put on it in training.

Look after your feet – they deserve a bit of pampering. I absolutely love the Body Shop’s Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue Cream. And if you have any issues with your shoes, sort them out now – don’t wait til two weeks before the event to get new ones!

Eat well – plenty of protein, good carbs and lots of fruit and veggies. This really will help to fuel your training and recovery. Monster Month isn’t a time to diet, but neither is it an excuse to eat lots of junk, especially if you’re looking to lose a few pounds. Although I do like a bit of cake after my long Sunday run!

Keep booze to a minimum; it makes more difference than you might think, even if you don’t feel hung over. I know from personal experience this can be hard if you have the sort of friends who think it’s weird not to drink alcohol when you go out, but it really is worth it. I find if I drink on Friday and/or Saturday I don’t run as well on Sunday. Although I do like a glass of red with my post-run Sunday dinner. Well it’s got antioxidants, hasn’t it?!

Get a sports massage halfway through the month if you can. Your legs will deserve and appreciate it! And make sure you do plenty of stretching and foam rolling – but not too hard with the roller.

Most of all, enjoy it! I always think an event is as much about the training as the big day itself. Embrace the challenge and be proud of what you’re doing, especially if it’s your first time. Don’t look upon a long run as punishment. Get your tunes going (if you like) and settle in for the ride.

Monster Month is also a great time to experiment with different running fuels. The more I run long distances, the more convinced I am that keeping well fuelled is as important as training to success. Obviously different things work well for different people. Personally I’m happy to eat ‘real’ food in an ultra, when I’m running slowly, but I can’t do that in a faster road marathon. I used to always take Clif Shot Bloks in marathons, but struggled to eat them at London last year, and I think that’s why I slowed down near the end and didn’t quite hit my four hour target. This year I’m planning to take gels, although I’m not sure which ones yet. I like SiS isotonic gels, but find them really difficult to open on the run. Last weekend I tried an OTE gel, which was much easier to open and  tasted good, so I might take those – but I’ll try some others in training first. One thing’s for sure, nailing your nutrition will definitely help you to avoid the dreaded Wall!

Do you have any top tips for Monster Month? I’d love to hear them. Good luck with it anyway!