Have you just nailed your main goal for the year and run your first (or fastest) half-marathon? What a huge achievement! Like many in your position, you may now be flirting with the possibility of taking on your first full marathon. And, given you’ve now got at least half the miles in your legs, its certainty a reasonable – and achievable – goal. In fact, if you follow these six steps carefully, you should find the step up pretty straightforward.
Closely follow a plan
A marathon is a distance that needs to be respected so nothing can be left to chance. Find a plan that works for you and your lifestyle and consider getting a coach, who will be able to put a plan together for you, based on your current experience. Make sure you follow the plan closely and don’t start doing your own thing! Take a look at our beginner’s plan.
Fuel your training and recovery
There are no shortcuts when it comes to marathon nutrition. While training for your half, you may have found yourself feeling hungrier, achier and, sometimes, more fatigued and, for your marathon, it’s likely you’ll feel the same. Ensuring you’re eating enough calories to fuel your training, and enough of the right calories to perform at your best, is key. As you up the distance, it’s essential to up your carbohydrate intake to meet your energy demands and introduce more protein into your diet to fuel repair and recovery. If you are training for about an hour a day, the recommended carbohydrate requirement is 5-7g per kilogram of body mass. For protein, aim for 1.2-1.6 g per kilogram of body mass.
Select your races carefully
Enter a marathon that excites and motivates you – you’re going to need that motivation on those cold, dark mornings! Enter a couple of half-marathons along the way, to act as a confidence booster, and also as mini targets within your big plan. Try racing one half-marathon at your target marathon pace about nine weeks out from marathon day and, another one, at half-marathon PB pace, about six weeks out from marathon race day. These races will set exciting new targets within your plan and will help you measure and check your progress, while enjoying running beside lots of other athletes.
Take sports nutrition seriously
You may have started to experiment with sports nutrition while training for your half and noticed the impact on your energy levels. As you begin to up the distance, you’ll find yourself requiring those products even more to meet your heightened energy expenditure. By consuming gels as we run, our muscles take less fuel from our carbohydrate store to keep us going for longer. However, provided you’ve fuelled correctly in the days before your long runs, your carbohydrate stores can last for up to 18-20 miles, so you don’t need to hammer the nutrition products! Aim for around 30-60 grams of carbohydrate an hour. Make sure you experiment with products in training to find the right ones for you and DO NOT try anything new on race day.
Pamper yourself with a massage
OK, maybe we’re fibbing when we say pamper, but a regular sports massage from a physio is the perfect way to ease out sore, tired muscles. It might be painful, but it will help you to recover quicker and you’ll feel brilliant after. Find a good sports masseur or physio and see them once every two weeks, when into the final ten to 12 weeks of training – it works.
Trust the training
At first, you may worry whether you are doing enough or that your long runs seem tough. However, your fitness WILL increase and, four to five weeks in, you should begin to see some serious improvements in your progress. Resist the temptation to do more than the plan or your coach asks.
What to do now?
First of all, get that marathon entry sorted! There are loads of wonderful spring options in the UK and Europe. Remember, you have to fall in love with the marathon you have chosen and really want to run the race.
You then need to get that training plan and maybe even a coach sorted, but don’t start putting in the marathon miles just yet. This is the big mistake that many make. You can only realistically train for a marathon for 12 to 16 weeks – anything longer is just mentally and physically too long. So, if your marathon is in spring 2017, the months leading up to Christmas would be best spent training to run a faster 5K or 10K. It might also be a good time to get used to some of the key weekly training ingredients, such as threshold running, hill training and executing the right core conditioning work. Then, once the New Year arrives, it’s marathon time and you can start to follow that plan!
Make sure, though, that you are refreshed before you start and definitely injury-free, fit and healthy. Starting your marathon training already in good 5K and 10K shape will really help, and will make the long runs – as they build – achievable and progressive.
Good luck and never look back!