Lucozade Sport’s resident Sports Scientist Kat Shaw has given her 10 pieces of expert marathon advice to support you through training all the way to race day.
The marathon is a difficult distance to master but whatever your reason for taking one on, training is key to success. It won’t be easy – but with the right advice you’ll master the training runs and cross the line having achieved something amazing.
Here are Sports Scientist Kat Shaw’s tips for good marathon preparation.
1. Taper your training: Taper your training in the final couple of weeks leading up to the race. Simply put, this means cutting down the length of time and distances you are running but increasing your resting time. During this time, incorporating more shorter duration ‘race pace’ efforts is recommended. Completing shorter interval type training to maintain fitness but allowing increased periods of rest is a great way to do this.
2. Mimic the marathon route: If you know the course involves some hills or gradual inclines/declines, be sure to practice these as they may require you to alter your running style or stride length, placing different demands on the body. If you can’t do this outside, you can alter the incline on a treadmill. Becoming familiar with the race route will also help you mentally prepare for what is to come.
3. Build your core: A strong core is important to help you maintain your form during a race, particularly when you begin to fatigue. It is also a key part of injury prevention and will improve your running economy. Check out our strength exercises for marathon runners.
4. Don’t get greedy: Put together a training plan at the start with the help of a coach if available and try to stick to it. If you fall behind and then cram too much running towards the tail end of your training plan near the start of the race you will be more likely to sustain an injury. Towards the end think about maintaining fitness rather than constantly trying to add to it – even if you do feel great. Seek advice from coaches, physiotherapists and peers whenever you need it!
5. Train to a clock: If possible, try and complete your long training runs at the same time of the day as the race itself will be. This allows your body to become accustomed to waking up and exercising at that time of day. It also means you can practice your nutrition strategy the night before, morning of and during the run so you know what expect come race day.
6. Find your optimum stride: Everyone has their own running technique that works for them. Use the start of your training plan when distances are still short to try out different stride lengths and find what feels best for you. You can also look at getting your gait analysed by experts that will look at your technique, suggest places that could be altered for greater efficiency and also find the best trainers for you that support your running style.
7. Train as part of a group: Most group marathon training programs offer coaching, which will help steer you to achieving your marathon goals and that all important personal best. You also have the camaraderie and support of other people going through the same training, which can pull you through the low-motivation days.
8. Don’t just run: Although running is likely to make up the majority of your training, other forms of exercise can also help you to achieve your marathon goals. Focused resistance training can help build strength in the main muscles used in running, and exercise such as swimming and cycling can help build and maintain fitness without the same impact on the joints.
9. Keep fuelled during the race: The stores of carbohydrate in your body will gradually decline during the race. To combat this and avoid fatigue, consume some carbohydrate during the race such as sports drinks, gels, bananas or dried fruit. It is recommended on average to eat between 30g-60g of carbohydrate per hour – equivalent to one-two Lucozade Sports. However, the best advice is to practice different strategies in training, find what works best for you, and replicate this on race day. Remember though, everyone is different when it comes to the amount and type of fuel they can take on while running.
10. Strides and stretching:When you increase your running volume you are likely to experience tightness and soreness in the muscles, particularly during the early stages of your training when the body is still adapting to the greater workload. Completing regular stretching sessions, especially during your cool down after training will help keep the muscles and joints supple and reduce some of the soreness you may be feeling, getting the body ready to go again for your next session. Maintaining flexibility will also decrease your risk of injury.
To learn more about marathon training from the Lucozade team, visit the Lucozade Sport website.