Training for a marathon can be a comprehensive task. Regardless of you are a beginner, training for your first marathon, or a more experienced runner that wants to finish in a new personal best, it is essential to prepare yourself the best you can. After all, you are training for an event where the first man in history that did it died from exhaustion.
The History Of the Marathon
Marathon running has its historical origins in ancient times, when the Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC. A Persian invasion fleet with 20,000 warriors went ashore at “Fennel plain” near the city of Marathon, approximately 26 miles (40 km) north of Athens. Although outnumbered, the Athens defeated the Persians.
After the victory a messenger, Phidippedes, was sent to the city of Athens with the good news, but unfortunately, he dropped dead on his arrival.
At The Olympic Games in London in 1908 the marathon distance was introduced for the first time. The race started at Windsor Castle and ended at the royal lodge at the Olympic Stadium.
So what should you think about when you want to run a marathon?
- Know how much time you have available for training.
- Running Equipment.
- Know your goal.
- Getting the right marathon program.
- Training diary.
- Preparation races.
- Injury prevention.
Know how much time you have available for training.
Training for a marathon is a time consuming activity and the time have to come from the other activities you perform. Therefore, it’s important that you can fit your marathon training into your everyday life. If you need to have a discussion with your significant other every time you are going for a run, your motivation will soon go out the window. Therefore, make sure that you can fit your marathon training into all of the other priorities that you have and also that you have “home support”.
Depending on your level of fitness and the goals you have for your marathon, 5 to 12 hours of training per week is not uncommon.
The equipment you need for running is very little. Basically, you just need a pair of running shoes a set of shorts and a t-shirt.
If you want to run a marathon though, I would recommend that you also invest in a watch that can measure your heart rate (HR). This is a particularly valuable tool that let you know the intensity level you are training at. Furthermore some HR watches can also tell your running pace. These features are nice to have on your training runs as they can help you avoid overtraining and also helps you keep your marathon pace.
Know your goals?
The training requirements you need are very different depending on your goal for your marathon. Your marathon program should reflect your goals. If your goal is to get through your first marathon, the program will be very different, compared to one for an experienced runner.
Therefore, you need to make the goal very clear to yourself. As a rule of thumb a goal needs to follow the rules of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).
For beginners it is essential to think the Realistic part of the SMART rule through, as you risk the chance of getting injuries if your goal is too ambitious.
Getting the right marathon program.
Regardless of you are training for a half marathon or a full marathon, your program must fit your goals, experience and fitness level.
Every person is different and what might work for one person may not work for another. Your marathon program should reflect that:
- Newbie runners need more time to build their fitness level compared to experienced runners.
- Some runners get injured very quickly when doing intervals others don’t.
- Some get better results from long runs where others might benefit from running sprints.
A training schedule for a marathon must take these things into consideration, but no matter what program you have, it is evident that you listen to your body and adjust the program if needed.
It is possible to use one of the many marathon programs you can find on the Internet but be sure to adjust the program to you. One obvious thing to do is to align the pace and heart rate so that it fits your level of fitness. In relation to your pace (and to some extent your heart rate), this is not something you can adjust once and forget. On a regular basis, you should test how your level of fitness improves and adjust your training accordingly.
In other articles on this site, you can read how you can do this and I will also help you make a program that fits you. When doing the training sessions in your marathon program you need to focus on what the aim is for that specific session.
If the purpose is to run a marathon pace, you need to know what this means for you in relation to pace and hart rate. People have a tendency to go to fast in their runs (myself included) which means that the chance of getting injuries increases as you body don’t get the required rest between the hard runs.
If you are a complete beginner to the marathon distance, you need to get a good amount of mileage before you get started on a marathon program. I think you should have at least a year of running behind you before you embark on a marathon program. I say this because; your muscles, tendons and bones, need time to adjust.
The best way to build your level of running fitness is at a slow and steady pace. One way is to start training for a half marathon first and use this experience to launch into a full marathon.
- Keeping a training diary is good for:
- Keeping track of your training.
- Keeping notes on how the training felt and the level of intensity and fatigue.
- Going back and see why an injury maybe has accrued.
- Finding out what training methods are best for you.
- In short, I would recommend you to keep a training diary.
Regardless of you are new or experienced in running marathons; it is wise to do some test races before the big day. Test races can be used to see how you react in a competition with lots of people and test your current fitness level. Races are also a good way of finding out if your marathon pace is right for you or if you need to adjust it.
At preparation races, you can also train the technique of drinking and eating while you run. You can’t finish a marathon without food or water, so this is an essential technique to learn.
As mentioned, every person is different, and it is important to listen to your body to prevent injuries. A lot of injuries happen because people have too little patience and thereby:
- Train too many miles too fast.
- Have too many sessions with too high pace.
- Do not allow enough time for recovery.
You can prevent a lot of injuries by doing strength training. I think that a lot of injuries can also be avoided by stretching, but you will find very different opinions on this. The fact of the matter is that if you listen to your body and adjust your training accordingly, you can prevent a lot of injuries.
Recovery is an important component in injury prevention. When you are training for a marathon, getting a good night sleep, is an absolute must. It is while resting your body gets stronger.
You should also be sure to have some non-training days in your marathon program. Some of these rest days can be used for strength training.
Eating healthy can also have an influence on the time your body needs to recover. So be sure to eat varied so that your body has the energy it needs to get through the training sessions.