Running 26.2 miles is a big undertaking, so we asked some experts to offer their advice about the marathon
THERE is a seemingly neverending stream of advice out there for marathon runners these days. We are never short of an expert opinion or two at Athletics
Weekly and have pulled together some things for you to think about as you begin to make your marathon preparations.
FIND YOUR FORM FIRST
The lead-up to beginning marathon training is the perfect time to address any weaknesses in your form, insists running technique specialist James Dunne of Kinetic Revolution.
“If there are any idiosyncrasies within your own personal running form, that can result in you getting tight in certain areas or weak in others,” says Dunne. “That, in turn, overloads other areas, then all of a sudden we get to the point where we really reinforce these imbalances and flaws.
“A nice way to mitigate that is to look at breaking up the movement patterns and start to think how to build your body into that of an all-round athlete.”
He adds: “Hips and ankles are really, really important. Think about hip stability, hip mobility and strength around that region and combine that with a certain amount of spring or stiffness around the ankles. Hip mobility is what I generally get runners to focus on first. Make sure you make time for regular mobility and stability work.”
“Cross country is the backbone of endurance running,” says Liz McColgan-Nuttall, former 10,000m world champion, winner of the
New York, Tokyo and New York marathons and ambassador for the Stirling Scottish Marathon and Birmingham International Marathon.
“It gives you the strength in the legs, it gives you the drive that you need and it’s all very akin to the kind of running that you need to be a marathon runner.
“Most marathon runners will come from a good cross-country background. Very few distance runners I know that went on to be champions didn’t come from doing the mud running from a young age.
“It uses all the muscles in your feet and your legs – everything that you need to use, it strengthens. You’ve got to be careful of the impact (marathon) training will have on your legs and people forget that there are a loads of green areas all over Britain where you could really benefit from doing fartleks, hill running and barefoot running, which I did a lot.
“There are so many elements that you can do other than just getting on a road or getting on a treadmill and running for two hours. Because that’s not what marathon running is. When you do a marathon, you’re running anything from two-and-a-half hours to five hours and you’ve got to prepare your body for that.”
TAILOR YOUR TRAINING
“The marathon is an aerobic event and therefore you must tailor your training to make your body efficient at burning fat and running aerobically,” says Mara Yamauchi, the second-fastest British female marathon runner in history. “This will spare carbohydrate during a race and prevent you running out of fuel.
“Some runners misunderstand this and think they can handle a marathon just by adding a longer run to a training programme which consists mainly of fast, anaerobic work. For the marathon, training at speeds in between a jog and fast intervals is important.”
With specific regard to the traditional long run, she adds: “Lots of people run too slowly and get a limited adaptation.
“I ran well in my early career over 10km and half-marathon, but
poorly over the full marathon. In the latter part of my career after I really worked on aerobic marathonspecific training. I didn’t improve my 10km or half-marathon times, but my marathon did improve.”
WRITE IT DOWN
“A training diary can really help to keep you motivated and I’d recommend everyone keep some sort of running log,” says multiple Olympic and world champion over 5000m and 10,000m, Mo Farah, who will run his second London Marathon in 2018.
“Like everyone, I have moments of self-doubt and there’s nothing better than flicking back to see how well you have been running.
“I write everything down in a diary, but it doesn’t matter if it’s online or on paper, it can be inspiring to look back at how far you have come. I do it all the time and it always has a positive effect.”
SETTLE ON A STRATEGY
“One of the keys to running a marathon successfully, no matter what level of runner you are, is to focus on the task at hand and execute your race plan,” says running writer Dr Jason Karp, who holds a PhD in exercise physiology.
“It’s often easy to let other things or outside or self-imposed pressures become distractions or let your mind wander during a race.
“If you don’t allow those things to become distractions and instead focus on your performance to the exclusion of everything else, you will perform at your highest level.
“Remaining positive when things don’t go as planned before or during your race keeps you calm and helps you run well.
“At the starting line and when you’re in the middle of the race, remove all the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.”
MINIMISE YOUR MISTAKES
“Physically the marathon is not like the track where you’re kicking and you’re looking to reach a certain point and then using another gear,” says three-time Olympian and international marathon runner Dathan Ritzenhein.
“In the marathon there are no more gears and when you get to that point it’s really just a metabolic race. Either you’ve got the fuel and the energy to keep moving or you don’t.
“It’s an event where you can take back a lot of time or you can lose a lot of time at the end.
“Whereas on the track if you get dropped then you’re done, in the marathon someone can come back a minute or two in the last few miles and then it’s all about what happened earlier in the race, how the preparation was and it’s amazing when that happens.
“A lot of it is about competing against yourself, really. It’s about what you can handle and what you can do. Sometimes it’s just about minimising mistakes in the training and in the race. There are so many variables.”
“The marathon is the hardest thing there is,” says Haile Gebrselassie, running great and former world marathon record-holder. “The whole 42,195 metres long you are fighting the distance. The only way to overcome the distance is to be disciplined and patient.
“Patience is very important. Only then can you give 110%. With only 100% you will not make it.”
“Just make sure you enjoy it!” says former European 10,000m champion and two-time London Marathon competitor Jo Pavey. “Take in the amazing atmosphere and really enjoy the day.
“Go for it and good luck! It will be an amazing experience and something you’ll remember forever.”
Liz McColganNuttall: experience
Jo Pavey: enjoy yourself
Patience: Haile Gebrselassie