How to train for your first marathon
After six weeks since I ran the London Marathon 2019, I thought it would be a good time to write down some thoughts that I have since that great day. I didn’t want too much time to have passed before I start putting some tips down to help other runners train efficiently or indeed remind myself if I decide to do another marathon.
I am not going to lie, it was hard work. In the week leading up to the big day, my body was hurting. The training itself had taken hold of my life, having to schedule long runs around work and family commitments for seven months was not an easy thing to do at all. It is fair to say I was totally ready to get the run over with when the day come along.
But it was a massive jump being a 10k and half marathon runner, more than I gave it credit for to be fair. But over the months I learnt a great deal more about myself and the challenge of running 26.2 miles (without walking any of it).
Picking the right time to start marathon training
I entered the London Marathon ballet without a charity on the 30th April 2018. Looking back, I was totally happy with the fact I had the courage to even enter the marathon and would of happily just ended the journey there. But to my total surprise, I actually got my confirmation email 9th October that I had been luckily enough to have secured a place for the 2019 marathon.
I usually run several times a week as it is, usually steady distances at steady paces. But since I got my acceptance email (and subsequent letter and magazine), my training started to ramp up. I had been given a generic training plan and was well on my way. Only thing is, I started ramping up far, far too early. Looking back, I should of increased the intensity of my casual running around early January. As mentioned previously, I had done around 7 months of solid training by the time the marathon had come along and my body was seriously tired.
Getting your plan together
When I first found out I had been accepted, I asked a few running friends if they knew of any running plans and was given a few Excel documents detailing a weekly milage plan. This was fine for the first few weeks but then felt I was doing too much of the same thing, just increasing the milage every time I went out. At that point in time I was using the well loved Strava app to map my runs although my wife had been using the Nike Run Club app for a great deal of time. So after a few goes with the app (which works great if you also using an Apple Watch), I decided to make the full switch from Strava to Nike.
The great thing about the Nike app is that it has varied run types which I had not been doing up until that point, such as sprints and intervals training. It also has a Coach mode too, where you set a target run and date (so in my case this was set to London Marathon), and it then gave me running plan based on how many runs I said I could commit to in a week, which I set to 3.
Finding the time to run
Training is hard, and making regular time to train is also hard. Working away in London whilst trying to balance the demands of the family with training was no easy task. It comes to the point where you check your running schedule to see how you might be able to fit this around work and family commitments pretty much on a weekly basis. It came to the point where I would be running early mornings when the street cleaners were out in central Cambridge to late nights trying to avoid drunk students falling out of pubs. I also found running during my lunch hours at work a good way to get more milage in and working next to Westminster and Hyde Park was extremely fortunate.
My advice to anyone trying to put a plan together is to know yourself and your commitments to find what opportunities there might be to get 30 minutes to 3 hours in a day to get that run in. It may mean getting up earlier, going to bed later, going out in snow, taking running gear to work but all fo this essential comprises that need to be made in order to get marathon fit.
Cut down on other fitness programmes
For a few years now I have been doing other activities other than my running, which has worked really well for me. I like to do Bootcamp training (group body weight exercise in a local park) once a week as well doing yoga. I enjoy the balance all these activities give me. But when my running became more intense, I found that my legs were constantly sore. As much as I tried to maintain all types of fitness programmes, I knew eventually I would have to make sacrifices.
At Bootcamp, there is a lot of focus on legs and upper body strength by doing loads of squats and burpees. This, on top of the running, where destroying my legs. With the upper body work, it wasn’t helping my running - if anything it just add more weight and tiredness. So I took the tough decision to stop the Bootcamp training altogether.
It was a bit different when it came to yoga. Running distances takes its toll out of your body, it’s heavy going. I found trying to do at least one session of vinyasa flow yoga per week extremely helpful helped my exercise balance better in terms of maintaining core strength and getting a good period of stretching through all the poses. So I would definitely recommend this too for anyone else training for a marathon or even half marathon.
Hope some of these tips have been useful. Training for a marathon is hard work, I won’t lie but trust me it will all be worth it when you get over that finish line. I said to myself before the marathon, never again. But since I have done it there has been a massive gap in my life, almost like in a state of mourning! It was such an incredible journey, I think I may just be ready to start thinking about doing another one. Difference this time though I know what to expect, so need to pick a better time in my life so that I can commit better to the training.