Okay, so you’ve just watched the London marathon and thought that you wouldn’t mind getting involved. How hard can it be, right? The short answer is: it’s hard! However, as with most things, there are different levels of difficulty depending on the targets that you wish to set yourself.
For example, ask yourself the following:
- Do you want to run the whole distance?
- Do you care about your finishing time?
- Would you feel uncomfortable dressed as Batman?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above then perhaps you have the right sort of attitude to complete a marathon without really trying. After all, as long as you’re able to walk the entire 26.2 mile course then you’ve completed it. Box ticked.
And there in lies the problem. Undertaking a marathon is much more than just a box ticking exercise. It’s a chance to push your mind and body to its limits. It’s an opportunity to grasp life in both hands and do something remarkable. Which is why you want to be proud of your efforts and know that you’ve achieved something special to the best of your ability.
Training and motivation are both key factors required to ease yourself into a marathon. And, although you will need to be relatively fit and healthy before you start from the couch, there’s no reason why you can’t be marathon ready within six months to a year of preparation.
Below are just a few guidelines to get you started and if you’re looking to make a difference in your own and other people’s lives then here’s where the countdown commences.
Find a pace and distance that suits your level of fitness
In order to get ready for a marathon it’s essential that you stick to a regular training programme.
A couple of short distance walks or runs of 2 – 4 miles each week will be enough to get you into the swing of things.
When you feel confident and comfortable with your running then it’s time to add a longer distance to your weekly schedule. Anything between 5 to 10 miles is perfect.
So, now you’re running three times a week: two short distances and one longer distance.
Swimming is a great exercise to expand your lung capacity and work all of your body’s muscles. Add a weekly swim to your schedule for even better results, in fact swimming is also a great way of helping the body to recover from the impact of running regularly. For maximum benefit try and get into the pool within 48 hours of your longer weekly run.
Resistance training in a controlled environment (in contrast to the relatively hectic nature of running) is also extremely important for any runner. I have seen many people get so taken with running that they forget to strengthen and improve their biomechanics in a considered manner, which often leads to injury and disappointment. If you don’t integrate some quality squats and lunges (at least!) into your routine then you ‘run’ the risk of getting injured yourself and/or performing well below your potential. Remember, ‘prehab is better than rehab’!!!
Depending on your fitness levels you should now consider lengthening the distances the closer you get to the date of the marathon. As a beginner don’t even think about attempting anything over 20 miles as this can have a negative impact when it comes to the day of the event.
One key element to long distance running is finding a pace that suits you. Time yourself, not for speed but to judge your consistency. If you can run 5 miles in an hour then you’ll know that your average mile should take 12 minutes.
On the day of the event your adrenaline levels will be at an all time high. The runners, the crowds the sound systems, the charities, the banners – everything will be telling you to run, run, RUN!
Remember your training.
Remember that you’re running your own race. You know your average time per mile. You know how comfortable you can run a reasonable distance.
Stick to the plan and don’t get sucked into either competing with or running alongside other runners who might well be faster and more prepared than you are.
This is your chance to run an entire marathon and if you want to look back and say ‘I did it’ then you need to remember that it is hard but it is also achievable.