Many people train to run marathons for health reasons, some for charity and some even do it out of the enjoyment of pushing their bodies to the edge of what is possible. But few are able to compete at a similar level to Eliud Kipchoge. The truth is what Kipchoge did in October 2019 was amazing, astonishing and possibly unrepeatable. Yes he had ‘magic’ shoes, yes he had a team around him to help draft behind and reduce wind resistance and yes the course was very flat, but that does not take away from the years of training he had to do to get to that point. In reality he makes us all look very ordinary, but the target for most is not to run world records but just to be able to finish. So, what are the top tips for you to do just that?
The fact is that everybody is different and creating your own plan can be as important as the pounding of the road itself. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you won’t want to do it. The result being you won’t achieve your goal of making it to the finish line or in some cases the start line.
Recovery is extremely important; your body cannot sustain constant bombardment. Make sure you build rest days into your training. The evidence doesn’t lie, studies have shown that techniques like the Furman method where only 3 days of running is recommended have been successful in increasing mileage and lowering times. But yes, you are expected to do other exercise in between, so calling them ‘rest days’ probably isn’t quite accurate. A gym class, cross fit or other forms of exercise are recommended to maintain strength without the constant trauma caused by the repetition of your foot hitting the pavement. The strain on your body and in particular your feet during this type of training can be extreme to say the least. Exercising in different ways builds a protective element into your training, which will allow you to run further getting that important mileage under your belt.
Diet is also key to giving you the energy to train, and carbohydrates in particular will keep you going. Glycogen is a form of energy storage in the body produced following the digestion of carbohydrates. As you exercise glycogen is broken down to produce sugar to feed your muscles. The problem is if these stores get depleted the muscles stop working and you will experience fatigue, therefore replenishing your glycogen levels will help. Eating high carbohydrate foods like potatoes and pasta immediately after exercise will assist in elevating your energy stores, and sometimes during harder training sessions energy gels can help you to keep going. Protein and iron are also important to build muscle strength and in the maintenance of those energy levels. For the best advice we would always recommend that you speak to a dietician to help you find the right balance for you.
Three on, one off. Build your training gradually and always have one week in four where the mileage is reduced. At the end of the day staying healthy and stimulated are important factors to success. Running hard from the start will drain your energy and fitness levels and especially your motivation very quickly. But what might a training plan look like?
Increase the training by 10% each week, with every 4th week reverting back to the 'Easy Week' regime. The last 2 weeks before the marathon should be easy weeks too. Your total mileage each week will increase/decrease in the following pattern: