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Training & advice

Could I run a marathon?

Running a marathon seems to be on the “to do before I die” list of many people. There is a certain fascination with this event, it brings runners from all different backgrounds, experiences and ages together on the start line of the marathon. You only have to watch the London Marathon each year to see that most people can complete a marathon and if they prepare well they can complete it without too much suffering. It is open to most but under 18s are not allowed to run in the marathon and it really would be better if they waited a good few years after this date for many reasons that we won’t go into here.

So if, like many people, you have your heart set on running a marathon, we had better get you started.


Get started

The first thing to do is to ensure that you are fit enough to start the training and so you should get along to your GP to ask his or her opinion. Once you are given the “all clear” you need to decide what that training should look like.



The best person to advise you on this is a coach or a running leader. You should consider joining a running club or group so that you have support and training partners to help you with this journey. However, you may want to do this alone, in which case you should find yourself a training programme. You could look for a sixteen-week plan to follow or you could devise your own plan using the Training Wizard.


So, once you have your training mapped out it is time to get out there and put one foot in front of the other. However, you must ensure that those feet, that are going to carry you along on all of your training runs and during the event, are well- protected. You need a decent pair of running shoes. An old pair that you’ve had for years won’t have enough cushioning or support to ensure that you stay injury-free. It’s time to get along to a running specialist and ask for some advice. If you have a budget, you should let them know what it is and they will try to get you fitted with shoes that will work for you but not cost top dollar. Whilst you are there you may also like to consider moisture-wicking clothing that will be more comfortable for running than an old, cotton t shirt and shorts.

Once you are kitted out you can get yourself out of the door and get on with your programme. You should consider the pace that you will run and where you will do your training.



To begin with it needs to be comfortable and relaxed and so this may mean walking rather than running. Eventually you will be able to build it up to a slow run and then increase the pace very gradually from then on. If you are running with a group you should be able to chat to the others as you run along, unless the leader specifies that the session is to improve your anaerobic system, in which case, you will only be able to give one or two word answers to any questions asked!



This will depend on what sort of terrain you can access. If you live in the town you may be on the tarmac but you should try to avoid busy streets. It maybe that you can access a park and so run on the grass. If you live in a rural area you may be able to run along trails and tracks or quiet country lanes. Winter training may be a problem if you haven’t any street lights so you may then need to go into the gym and use the treadmill or drive to the town to run where there are lights. Again, a running group would be safer and you may be able to run in areas with a group that you wouldn’t like to tackle on your own.

To keep things interesting you should have various routes. You should also avoid timing every run that you do otherwise you may turn every run into a race.


Rest and recovery

This is a very important part of training and the time when the body adapts to the training you have done. Some training runs should be easier than others. The rule of thumb is to follow each hard day with an easier day. You don’t have to rest completely but you should run more slowly or change the activity by cycling or swimming, for example.


How much?

Your training programme will give you an idea of how much training you should do. For a rough guide you could consider the time that you want to run for the marathon. If you are aiming for 5 – 6 hours then your training will equate to around 5 – 6 hours per week. If you want to run faster than this you will have to do more, maybe 6 or 7 hours, if you want to run more slowly you could do less, maybe 4 hours per week.


Training sessions

If you are aiming to train for 5 – 6 hours per week you could incorporate one day of complete rest, one long run that could be up to two hours (when it would be good to practise drinking during the run) and then the other days could be split into around 45 minute sessions. If you are going to alternate hard and easy days then your hard days could, for example, include some repetition running, hill running or a time trial whereas your easy days could be a gentle run or cross training. It is very important that you warm up for all training sessions and cool down afterwards. You should also include flexibility and strength/stability work. This could consist of a few static stretches after your training runs and a yoga class once a week and some pilates exercises to carry out two or three times per week.



It is important to give your body the fuel that it needs to carry out the training and the nutrients to repair the “damage” that you do by training. For this reason you should ensure that you eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of carbohydrate for energy, protein to repair and fruit and vegetables to replace vitamins and minerals. You need to keep your body well-hydrated especially when the weather is hot.


Race day

Once the training has gone well you will want the race to follow suit so make sure you make arrangements in plenty of time to get you to the start on time. Think about what you might want to do once you get to the start: toilet, gentle warm up (you don’t need a lot before a marathon as you can use the first couple of miles to warm up), adjust clothing and shoes. Practice your pre-race routine or, at least, visualise it. Most marathons will send out plenty of information before the event to help you to plan your journey and collect the things that you need, such as your number. Make sure you have a contingency plan too. Marathons are popular. There will be a lot of runners all trying to do the same thing at the same time as you. Give yourself extra time to get to where you need to be so that you can then go through your pre-race routine.

Once the starter sets you on your way you need to hold yourself back so that you don’t go off too quickly. The marathon is a long way! Pace it sensibly. Many marathons have clocks at each mile or at each 5km so keep an eye on the time and slow down if you are running at a pace that you know you can’t sustain. If you run the first three miles sensibly you can guarantee to be passing people for the rest of the way and psychologically that is great! Many people will go off too fast. Make sure you take on fluids at the drinks stations too. If you have practised this during training you will know how much to drink but, just like the running, take this steady. Grab a drink and get back into your stride before you start drinking and then only take the amount that you are used to.

Once the race is over you need to get some more kit on so that you don’t cool down too quickly. Make plans to have this kit to hand. It may be that you are meeting up with others after the race so be sure that you know what these arrangements are. Don’t rely in mobile phones. In busy areas the networks sometimes are overloaded and connection isn’t possible.

Last but certainly not least, have you thought about your arrangements to get home? Once you have crossed the line and achieved your goal you will want to make your way back with your family and friends to celebrate your remarkable achievement!