12 Unexpected Marathon Training Tips

As marathon season approaches and most of you have put in the long miles, I thought I’d put out my top 12 tips for marathon preparation, some of which may seem counter intuitive. Some tips are from the hours of obsessive research leading up to the big day and some is from my experience that I had to learn the hard way.

Bare in mind, these are just tips – do what works for you.

  1. Neilon Running the 2011 Brighton Marathon

    Neilon Running the 2011 Brighton Marathon

    Do weight Training.

    Properly executed heavy squats, dead-lifts and military presses should be the bread and butter of a weekly or twice weekly workout regime. Also work on Sky-divers/back extensions and planks. This will give you a very strong core and back and a robust body all round. It will also help you maintain a strong upright posture and keep your running more efficient. You’ll also be less prone to injury.

  2. Don’t lose weight in order to go faster.

    Some people are tempted to shed a few extra pounds in the last couple of weeks in order to have less weight to carry around the course. Don’t! Any extra speed gained by being lighter would be negligible, however, you’ll risk significantly dehydrating yourself and reducing your strength, energy and glycogen stores, making the whole thing much harder and slower.

  3. Do make eye contact.

    Connecting with others on the race and even during training will make you feel better and help with a sense of camaraderie. This will help make the challenges of the running more bearable. Also connecting with any charity that you’re running for and all the good your raised money will do will inspire you to keep going when it gets tough. Even when I’m just spectating, I find making eye contact very powerful and quite emotional. I can really appreciate how much work and dedication each participant has put in to make it on the the course of such an epic challenge.

  4. Don’t buy special sports clothes.

    Any special wicking properties of so called high-tech materials are pretty irrelevant once you’re proper sweaty. However, if you like the figure hugging effect or that it helps you get into the right frame of mind or even that you like it cos it dries quicker after washing – then crack on.

  5. Don’t buy special sport gels.

    As far as race nutrition goes, the most important thing is that you can stomach it and digest it on the hoof. Carb gels are designed for the purpose but can be pretty gross. Kit-Kats are preferred by some people I know. The advantage of sports gels is that they often have added electrolytes is which good as you’ll have been sweating a lot. You can also get a similar effect from coconut water, bananas or having a bit of salt. It is essential that you practice the race nutrition on your long training runs to see what you best get on with. If a race is being supplied by a particular gel or bar, get hold of a few in advance to see if you like them.

  6. Do eat more protein.

    You need protein to repair muscles after training to make you stronger for your next run. After each training run chug down a pint of milk or a protein shake. You can also get protein from food like chicken, fish etc, but a shake is a lot easier when you’re knackered. I always have a protein shake waiting for me in my bag at the end and it can make a big difference in my recover after the race.

  7. Don’t drink too much water.

    On the day you absolutely need to keep hydrated, but if you’re constantly drinking water you’ll only need the loo which, because you have to stop and lose momentum, you’re likely to get jelly legs afterwards and obviously having to stop means you’ll be delayed getting to the finish line.

  8. Do take an old top to the start line.

    It’ll be pretty nippy at 7am when you are standing around waiting for the race to start. Take a top you want to donate to charity for before the start. You can get rid just before you actually set off and volunteers will take it to the charity shop for you. Black bags with holes for head and arms also works – but is less charity-tastic

  9. Don’t eat curry.

    Eating anything spicy or too fibrous in the day before the run is a bad idea as long distance running loosens the bowls, so anything that might make that worse is best avoided. You’ll have enough on your plate without worrying you might poo yourself half way round.

  10. Do have a drink the night before.

    If you’re used drinking moderately during your training then a small, and I mean small, tipple the night before might not be such a bad idea. It’ll help you relax and hopefully get better sleep than you would anyway. It might even help top up the glycogen stores in your muscles.

  11. Don’t worry about all those runs you didn’t do.

    No one has ever done every single training run on their programme. As long as you’ve been reasonable consistent you’ll be in good shape. Don’t try and catch up when you should be tapering!!

  12. Do enjoy the race!

    All the hard work is done. All that running in the cold and dark is behind you. You’ve put in the miles, now you just have to have a blast.

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