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How to train for a marathon: marathon running tips

A marathon is a personal challenge for many runners who want to test themselves and push their body to the limit. Running is an enjoyable pastime for many individuals, but a marathon is a truly different level from a 5k or similar. Running a marathon tests the body and the mind. So, if you’re unsure on how to prepare, stick around for our marathon running tips and guidance on how to train for a marathon.

How long to train for a marathon?

If you’re planning on running a marathon and have your eye on a specific event, make sure you give yourself up to 20 weeks to fully prepare your body. Over the four months of your training, you should aim to run around 50 miles every week. Spreading this mileage across three to five runs per week should be sufficient.

However, if you feel you can get more out of your training, push yourself. The vast majority of your runs during training should be done at a relaxed pace. To understand what a relaxed pace is, you should be able to maintain a conversation during your run.

Every seven to 10 days, attempt to build up to a long run to prepare your body. Every three weeks, scale it back by a couple of miles so as not to push your body too far. If you’re not careful you will risk injury which puts your marathon appearance at risk.

When you begin your training regime it’s also vitally important to ensure you adapt your nutrition and diet to your increase in training, and the food you consume now becomes just as important as the miles you are running! With the correct nutritional choices, you can increase your energy levels, prevent dehydration, and optimise your recovery time during these crucial weeks and months, ultimately allowing you to train harder and longer. To help ensure you are getting enough of the correct fuel Science in Sport provide a range of energy, hydration, recovery and health products that can form part of your daily nutritional to ensure you are maximising your performance in sessions and optimising recovery after sessions. ensure that you’re including nutritional supplements as part of your diet.

Marathon running tips

Before starting your training for running a marathon, you should understand a few things first. For a start, you should be aware of your limits. A marathon is 26.2 miles in distance which is considerably more difficult than your average morning run. It will put your body and mind to the test like you’ve never experienced before.

You should also start running longer distances early. It’s normally recommended that aspiring marathon runners attempt consistent base mileage for at least a year before embarking on training for a marathon. Finally, start small with a few 5ks and 10ks and even a half marathon. This will allow you to understand what your limits are.

How to train for a marathon

There are four primary elements to training for a marathon, and they are:

  • Base mileage
  • The long run
  • Speed work
  • Rest and recovery

Base mileage

When beginning your training for running a marathon you should have a base mileage that you run regularly to build up your fitness. Running three to five times a week, gradually increase your base mileage to improve your distance and fitness each week.

One thing to remember, though, is not to increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent from week to week. When increasing your base mileage, it is also important to increase the amount of food you eat to ensure you are meeting this increased energy demand. Although it is important to increase the volume of food you are eating, it is also specifically important to ensure you are eating the right types of foods at the right times. 

Carbohydrates will provide the predominant source of energy during the different phases of training, and you should aim to consume a high carbohydrate meal two to three hours before your training session to top up your energy stores. For example, porridge, oats, cereals, pasta, rice, and breads are all good carbohydrate sources to consume prior to a session. Then for that little extra boost of energy shortly before a run, try a GO Energy Bake or Beta Fuel chew about 20-30 minutes before setting off.

The long run

Our next marathon running tip is to build up your training by running a longer distance once a week. Every seven to 10 days extend your longer run by one or two miles to push your body a little further. Every three weeks, scale your longer run back by a few miles so you don’t overdo it and risk injury. For example, if you run 12 miles one weekend, 13 the next and then 14 miles, drop it down to 12 before moving up to 15 the following week.

Doing these runs at a substantially slower pace than usual builds up your confidence and lets your body adjust to longer distances.

Most marathon training plans peak at 20 miles in distance even though the final race is 26 miles long. With proper training you will be able to take advantage of the peak shape your body’s in, the rest you offer during a tapering period, and the adrenaline from the crowd to complete the final six miles.

However, if during your training you feel comfortable pushing to 26 miles as a base mileage you should do it. This way you can push for a great time during the marathon.

During your longer runs it is important to begin these sessions with enough energy to make it to the end. However, have you found that your training or race pace slows down towards the back end? You’ve started well but begin to suffer after an hour. The chances are you have run out of fuel. When the human tank of muscle and liver glycogen is empty, it’s already too late to recover. 

Do not wait until you begin to suffer. When the goal is to go fast for as long as possible, you must begin to fuel from the very start of your session. Aiming to consume fast, easy-to-digest carbohydrates like SiS GO gels, SiS GO Energy or SiS Beta Fuel every 15 to 20 minutes to achieve a rate of 60 to 120 grams per hour, depending on the duration of exercise. The result is that you’ll have more fuel for when you need it most, to finish strong and to go faster for longer.

Speed work

Speed work is an optional element to include in your training regime. It can increase your aerobic endurance and make your runs feel easier. Intervals and tempo runs are the most popular forms of speed work during marathon training.

Interval training includes running a set of repetitions of a specific, short distance which is run at a substantially faster pace than normal, and recovery jogs in between.

Tempo runs are longer than interval runs and are in the range of between four and 10 miles depending on where you’re at in your training. Tempo runs are run at a challenging pace. As speed work requires you running at a higher intensity, it means there is an even greater requirement for carbohydrate as energy and it therefore becomes even more crucial to ensure you consume enough before and during the session to maintain this higher intensity. One solution to maintain high energy levels during these sessions is to consume small convenient intakes of carbohydrates between repetitions. SiS GO gels or SiS GO Energy provide the ideal options for this, while SiS GO Energy also helps to maintain hydration levels.

Rest and recovery

The key to marathon training is not only increasing your weekly base mileage but also the recovery you give your body. Failure to allow your muscles and joints to rest and recover will result in a higher risk of injury.

Limit your runs to between three and five per week in order to provide your body with enough recovery time. A long run will put a lot of pressure on your muscles and deplete your stocks of carbohydrates. While burning carbs is often a welcome result of running, you still need to maintain a healthy glucose level in your body to replace what your body has lost.

Little and often is an excellent system to work by when seeking to replace lost carbs after a run. Aim to consume a form of carbohydrates as soon as possible after your session to help with the recovery process, then continue to consume carbohydrates every one to two hours thereafter to continue this process.

You will also need to get some protein on board because this helps to repair your muscle damage. Foods like fish, meat, eggs or pulses are great sources of protein that will help rebuild your body after a run. For example, using  SiS REGO Recovery immediately after running can provide an easy to consume carbohydrate and protein source to help with recovery and start to replenish and rebuild muscle. Following this, when it is more convenient, you may wish to have something more substantial like pasta with grilled chicken and some mixed beans and greens.

So, just like running itself, nutrition owes a lot to timing. Whether it’s loading up with carbohydrates beforehand or rehydrating afterwards, what you eat and when you eat will have a significant impact on the times you clock and how you feel.

Pre-race marathon running tips

The day is almost here and your training is complete. You’re feeling confident in your body but we have a couple more marathon running tips for you.

First, you need to ensure you’re hydrated properly. If you’re able to, carry your own water using a hydration pack or belt. This gives you easy access to water whenever you need it.

Also, you need to be fueling your body correctly. You may have heard of runners hitting ‘the wall’ so you’ll need to make use of sports supplements, energy gels and chew bars to give your body the boost it needs to get over the finish line. Using the new scientifically backed SiS Beta Fuel range can also potentially give you an advantage as each product in the range delivers dual source carbohydrate in the form of both maltodextrin and fructose, allowing you to achieve peak rates of exogenous carbohydrate oxidation of over 1.5 g per minute.

The result is maximal rates of carbohydrate delivery, absorption and utilisation, with minimal gastrointestinal discomfort, which should collectively help you to run faster for longer.

To find out more about the nutritional supplements we supply at SiS that can help your marathon training, contact us today.

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