- Keep the bulk of your easy aerobic training easy! Marathon work requires a strong aerobic base, so making sure your steady running is actually steady is key to ensure sustainability and consistency with training. (And to also keep yourself fresh for the speed stuff when it matters to run quick!) . You don't want to get to race day having only trained hard all the time and just tire yourself out. Training fatigue can linger and you won't notice until it's too late. You can't train hard and race hard at the same time.
. Training schedules are the servant not the master. We're not paid professionals. Life gets in the way. There's far more important things to life than running like health, family and more. It's fine to have to miss sessions and runs to prioritise these. Work around it and adjust. Don't feel guilty.
Tempo work is a very crucial part of developing speed for any endurance-based distance, particularly marathons. Not only does it provide a great aerobic benefit as the sessions are long and sustained but working on your lactate threshold will enable you to power through those faster speeds for longer. It also is a great piece of mental training as it helps to adapt your mind to sustained yet hard efforts for a long time- exactly what the marathon is.
Sleep (a lot!) most of our recovery process occurs when we fall asleep. Being able to recover well from the previous days training is what allows you to keep training in the first place. Of course, all the other benefits of keeping on top of sleep still apply, not at least the ability to be mentally recharged for running and all of life's commitments. Aim for at least 7 hours a night, but ideally 8 (possibly even more) should be sought after. Make sure to cut off electronics/ apply screen filters for tech to ensure you're not 'wired' when going to bed. On top of this reducing sugary content/caffeine in your diet will help too . Stress will also affect sleeping so be mindful of that too.
•Don’t neglect speed work. I’m always suspicious of marathon plans that don’t include a degree of speed training. There’s a case to argue for those doing their first marathon (with a view to simply finishing) that they just need to build up a consistent running routine of purely easy, long aerobic running to get them through. However even for those looking to just finish, the mental and physical benefits of speed work will help you run the marathon better. Speed work will enhance your running economy, build up your physical strength, enhance your running form, and give you a lot of mental confidence to know you can tolerate uncomfortable periods of running for sustained periods of time.
Your body will regulate its sleep patterns and will know if you need more of it. So listen to it and get the sleep in!
Short, fast repeats also break the monotony of long, sustained training, allowing you to keep up confidence and interest in your training.
• Reflect your race in training. Any good marathon plan should include periods of sustained running at marathon pace, or include ways to replicate the conditions you will be facing, particularly on the latter stages of the training programme. This is after all what you will be facing on the day, so learning to get comfortable with it is a good bit of mental training. One good way is to slot in marathon-pace efforts for longer runs at periodic intervals, or one half of a run. I.e. 10 miles easy, 10 miles at marathon pace, 5 miles easy, 5 miles marathon pace (x2) getting your body used to adapting to your race pace will obviously help you know what to expect on the day.
Try to get your easy and longer sustained bits of running to match the race you will be doing. For instance for hilly trail marathons, getting a good bit of training on rolling trails is a great way to adapt yourself to the conditions of the race. With this said, road running still has a place to ensure good leg turnover and to get used to running sustained with no interruptions
• Get nutrition right. Good nutrition is key to almost everything with running all distances, including marathon training. Staying broadly healthy will make you feel more alert, will help you sleep better and recovery better. I’ve put posts on this before but broadly you should be: eating to hunger, increasing carb quantity, particularly before periods of high-volume running. Increasing protein intake for muscle recovery and to help alertness by slowing down sugar absorption from carbs, reducing caffeine, sugar and red meat intake drastically. Increasing fluid intake and hydrating regularly, eating more omega 3 products like oily fish to promote recovery, getting a good variety of fruit and veg in, and finally, recovering ASAP after hard/long session with something ¾ carbs to ¼ protein.
• Avoid the noise. Because of how popular marathons are there’s a lot of pressure on runners to perform well and to meet certain expectations, and this can create a lot of mental problems and anxiety’s simply not worth having to deal with for a simple race. On top of this, training takes months for almost no certainly on a good performance on the day due to many underlying factors. These can destroy a person’s confidence and can create a lot of stress.
The important thing is to always do what you think is best for yourself and be selfish about it. Do a quieter marathon far away, don’t tell anyone about it if you don’t want to. Set your training to private on Strava/Garmin, run at your pace, in your time at a way that is comfortable for you, and don’t get dragged into anything you may not feel will benefit you.