For years, I have promised myself I would one day complete a marathon. Yet life has a habit of getting in the way, and the commitment of training for months to complete such a long distance always made me put it off. With a milestone birthday approaching in 2019 however, I decided that this was the year.
After a few disastrous runs in the past, not to mention completely avoidable injuries, I was keen to do this marathon training malarkey the right way. Cue two months into the training schedule and 25% of the way through, and I have learned several valuable lessons for making marathon training successful and equally, enjoyable.
Look at Ordnance Survey Maps When Creating a Route
All professional runners talk about the mental as well as physical endurance needed to complete a long-distance run. While some people combat this with music or podcasts, I found these influenced my pacing too often to be useful. Not to mention, some running events becoming increasingly restrictive against headphone use.
Ordnance survey maps offer the perfect reprieve from running routine boredom. It is surprising how many weird and wonderful landmarks are hidden in plain view around the landscape. Just a quick glance at one near an ol’ faithful route of mine revealed an old moat, remains of an old abbey, and an ‘experimental station’ (whatever that is…). Ordnance Survey maps give a breath of new life into overkilled routes and can help runners maintain mental stamina by creating new trails with more surprises waiting to be found. Plus, you never have to worry about charging maps.
Vary Marathon Training with Other Sports/Exercises
Sometimes a change of scenery or pace is all that is needed to make a sport enjoyable again. While it is important to maintain to a training schedule when training for a marathon, sometimes breaking up the monotony of a schedule is just what is needed to inject some much-needed fun into the training plan.
Personally I find adding some rock climbing or yoga into my schedule gives more variety and fun, particularly as I approach the middle of the training plan in winter, and you have to dig deep for motivation. Also, the added flexibility and core muscle exercises I gain from these sports has improved my running performance as well.
Take Training Slowly
When I was fifteen, I entered my first half marathon. I found a training plan, grew tired of its incremental progress after a few weeks, decided to bin it and immediately jump from zero to seven miles. Perhaps unsurprising to everyone but myself, I developed shin splints in both legs and runner’s knee in my right. It took weeks of recovery before I could run without pain. Not to mention, having to completely rework my gait to lose all my bad habits also added weeks onto my training plan.
The lesson to take away from my self-inflicted misfortune is to take the time to find a training plan that suits you, have faith in it and don’t compare your progress results too often. Comparison is the thief of joy as they say, as well as shin bones.
Get the right equipment
Finding the right pair of trainers, not to mention clothing, is vital to ensure marathon training is fun, and to help avoid injuries. Running shoes provide different levels of arch support for runners, and cater for various types of running. Not only that, but the wrong type of running shoes can cause you to change your running stride, which can consequently cause injuries.
The layering system is ideal when choosing a running outfit. For many runners training in cold temperatures, it is tempting to forego any waterproof or insulated layers. Most argue they grow too warm when running, and can bear being a little cold at first. Yet sweat-soaked clothes will only make you feel colder, particularly if you are walking during interval/speed training, and your body overall performs better when it’s not fighting hypothermia.
Invest in decent underwear
Ladies, if you want to avoid the most painful chafing of your life, pay attention. Invest in the best sports bra you can afford – that painful sensation of your boobs tearing from your body after a run is an actual condition: runner’s boob. Avoid it at all costs.
Underwear is also important. Find something breathable and wickable, and if possible with the fewest seams. Your nether regions will thank you.
The More the Merrier
The glorious aspect of running is that you can enjoy it wherever, whenever. This makes it a popular sport for travellers and anyone with short time on their hands to squeeze exercise into their routine.
The downside to this though is that running can sometimes be a lonely pastime, hours spent treading pavement in the small hours when few others are awake. Do this for too long, and it can start to feel repetitive.
This is why bringing a friend, pet, running group, whichever, is beneficial to marathon training. Having someone running besides you breaks up the training routine, and, if you’re one of those competitive types, forces you to train harder.
Personally, I found this aspect of training one of the most important habits to adopt. Way back when I did my last half marathon, I struggled to adjust my diet to the additional protein and energy required to train, and wound up scoffing loads of Lucozade and chocolate to keep myself going. Not only were the eventual sugar crashes horrific, but my muscles struggled to recover fast enough to keep pace with the training schedule.
While meal prep might be a difficult for anyone with a busy schedule, or just generally unorganised, it does have several benefits. Giving yourself proper fuel for runs and nutrition will help support your training regime and enable you to perform at your optimum during runs. Additional side benefits, such as less food wastage and not spending so much money on emergency munchies, also benefits the environment and your wallet.