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Training Tips

Ten top tips for spring marathon success


Amy Whitehead shares her tips for ensuring your training goes smoothly ahead of a spring marathon.

Read the full version of this article on the EuropeanMarathons.com website

1. The Big Target: We all set New Year’s resolutions but by mid-January most people have already broken them. Ensure your target is one that really excites you, even scares you a little and that it is something you really want to do. There is no point in stating that you wish to run the marathon if it does not appeal or you feel half-hearted about it. Without your full commitment, it will take you down! Never pick a target because it sounds good; pick it because it feels good.

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2. Reflect, evaluate, move forward: People tend to comment on a year as being a ‘good year’ or ‘bad year’, yet in reality, like individual days, most tend to be a mixture of both. Be honest in evaluating what has gone well in your marathon training in the year and what you have learnt from it. Only take the positive points forward and don’t dwell on the negatives.

3. A base: If you are running a spring marathon, January should be seen as a ‘base month’ that is going to form the foundation of your training. You need to gradually increase the miles, particularly the length of your long run and intensity of your training without breaking down. Adding on 5-10% to your mileage total a week should ensure that you progress without overloading the body (and mind!). Some runners avoid any sessions at all and purely have a couple of weeks of steady running to allow their body to become conditioned to the additional miles. This may mean logging 90-120 mile weeks for elite athletes. It is key that you adjust to whatever your extra mileage week is before re-introducing adding faster sessions onto tired legs.

4. Have a plan: Once you’ve identified your longer term, main target, ensure that you or your coach have worked out HOW you are going to achieve this. Personally, I like to have all of my training outlined in a 12-16 week block so I can see how it will progress, and so that I know what’s coming (especially when the rest days are!).

Chapter Six Amy Whitehead London Marathon5. Mini Targets: Ensure that you have shorter term goals to help you to hit your main target. This may be a 10k or half marathon time that will occur mid-way through your build up. Be aware that these targets need to be flexible, while some people will achieve big PBs, others are so tired from marathon training that they may struggle to hit race targets or times. It’s important not to panic if the legs don’t always perform for the shorter term targets that you have set.

6. Chart your miles: Mileage is a key factor in how well you perform in the marathon. Draft out the maximum miles that you wish to hit each week and ensure that they allow for a sufficient taper from three weeks out from the marathon. Record your training so you can see how this compares to your target week. Remember that everything will never go completely to plan: you may get ill, injured, overtired and should amend the training programme accordingly.

7. Increase tempos and reps: Once your mileage base is established; the length of your runs at race pace (or close to it), and number of interval repetitions, should also be increasing by mid-Jan and through to February. If in January you are comfortably doing 5 miles at close to marathon pace, ideally by February, you will be doing 10 miles.

8. Nutrition: The right fuel is key to your marathon success and during the cold winter months. Stay hydrated, get plenty of vitamins and minerals and a good intake of both proteins and carbohydrates. Try to eat natural, unprocessed and fresh foods

9. Sleep: Do not neglect to realise what a huge undertaking a marathon is: sleep is imperative. When you train, you are stressing the body; sleeping is when it responds to the training, absorbing it and reacting to the demand to make you stronger. As you increase the training in January, be sure to increase the amount of sleep that you have too. Aim for an absolute minimum of eight hours.

10. Just Say ‘NO’: Keep your focus on your spring marathon and accept that you may need to scale back social commitments in light of the extra training and rest needed in these key months. You can party after the marathon!