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Training Tips

March motivation! How to stay on track for a spring marathon


If you’re targeting a spring marathon, then March is the month to rack up the miles and clock your longest runs. But now you’ve been training for weeks, the initial enthusiasm may have worn off and tiredness could be beginning to take its toll.

So how can you stay focused on your goal, remain injury-free and continue to build on the hard training you’ve done already?

Here’s our top tips:

Get some company: By March you’ll be doing your longest runs but it doesn’t have to be a lonely and boring task. Join a local running club or group or find a friend of a similar pace to run with. Even if they don’t want to run with you for the full 20 miles, joining you for some of it will help you break up the distance mentally. If you can’t persuade anyone to run with you, ask a friend or relative to accompany you on a bike instead.

ID-100215469Take a scenic route: A long run will give you an opportunity to run out to routes you wouldn’t normally have time to reach, this could mean taking in some beautiful scenery and doing a bit of wildlife spotting if you can run off road. Check a map and plot a route where you can get away from the monotony of pounding the pavements and the run will be much more enjoyable. Running off-road may mean your pace is slower but you’ll still be building up strength and endurance and practising time on feet.

Do a 20 mile race: This is way to get the miles in surrounded by other runners so you’re not churning out the distance alone. However, most top runners will avoid 20 miles races as they can tire them out before the marathon if run too hard. So as the marathon is your goal, don’t get hung up on running a 20 mile PB, just treat it as a training run on a marked route with water stations to aid you. You could do some of it at marathon pace to practise how it feels but in general it’s best to treat a 20 mile race like a usual Sunday run to avoid burning out before the marathon.

Reading Half stadium 1Do a shorter race: Enter a race from 5k to half-marathon distance in March to track your progress. If you find it easy, or you run a PB, it will give you a confidence boost that your training is going well and motivate you to keep training. Being part of the race atmosphere could also lift your spirits and reignite your passion to race the marathon. You can practise your race day strategy or run it at marathon pace to practise that if you don’t want to push yourself too hard. With a long warm up and warm down either side of the race you can also get the miles in. However, don’t worry if you don’t run as fast as you hoped in the race – marathon training can make you more tired and you might not want to ease down to run at your best if the race falls in a high mileage week. Remember the marathon is the goal so consider any other PBs a bonus but not the be-all and end-all.

Do some speed sessions: If you’re not already doing speed or tempo work then start incorporating it into your training. Doing runs with harder efforts will break up your run and make it more interesting as well as improving your fitness. Ideal sessions for marathoners include mile reps with one or two minutes recovery or tempo runs where you pick up for the pace for five to 10 miles in between a slow warm up and warm down.

Get a sports massage: With all this hard training, it’s important to take care of your body to avoid getting an injury. Using a foam roller is good to ease some muscle aches and alleviate tight spots but when you’re doing high mileage, it’s good to see a professional sports masseur to get a real deep tissue massage. Getting a massage once a month (or fortnight if you can afford it) will prevent the build-up of muscle tightness and knots that lead to injury and help your body recover from periods of intense exercise so you’re better prepared for forthcoming training.

Cross train: ‘Active recovery’ is exercise which does not stress the body in the same way as running but still helps improve fitness, for example, cycling, swimming, yoga or walking. These sorts of activities will also keep your training more interesting, giving your mind as well as your body a break from running whilst still doing something beneficial towards your training.

Rest! Make sure you have a day off once a week where you do no running at all in order to give your body a chance to recover. Listen to your body, if you are feeling fatigued from the training and a run is just going to be ‘junk miles’ where you just plod, it may be more beneficial to take an extra, unscheduled rest day to avoid illness or injury and enhance your other runs that week because you won’t be as tired. Remember, there’s a difference in skipping a run because you ‘can’t be bothered’ and skipping a run because you’re in need of a rest.

Remember your goal: If you are starting to feel tired and demotivated, think about your goals and why you signed up to run a marathon in the first place. If it was to raise money for charity, have another push at raising sponsorship. Knowing that so many people are backing you, and that their money for the charity is dependent on you finishing as promised, should give you extra incentive to head out the door. If your goal is to run a PB, focus on why this means so much to you and how proud you will feel if you achieve it.