Quick step-by-step training guide to get you ready for your first marathon

I applaud anyone who has the goal of running a marathon.

It’s a fantastic thing to do whether you just love running, are taking up a personal challenge or raising funds for a charity. There are many reasons why people run and that makes it such a special sport.

For some, running and training comes naturally, but for others, they have to work bloody hard for it. In fact, there’s no shortcuts out there for anyone.

Here is a very basic, quick, step-by-step guide to some of the ingredients you need if you’re about to train for and run a marathon.

1) Check your physical condition

Running 26.2 miles is far from a doddle, you need to respect the distance and if you’re not a fitness-goer, regular runner or aren’t in good physical condition, seek some medical advice and take great care in your preparation before embarking on your experience. You don’t want to get injured before you even start the process.

2) Motivation

This is needed in the bucket load, as well as plenty of drive, persistence and perseverance. With these elements, you’ll go a long way.

3) Build a running programme and commit to it

Start small and slow and then build. Create a training programme to work through over several months or seek expert advice.

Traditionally, a marathon should consist of a block of training between 12 and 20 weeks. For more advanced runners, they will need a shorter window to get into condition whereas for newbies, you need a structured and progressive programme to make sure you are marathon ready.

Ideally, running three times each week is perfect for new runners but it’s important to stay at that level for a consistent period before progressing and getting closer to four to five times, factoring in adequate rest and recovery.

4) Mileage

Don’t expect to be able to go for a 20 mile run within the first week of training and come away feeling good. It is vital you build your mileage volume slowly but surely and aim for steady improvements and respect the process you are building up to. Too much too soon can often lead to injury.

Remember, keep your runs easy paced until you build strength in your legs and become more comfortable.

There is next to no benefit in taking off too swiftly and quickly.

dawn dusk forest grass

Gradually build up your mileage.

5) Run in a group or get a training partner

Running with others and even having a training partner who has the same goal and is competing in the same race is great for motivation. You can feed off each other’s energy and it can really help during those days when you don’t feel like running.

6) Take part in smaller events

There is nothing quite like the buzz of a race and replicating race conditions. Building up to the marathon with 5kms and 10kms, and later a half-marathon, is a great way to get you ready physically and mentally for a first marathon.

7) Your marathon training should include the following…

and be split up into the segments below, on top of keeping your overall mileage ticking over.

Speed work: If you are targeting a specific time, you want to factor in a mixture of fast-paced tempo and interval runs, helping your body get used to running at a quicker pace and at a higher heart rate. As part of this process, you should see improvements in your cardio capacity (effectively your running engine and ability to go faster).

The long run: The most significant run in any training programme, the long run should be completed once a week later in your training schedule and around once every 10 days from the start (maximum 8-10 miles).

You should build up slowly, for example, running 12 miles one week and 14 the next, before hitting the 20-mile mark (maximum 22-23 for more experienced runners). After that, normally two weeks before your race, it’s time to taper and scale back.

On race day, with both endorphins and adrenaline with you, you will push through to the finish line over the final 6.2 miles as a result of all your hard work up to that point.

8. Rest and recovery

This is so, so important.

Days off from running, adequate sleep, general rest, foam rolling, stretching and mental recuperation should all form important ingredients of the marathon training recipe.

9. Tapering

Leading up to race day, novice runners need to gradually scale back their overall mileage and volume. It’s vital to keep moving, exercising and eating well to keep you as fresh as possible for the startline.

10. Nutrition and Hydration

This goes without saying, eating well and making sure you are hydrated during and after your runs will make a huge difference when it comes to performance!

These five essential tips will make you take up running

Having the goal of wanting to take up running is a great one to have but it is not necessarily as simple as just putting on your trainers and running for some people.

Indeed, getting started can actually be the hardest thing especially if you’ve not run before and it is more or less totally new to you.

That’s where Marathon Running Training is here to help!

Here are five quickfire tips that will make it easier for you to not only start as a first-time runner, but become a competent beginner in next to no time. Here’s hoping you’ll soon have that runner’s buzz.

Start slow and have a plan – We all go through different fads and interests in life but often plenty fall by the wayside and don’t become hobbies you’ll always do and enjoy. Instead of just trying to go for your very first run or perhaps a run for the first time in many years, before that, make a small plan and log the days in which you are going to run each week.

Establishing some form of routine and regularity is good, rather than running on an ad-hoc basis when it is easier to just ditch the idea of cardio workout altogether. There are plenty of apps out there which will help you crucially build up very slowly.

Try and embrace what you hate, or change things – There might be plenty of aspects of running you don’t like, such as not feeling comfortable in your training gear, disliking running outside or treadmills in gyms.

Only you can determine what works for you; i.e. running with headphones and an armband, or morning over evening, but seek to find the perfect formula that will give you the best chance of getting into running.

Run with a friend or in a group – There is nothing more motivating than linking up with pals and enjoying the experience of running. By agreeing to run with people or attend certain sessions, there is more accountability to your running and it isn’t as easy to Whatsapp a mate and say you’re not going to be there last-minute, is it?!

It is a rewarding and confidence-building experience running with people, with social media now giving you a great platform and opportunity to document your positive progress.

Learn to love running!

Work towards a target – Not all of us are lucky enough to gain entry into the London Marathon, but that is one such example of a long-term goal which would keep you on the straight and narrow, and motivate you to achieve an amazing feat.

No matter how big or small the target is, sign up for a race or log a date in your diary a couple of months ahead of time to do some kind of fun run. This can really help with motivation as you quickly become aware that failure to run and train properly will affect you on race day. Doing something charity-related is something I’d recommend.

Don’t judge, analyse or criticise your progress / running – We can all be our own worst critic at times and demand more from ourselves. This is fine if you’re an advanced runner and know which buttons to press in order to maximise your potential, but for newbies, you just want to go with the flow, start from scratch and enjoy the process of running without critiquing everything.

Yes, advice, hints and tips will help you progress, as well as speaking to other runners, but don’t expect too much too soon and place the pressure of a race day experience, for example, on your shoulders when you’re not ready. It’s OK to stop and walk during a run or end a session early – no one is going to think less of you!

New Forest Marathon 2018 race review – Top 10 finish

Race day

Having taken part in my first New Forest Marathon this year, it is no surprise to me that the event as a whole sells out across the 26.2-mile, half marathon, 10km, 5km and junior races.

Apparently, according to the event’s organisers, over 2,000 runners were on the waiting list to take part in the 2018 edition – in case of any last-minute dropouts.

Those of you keen to run in 2019 are probably advised to register quickly!

The race day, for which I was part of as mentioned for the first time, had, I felt, a really unique feel and of course the surroundings of the forest gave it a different and special edge over a typical road race marathon.

Held at the New Forest Show in Brockenhurst, the race village had clearly been organised down to a tee – in an annual event, which dates back to 1983 and is one of the south’s most popular as a direct result.

Run by family and friends, a lot of effort goes into ensuring the race maintains a local, as well as vibrant ambience with live music, businesses and running enthusiasts galore adding to the atmosphere.

Race pick-up, entry and parking was all smooth sailing and there was plenty of space to warm-up, as well as partake in the mass warm-up, where lovely, personal stories were told by the MC about those who were running for various reasons.

It was a nice touch and certainly got me pumped for the 9am marathon start.

Starting off

Having trained in the extreme summer heat of Dubai all summer, those conditions could not have been more different to race day – something which I knew would be the case – and I was ready to make the subtle adjustments on the rough terrain and trails in terms of my overall cadence (running economy and feet positioning – exaggerated front foot strike was key).

I felt in excellent nick having kept myself ticking over from my London Marathon and Manchester Marathon double in April, and while the long run is virtually impossible during Dubai’s summer, I was confident I’d run well as I maintained my race weight (61kg) and daily strength training workload.

I have to say the course was picturesque and scenic – exactly what I was looking for, away from my normal concrete jungle life in the sandpit!

Having grown up in Hampshire – the county means a lot to me, that said – I wasn’t particularly familiar with a lot of the route having never properly run its trails previously.

I quickly moved into a top six position and averaged around a 6.40 minute mile pace up until around the 10-mile marker – which was what I was targeting, though I had just planned from the outset to come in around three hours (which I feel is my on the money / standard time).

I was in my comfort zone and cruising but it was noticeable to me how much extra mental energy I spent watching every footstep, to avoid tripping on the trails. It’s something I’d experienced many times previously but it felt like I had to pay more attention than usual this time around.

Wrong turn!

The signage and road markings were relatively clear throughout – but at around the halfway mark, I took a slight, wrong deviation.

It was my error but I did want to flag it, so perhaps the same mistake isn’t made again.

Having run a good section of Sway Road, the course route aligned itself with the B3055. It was a pretty sizeable hill climb, with cars coming down the other side of the road and strong winds against you. I’d be lying if I, at that point, said I wasn’t thinking about a nice warm beach in the UAE.

As I made my way up the hill, the runner in sixth or seventh ahead of me, had gone over the brow and was out of sight. Around a minute or two later, I reached the top – going past a busy Pitmore Lane junction – and a steward was there, though I felt (not his fault), that things weren’t very clear in terms of direction and I hesitated with cars turning in and out of the road.

I was also blowing after the climb (heart rate had spiked) and experienced a mental lapse as I missed the Manchester Road turning – without anyone saying otherwise or telling me I had taken the wrong route (see picture below). For such a crucial juncture of the race, I felt there needed to be more officials present but it was what it was.

As you can see, I ended up running down Durnstown and past the Hare and Hounds establishment where I obviously couldn’t see another runner in sight because the road curved around into Birchy Hill. I flagged down a car and asked a very kind lady (thanks for your help!), and she told me she had not seen any runners go past her.

So, after what was probably two to three minutes, I turned back, ran up the hill and got back on the right track to see the runner in 11th or 12th position just about to take the right turning and go ahead of me. I definitely wasted a combination of mental and physical energy but it was all good fun!

I soon recovered but given my finishing time was 03:03:36, it cost me another sub-3, arguably.

As I said, it was my mentally tired error of judgement and these things happen, and will probably happen again. It’s all part of the experience of a marathoner.

It has to be mentioned that the volunteers and young children involved at the drink stations were superb (although I would question the placing of some stations which were on sharp bends) – with people giving as much support as possible. Events such as the New Forest Marathon rely on that kind of help and I applaud it.

An area for improvement

For less experienced runners out there, there were a few chunks of the marathon course which would have been pretty lonely as support and race officials were scarce.

A marathon of this size is very difficult to cover in terms of making sure race personnel can be spotted frequently, but for five hour-plus marathoners, there were sections, certainly from mile 20 onwards, where more cover on the ground would have been beneficial to cheer participants to the finish line.

Post-race, a few runners who I spoke to also noticed the half-marathon and marathon routes came up short on their trusty Garmin trackers. Mine was bang on, so I’m not sure if other runners experienced the same thing or not. However, this certainly needs looking at.

Those pointers are just small critiques in what I felt was generally an outstanding event and a race day in which I would recommend to anyone. Indeed, I’ll certainly be back myself! Personally, I loved the run and it was just what I needed, combining my favourite things: running and spending time with family and friends!

If you were there on Sunday, let me know and get in touch!

10 of the best last-minute tips before you run a marathon

We all get those pre-marathon race nerves. It is something we can’t control but think of these kind of emotions as a positive thing.

The fact you feel a bit jittery is because you’ve been committed to a long training journey to get to the startline, which in itself, takes a bucket load of dedication, sacrifice and work.

Although running a marathon isn’t for the faint-hearted, technically, the toughest part of the process is done when you gear up to get going over 26.2 miles / 42.195km.

So, to help make sure your transition from tapering to race day goes as smoothly as possible, take on board my top last-minute marathon preparation and race tips.

1) Stick to your plans and what you know

The days leading up to race day and then the day itself is not a time to make any sudden or drastic changes to your set plans, and likewise, your nutrition and general regime. Stick to what has been working for you and trust the process, don’t be tempted to try something different when there is no need.

It’s your race – so run at your pace and don’t be swayed by what others are doing. Avoid the classic of setting off too fast and paying for it a few miles in.

2) Prepare your race kit in advance

It may sound obvious but I’ve seen hundreds of runners frantically trying to attach their race numbers and timing chips with minutes to go before the start. Failure to prepare properly and making sure you have all the correct kit you need can bring on unnecessary stress.

Generally, you will pick up your race pack ahead of the event. This means you can get everything ready the night before, be less rushed in the morning and sleep a little easier!

3) What shall I wear for a marathon?

Again, this, by now, should be something you know the answer to having run plenty of training miles and tested out which clothing works and what doesn’t for you.

Generally, avoid cotton t-shirts and really tight-fitted clothing. Instead, go for cool, light colours and nylon wear that will absorb your sweat. You should also plan how you’re going to carry energy gels and boosters (a running belt is a good idea).

4) Don’t try different trainers on race day!

I touched on this above but changing your footwear or wearing a brand-new pair of runners on race day is an absolute no-no!

5) Carb-loading

You want to start building your energy stores two to three days before the marathon by eating foods rich in carbohydrates and glycogen. Pasta, potatoes, bread, rice, oatmeal, yoghurt and whole fruit will help boost those stores and enable your body to dig into these reserves during the run – probably entering the last six miles / 10km – when you need it most. In fact, the school of thought is a marathon doesn’t really begin until this milestone.

It is also important to plan your nutrition and eat sensibly, as well as avoid eating too late into the night.

On race day, there is no need to carb-up but go for a light food option such as porridge or cereal.

6) Make sure your hydration is on point

In the lead up to the run, consume plenty of water, plan your sports drink intake and what you will need/works for you throughout.

7) Familiarise yourself with race day rules, regulations and the route

Knowing what to expect can help you visualise your race and calm nerves. With regards to the route, it’s useful to be aware of landmarks you may experience along the way, and as a result, you can build mini targets. Ahead of the run, just ensure you’ve read the event’s instructions and always double, double check the start time!

8) Don’t forget to chill out…

While there is a lot to take onboard and your mind (if you’re anything like me) can’t think of anything else beside the marathon, be sure to rest and follow the taper phase of your training programme. Rest is crucial, that said, it’s important to keep moving around the day before, go for a long walk and stretch.

9) Warm-up!

Jog, move around and get the blood pumping before you run. It’s actually a good thing to work up a sweat so you don’t feel cold when the starter’s gun goes off. Make sure you also plan a toilet stop before you get going!

10) Set two goals

Marathon running is unfortunately unpredictable and is very much an ‘on the day event’ where anything can happen. Indeed, sometimes things don’t go to script regardless of great preparation.

Conditions can play havoc with your plans. That’s why it’s worth setting two goals, with the first one being your top target and then your second, a back-up!

But, just remember, most importantly, go out there, enjoy it and give it your best shot! It’s a cool experience whatever happens and you have every reason to be proud!

The quick step-by-step training guide to get you ready for your first marathon

I applaud anyone who has the goal of running a marathon.

It’s a fantastic thing to do whether you just love running, are taking up a personal challenge or raising funds for a charity. There are many reasons why people run and that makes it such a special sport.

For some, running and training comes naturally, but for others, they have to work bloody hard for it. In fact, there’s no shortcuts out there for anyone.

Here is a very basic, quick, step-by-step guide to some of the ingredients you need if you’re about to train for and run a marathon.

1) Check your physical condition

Running 26.2 miles is far from a doddle, you need to respect the distance and if you’re not a fitness-goer, regular runner or aren’t in good physical condition, seek some medical advice and take great care in your preparation before embarking on your experience. You don’t want to get injured before you even start the process.

2) Motivation

This is needed in the bucket load, as well as plenty of drive, persistence and perseverance. With these elements, you’ll go a long way.

3) Build a running programme and commit to it

Start small and slow and then build. Create a training programme to work through over several months or seek expert advice.

Traditionally, a marathon should consist of a block of training between 12 and 20 weeks. For more advanced runners, they will need a shorter window to get into condition whereas for newbies, you need a structured and progressive programme to make sure you are marathon ready.

Ideally, running three times each week is perfect for new runners but it’s important to stay at that level for a consistent period before progressing and getting closer to four to five times, factoring in adequate rest and recovery.

4) Mileage

Don’t expect to be able to go for a 20 mile run within the first week of training and come away feeling good. It is vital you build your mileage volume slowly but surely and aim for steady improvements and respect the process you are building up to. Too much too soon can often lead to injury.

Remember, keep your runs easy paced until you build strength in your legs and become more comfortable.

There is next to no benefit in taking off too swiftly and quickly.

dawn dusk forest grass

Gradually build up your mileage.

5) Run in a group or get a training partner

Running with others and even having a training partner who has the same goal and is competing in the same race is great for motivation. You can feed off each other’s energy and it can really help during those days when you don’t feel like running.

6) Take part in smaller events

There is nothing quite like the buzz of a race and replicating race conditions. Building up to the marathon with 5kms and 10kms, and later a half-marathon, is a great way to get you ready physically and mentally for a first marathon.

7) Your marathon training should include the following…

and be split up into the segments below, on top of keeping your overall mileage ticking over.

Speed work: If you are targeting a specific time, you want to factor in a mixture of fast-paced tempo and interval runs, helping your body get used to running at a quicker pace and at a higher heart rate. As part of this process, you should see improvements in your cardio capacity (effectively your running engine and ability to go faster).

The long run: The most significant run in any training programme, the long run should be completed once a week later in your training schedule and around once every 10 days from the start (maximum 8-10 miles).

You should build up slowly, for example, running 12 miles one week and 14 the next, before hitting the 20-mile mark (maximum 22-23 for more experienced runners). After that, normally two weeks before your race, it’s time to taper and scale back.

On race day, with both endorphins and adrenaline with you, you will push through to the finish line over the final 6.2 miles as a result of all your hard work up to that point.

8. Rest and recovery

This is so, so important.

Days off from running, adequate sleep, general rest, foam rolling, stretching and mental recuperation should all form important ingredients of the marathon training recipe.

9. Tapering

Leading up to race day, novice runners need to gradually scale back their overall mileage and volume. It’s vital to keep moving, exercising and eating well to keep you as fresh as possible for the startline.

10. Nutrition and Hydration

This goes without saying, eating well and making sure you are hydrated during and after your runs will make a huge difference when it comes to performance!