We help you decide whether running a marathon is for you and give you some top tips for marathon training.
Should you run a marathon?
Just because you are a runner doesn’t mean that you have to run a marathon.
Often when people find out that you are a runner the first thing they say is “Have you run a marathon?” There is an undercurrent of pressure there. However, you shouldn’t attempt this major event unless you really want to do it. The challenge needs to excite you.
Try Colin’s ‘shall I do a marathon test’ (once the current restrictions are lifted of course)
If you are thinking of doing a marathon then get in your car. Set the milometer to zero and drive for twenty six miles. Have a break and then drive the twenty six miles back again. Having done the trip, if the idea of running a marathon still excites you then go ahead with the challenge.
How much running experience do you need to run a marathon?
It is best to have two to three year’s running experience behind you before you try a marathon. If you can’t run for at least an hour non-stop when you start your build up you will struggle to run the whole 26.2 miles. Try a half marathon before you attempt the full distance. This will be challenge enough. In fact, a half marathon is a great challenge for many recreational runners. If you are going to run a half marathon in a time of between two to two and a half hours, it is the equivalent of an Olympian doing a marathon.
Top tips for marathon training and for anyone wanting to get fitter
Marathon training is the best way for all runners to improve their fitness. It involves running a large volume at a nice easy pace. It’s often called base building or aerobic running.
1. You need to be running 26 miles during your training week
If you can run a total of twenty six miles during your training week and you can run non-stop for two hours then you should be able to finish the marathon and run it all.
2. Most of your training runs should be done at Chatty pace
If you are going to run your marathon in less than four hours, the pace of your training runs should be slower than your marathon race pace. Many marathon runners make the mistake of training a little too fast and then run at a slower pace in the actual marathon.
If you are going to run your marathon in four hours or more then you will be running the whole distance at Chatty pace. Train at Chatty and superchatty pace.
3. Include a weekly long run of two to two and a half hours
Your long run needs to be a minimum of two hours long. It also needs to be gentle so that you develop your body’s ability to use fat as a fuel. You can run up to two and a half hours but going beyond this is not necessary. The law of diminishing returns kicks in here as excessively long runs take longer to recover from and have a negative effect on the rest of the training week. You can find out more about fat metabolism and the length of the long run here.
4. Practice fueling on a couple of long runs nearer the date of your marathon
Although you should not eat during training runs to stimulate your fat metabolism, when it comes to the race you will need to take on some fuel to get your round the full distance. You will need to practice fueling on a couple of training runs to make sure your chosen food agrees with you.
5. Train for your current level of fitness
You need to train for where you are now not for where you want to be. If you are set a marathon paced run on a plan then you need to run it at your current marathon pace not the pace you will be able to run on the day after months of training. Marathon pace is a bit ‘breathy’. It’s not that hard. If you have been told that marathon pace is part-sentence pace then that is much too fast.
6. Adapt your training plan to make it work for you
The marathon training plan you are following must be relevant to you. You must finish every run feeling like you could have gone further and a bit faster. This applies to the long run especially. You will need to be a feeling based runner. Listen to your body and make sure you are recovering. You will need to adapt an off the shelf training plan to suit you.
Tempo runs, interval sessions or anything involving paces faster than breathy shouldn’t feature early on in the plan. There is a place for faster running as the marathon gets closer, but not before. Chatty sparkly running is all that is needed at first.
Training for a marathon is all about the volume that you do not the speed you run at. The Chatty Sparkly approach is perfect for marathon training as it is for all other distances as well as for simply making you fitter.