Moving on Up
Training for the marathon
To complete a half-marathon is a remarkable achievement. Much of what you did to prepare for the distance can and should be repeated when you prepare to run your first marathon.
- Start with the end in mind. Choose the right race. This is critical. The ideal race will be flat with adequate feeding stations, first aid, and fellow runners to spur you on. The reason why “Big City” marathons are so popular is because they cater for you the runner. Regular newsletters providing advice and updates give you a sense of camaraderie, of being a part of something bigger, something exciting, something worthy – raising funds for your favourite charity gives you added incentives and purpose to drag yourself out of bed. Closer to the event, the expo, the start, the crowds, and the finish all provide the novice with motivation and encouragement so you realise that you are not alone.
- Give yourself adequate time to prepare. Life happens, you need to give yourself time to fit in the extra run, the extra distance on the weekends, the extra rest needed. You will need to build in buffers for the odd cold, or injury. Adequate time is roughly 16-20 weeks.
- Find a training program that suits you. As mentioned, life happens. Your running must enhance your quality of life not detract from it. Take a piece of paper, write down what you did in preparation for your half-marathon. What worked? What didn’t. Plan to do more of what worked – the same only more. Get rid of the things that didn’t work. I recommend that your first training week should be the same as your mid-program week. Then build on that using it as your base. The attached program never increases mileage by more that 10% per week, whatever base you come off, this is useful advice to follow.
- Once you have your program, break it down into weekly instalments and put these next to your bed or on your desk where you can see it. Looking at a 16-week program can be overwhelming. The journey of a 1000 miles starts with one step.
- Develop a positive mindset. When I coach athletes, I use positive-psycology. I ask them to imagine their previous best experiences as runners. Then I ask them to imagine their future best possible self as runners. This image is personified in their mind. The training, why they are doing each session, the purpose, the benefit and how it will get them to their goal. The mantra they will use to urge them on. Mine was, “pain is a given, suffering optional”. Now it is, ‘I can run fast, but I can run far”. While they train, they must imagine lining up, the final stretch, the finish line, right down to the crown cheering, the music playing, the medal around their neck.
- Use the same base as you used for your half-marathon.
- Determine what level you wish to race at. Is it to finish? To obtain a particular time? Once you have determined this, you can work out the distance and effort.
- The program includes four days per week of training. the other days are rest days. If you have the energy and feel inclined, then cross-train or do some other form of activity on these days. My experience is that if you want to complete a marathon, running is the best form of preparation.
- The program increases the mileage by 10 percent per week.
- The long runs are on the weekend. A good idea is to enter races of that distance as the roads are clear and there are refreshment stations – Saturday or Sunday doesn’t matter.
- This program increasingly places your body under stress. The way to counter this is with rest, adequate sleep, and a proper diet. More training does not necessarily equate to better results. The correct training for you does. On the wall behind my desk is a quote by running guru Dr George Sheehan, “everybody is an experiment of one”. Rest.
- Run your long runs with company if possible and ensure that you can carry on a comfortable conversation. The New Zealand coach Lydiard called this LSD [long slow distance], it is time on your feet, nothing else.
- Your most important week mentally is week 14. It is the most mileage as well as a 32km which will be longer than you have run before. Once you have done this we reduce mileage and taper for the race. But just remember once you have done 32km, a marathon is only 10km more and on the day the excitement and adrenaline which carry you forward to your ultimate goal.
- If you have a Garmin or similar, determine you maximum heart rate and the corresponding zone. Each session is graded in terms of effort. If you do not, the explanation as to the effort needed, is quite easy to follow.
- Zone 1: Your effort should be at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. It is relaxed aerobic training that requires no stress on the body.
- Zone 2: Your effort should be 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Run at a comfortable pace with deeper breathing than in Zone 1 but where conversation is possible. This is basic cardiovascular training.
- Zone 3: Your effort should be at 70-80% of your maximum hear rate. It should be more difficult to hold a conversation. This improves aerobic capacity.
This program is simply a guideline. Listen to your body and if in doubt, don’t. Like a recipe which one should only use as a guide allowing you to adjust to your own taste, so too must you adapt the program to suit your body. #Half2Full
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