How to train for a marathon
So you’ve decided to take on a marathon. Congratulations! Whether it’s the Auckland marathon, or the famous New York City marathon, running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and a truly rewarding experience. It’s something that not only pushes your body, but your mind.
In saying that, training for a marathon can be a big challenge, and it requires commitment and lots of dedicated training. But with the right preparation, and the right motivation and drive, you’ll be on the right track to tackle the 42 km.
Find a training programme
You should always have a well-thought-out training plan before undertaking a marathon. Most will start around 16-20 weeks before race day, depending on your level of fitness.
Find a training programme that works for you and your schedule. If you’re unsure, talk to someone who has run a marathon before and get their advice. If you know someone running the same marathon and they’re at a similar fitness level to you, try to train with them.
The major key to marathon training is consistency. 42km is a big feat, it’ll take you time to work up to it. You’ve got to build up your fitness and endurance over time in order to tackle it. That means consistent weekly runs, along with the right diet plan.
Don’t forget about mental preparation
Marathons are as much a mental challenge as they are physical. Make sure you strengthen not only your body, but your mind.
“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind that says anything is possible.” - John Hanc, marathon runner and Runner’s World contributing editor
So how can you mentally train yourself for the 42km?
- Go back to the reasons why you’re running in the first place. Was it a personal goal? Is it for charity? On those days when you’re struggling – and trust us, you’ll have those days – try to remember the bigger picture and why you’re running in the first place.
- Picture the tough parts. Every marathon has easier and harder parts. In order to mentally prepare yourself for those hurdles, try to visualise the hard parts. That isn’t to say you should stress about them. If possible, practice those harder sections before the race. Keep an eye out for visual markers (like a landmark or building) that will remind you how far along you are, and how long you’ve got to go.
“The effort of running is only as hard as your brain perceives it to be. Scientists have demonstrated that seemingly absolute physical limits are imposed by the brain—not the body.” - Alex Hutchinson, Runner’s World
- When it comes to race day think of the smaller goals. Of course it’s great to visualise the finish line. But along those 42 kms, focus on reaching smaller goals and different sections along the way. It could be the next 8 km or the next block. When you’re really struggling, push yourself to reach the next part. And then the next one, and the next one. When you’re hitting those hard moments, think back about what you’ve achieved so far. If you’ve got 21km to go, it also means you’ve come 21km. That’s a huge achievement.
Get the right running shoes
Finding the right running shoes is a big part of a successful marathon training plan. You’ll be racking up a lot of kilometres while training and on race day, so when it comes to your running shoes, comfort is key.
The best thing you can do is to pop into a shoe store and see a trained fitting expert. They can measure your gait and do a complete foot analysis in order to find the most comfortable fit.
Aside from running shoes, make sure you have good quality running gear that’s comfortable and designed to support your movement. Marathons can take place any time of the year, so it’s important your running gear is suited to the weather conditions you’ll be running in.
Advice on the day
Fuel yourself. The morning of your marathon, make sure you eat a high-carb breakfast like oatmeal with fruit and yoghurt, or a bagel and banana. You should eat two hours before the race so your body can digest the food in time.
Don’t forget to warm up and stretch. It’s highly important to do a full and proper warm up before a marathon. Warming up aids your muscles by loosening your legs and increasing blood and oxygen flow throughout your body, as well as increasing your body temperature.
Dynamic stretches are the best. Try some front lunges, side lunges and leg swings to open up your hips and hamstrings. Make sure you’ve practised these techniques before as you don’t want to run the risk of pulling a muscle.
Remember your training. During the race, remember your training and techniques. You’ve been practising this for months, so feel confident in your own method. When the going gets tough, think of the techniques that you’ve prepared to get you through the hard parts.
Last but not least, enjoy the atmosphere! The atmosphere at a marathon is like nothing else. Of course you should focus on your run, but also take moments to enjoy the atmosphere around you. A lot of marathons take you through beautiful scenery – like the Queenstown marathon – while others – like the Paris, NYC and London marathons – wind through iconic landmarks and cityscapes.
Having hundreds of people cheering you on can feel incredible, especially seeing friends and family on the sidelines.
“My very first marathon was the New York City Marathon, it was a mind-boggling experience with an estimated 2 million strangers cheering me along as if they were my number one fan.
The atmosphere with my fellow 50,000 odd other marathoners was so unique. It was not just the incredible feeling of crossing the finish line that was so memorable and bought a tear to my eye, it was the year of training and how amazing I felt being so fit and strong, in my mind and body.”
Judy Wolff – Marathoner and Director, Marathon World Travel.
This post is possible thanks to ASICS New Zealand. ASICS NZ offers performance Womens Running Shoes and Womens Activewear Clothing as well as Mens Running Shoes and Mens Activewear Clothing.