Two years ago I ran a half marathon, and at the end of it swore I would never do anything like that again. So this April, somehow (and I’m still not sure quite how this happened) I’m lugging my carcass 26.2 miles around The London Marathon.
I started my ‘training’ quite casually in December, stretching my legs out and reminding them what running actually feels like. Turns out they don’t much like it. Now that January has hit, it’s time to get serious. If any of you are running a marathon any time soon, or just fancy getting up from the sofa you’ve been sitting on for the entirety of December, hopefully the below tips and summarised training schedule might help:
>> Nike Plus
This app is my godsend, download it now! As you’re running, a lovely lady tells you how far you’ve gone and how fast you’re doing it: this helps you work out if you need to slow down, or in my case: speed up. It tells you when you’ve done your fastest mile, or your furthest run, and you can assign a ‘face’ (from happy to sad) to your run depending on how you felt. SAD FACE SAD FACE.
Oh and while I’m at it, the Nike Training Club app is great for general fitness too.
>> Putting the right stuff in
Running up to 30 miles a week means my skinny jeans will quickly be baggy, so I need to make sure I’m putting the right fuel into my body. Carbs and protein are the key ingredients for a runner’s diet, so long as they’re the right carbs: pasta is sadly out, sweet potato and wholegrain rice very much in. Oily fish will become my new best friend, as will chicken and red meat. Post-run, I’ll be guzzling isotonic drinks to get the lost minerals back in my system, and on nights out I’ll be sipping vodka, soda and fresh lime (the least calorific drink going! For more, read this).
>> The schedule
I’m running to a 16 week schedule. It’s not advised to run a marathon off less than a 12 week schedule if you’re a marathon novice, so if you’re planning on signing up for one (or are joining me on the start line of London!) then make sure you give yourself the time required to put the miles in.
My schedule follows this general pattern, with increasing mileage each week:
2 x mid-week runs
Between 5-8 miles depending on how your legs feel. Make these steady to fast in pace, building your speed stamina. To fit them into your life, it’s a great idea to map your route home and see if you can run rather than drive/catch the bus.
1 x mid-week ‘session’
By session, I mean exercises that still strengthen your legs, but shake things up from just pure running. These come in two main forms: Hills and Fartleks (Swedish for ‘speed play’).
Hills: Find the closest incline near home – it doesn’t have to be long, even 100m would do. This is a quick session which simply sees you running up the hill at tempo, then a jog back recovery, 6-8 times (depending on how your legs are feeling). Hill training really works the muscles in your legs that have an easier ride when running on flat surfaces, and will help you tackle any hills on your race course.
Fartleks: These get your body used to changes of pace, useful for races where you’ll be dodging and weaving through people. They also work on your speed stamina and strengthen your legs, so are a great accompaniment to training. You can pretty much choose how you want to structure these so long as they involve bursts of speed and changes of pace, but here’s an example:
Warm up with a steady jog for 5 minutes, run for 4 minutes at tempo, jog for 3 minutes, run steady for 2 minutes, stride out fast for 1 minute, jog for 3 minutes, end with a 4 minute run at tempo. Take 5 minutes rest then repeat.
1 x long weekend run
January started with a 9 mile weekend run for me (steady, very steady!) and will increase by a mile each week until I’m running 12 miles when I hit Feb. By the second week of Feb I’ll be running 15 miles (maintaining that distance for a couple of weeks) and then the mid-end of March sees me doing a 17 miler and THE DREADED 20 miler (the longest run you should do during training). From there I’ll be tapering to no more than 12 miles in the final stretch before race day.
Wish me luck!