In this video, I’m going to share some of my favourite marathon training tips to help you prepare for your best marathon. Whether you’re training for your first full marathon, or you’re trying to set a new personal best time over the 26.2 mile distance, these coaching tips will help you avoid many the marathon training errors frequently made by other runners.
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1 – How long should your long marathon training runs be?
For many runners, the most intimidating part of a marathon training plan is the weekly long run. Ideally, you should come into a marathon training plan with the ability to comfortably run 8-10 miles at an easy pace. Over the course of the programme, your long runs will build in distance to around 18-20 miles.
You do not need to run the full marathon distance in training. In fact, doing so puts you more at risk of injury. The confidence boost you will gain in running 26 miles before your marathon will be pointless if you get injured in doing so.
There’s a point of diminishing return when it comes to the long runs. Slower runners may prefer to run to time, rather than distance. If you’re training for your first marathon, try capping your long runs at 18 miles OR 3:30 hours, whichever mark you reach first!
Believe it or not, weekly mileage is more important than the distance you run in a single long run. The aim of marathon training is to build running fitness cumulatively. Increasing your training volume gradually week by week will give you the endurance you need to run the marathon distance, even if you are fairly conservative about the length of your long runs. I’ve helped so many injury-prone runners prepare for marathons successfully using this philosophy!
2 – Learn to pace yourself
Don’t fall into the trap of running your long runs too fast. Learn what your different training paces should feel like! You can use a recent 10k race, 10 miler or half marathon finish time to estimate your marathon finish time.
You should be aiming to run your easy runs easy and your hard runs hard… rather than every run being similarly paced. This takes practice!
3 – Plan for easier “adaptation” weeks
Whatever marathon training plan you’re following, you cannot simply push harder and run longer each week than the week before. Your aim is to peak on marathon race day, however, you should also plan for your training to peak and ease-off in phases during your training plan.
Make sure your marathon training plan includes easier training weeks, otherwise known as “adaptation weeks”. These are weeks where the training load is reduced to give your body an opportunity to recover from the preceding weeks of hard training before you push yourself again the following week.
Adaptation weeks reduce the risk of injury and overtraining during a marathon training block. After all, the aim should be to arrive at the start line injury-free and ready to run strong.
4 – Don’t neglect your strength and mobility exercises (injury prevention)
When it comes to injury prevention for runners, there is plenty you can do to help yourself. Be sure to include regular strength and mobility exercises alongside the mileage you’re running.
Here’s an example running strength workout you can try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6MaabL_zOs
5 – Practice target marathon pace (tempo blocks and fast finish long runs)
Your long marathon training runs should be mostly done at an easier pace than your target marathon pace. That said, you need to make sure you get comfortable with training at your target marathon pace.
Don’t be totally surprised if your marathon pace feels a little harder than expected right now… there’s a good reason for that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76OZaNpSjxo
In the second half of my marathon training blocks, I like to start adding target marathon paced blocks into my long runs, building towards “fast finish” long runs as the training plan nears your marathon taper weeks.
Music by Epidemic Sound: http://www.epidemicsound.com
ABOUT ME: I’m a runner, sports rehabilitation specialist and coach based in the UK (Norwich and London).
Since 2007 I’ve been working with athletes focusing specifically on helping distance runners and triathletes overcome injury and improve performance through developing their individual running technique.
Running biomechanics has become a geeky little passion of mine!