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Training for a Marathon

Around the end of April every year, thousands of people take to the streets of London at the same time on the same day. Streets are closed off to traffic and spectators line the streets. The reason? To run over 26 miles for the world famous London Marathon. Some of us look on at these people, elite runners and average people alike, with awe and envy. Others simply ask why anybody would choose to do such a thing. Yet thousands of people enter thousands of marathons and shorter distances every year. Running has become an incredibly popular form of exercise.

Maybe You Would Like To Run a Marathon?

You are never too old to start running. Although it may take a long time to get to marathon standard, it’s important to remember that taking part is an achievement in itself. 26 miles is a long way. Just 1% of the world’s living population has run in a marathon. If you want to join that prestigious small group, then here are some practical tips to help you achieve that goal. Whether you come in first or last, you will have every right to feel proud of your achievement.

Seek Medical Advice

Firstly, you should seek medical advice and have your general level of fitness assessed by a medical professional. All the preparation in the world will be no good help if your knees are simply not strong enough or you have a heart problem. Serious illness training for, or during, a marathon can affect people of all ages.

Consult with your GP about your medical history and determine whether you will be able to begin training. If he or she advises that you should not enter a marathon, then you have other options. 5K, 10K and half marathons (3.1 miles, 6.2 miles and 13.1 miles respectively) may be more suitable.

Start Small

A training programme for any running event should start small. This is especially vital if you have not run in any distance race since childhood. Even then, school sports events are rarely as long as 5km (3.1 miles) so it would not be training enough.

Start with a lot of walking. You need to build the muscles in your legs. You also need to increase your endurance for exercise. Building up to 6-mile walks can be a great way to give you a head start. However, you will need to start running too, ideally in the first week.

Building Up

Running is different from walking; you use more muscles and use them more intensely. Whereas you may be able to walk 10 miles quite easily, you may struggle to run just 1 or 2 miles. You will find that you can run farther and faster each time. Take a break every second day until your legs get used to it. Then, think about increasing your distance. Enter some local races; start with 5K. Ideally, you want to push towards 10Ks with one eye on a half marathon.

Endurance Training

Distance is not everything. 26 miles will take a massive toll on your body no matter how many 10Ks and half marathons you have already run. You will need to build your endurance too. How do you do this? Short bursts of faster paced running. Ideally, you should find a suitable hill near you. Sprint up, walk down and have a rest. Repeat over the course of 15 or 20 minutes. This simple, short action can – over the long-term – have a critical impact on your fitness and prepare your body for a marathon.

Other Tips

  • Set a goal. It can be anything – to finish, to set a certain time, or to raise money for charity.
  • Take plenty of rest when training. Your body will need time to recover; running every day without fail will be counter-productive to your goals.
  • A marathon is physically and mentally gruelling. Your head needs to be in the right place to run that distance.
  • Look after your physical health. The better you eat, the better you will perform.
  • Eat lots of carbs (bread, pasta) in the last few days up to the race.
  • Focus on why you are doing this.
  • During the race, you may want to give up. Your body will tell you to stop. Some runners use this to spur themselves on.

Virgin Money’s London Marathon web page has a 17-week training programme for those wishing to enter a marathon.