Updated: Sep 2, 2021
4 weeks. Do.Not.Panic! Do not panic if you've been living your best life this past week or so now the sun has decided to show up! Enjoy it, make the most of it (it is the UK after all!) There is plenty of time but before you dive head first into tripling your current mileage and stressing over running 26miles. Breathe, take a moment. Make a plan, not a training plan - plan how you'd like to approach your training, how you want to prepare your body for the training and the race and what your next 4 months will look like - realistically and optimistically. In this article we hope to help you plan how to prepare for your next marathon, how to decide what training plan works best for you. We hope it is helpful...
Firstly, try and answer these 5 questions..
What do you want from this event? Intrinsically and extrinsically. Think of these as your whys.
Whats your own ideas around training - What do you enjoy doing in training? What works for you?
What are your strengths? Name 3.
What things do you think are the most important for you to work on during this preparation?
What are you prepared to commit to? time wise/emotional energy/training volume etc.. be realistic. This is not a punishment your choosing to do this so make it manageable and beneficial to your life. Regardless if you achieve your extrinsic goal make sure you personally come out of this better and more knowledgeable.
Right, so this seems an obvious place to start but how do you go about choosing a training plan & deciding whether you need a coach or not... There are so many training plans online so it can be overwhelming about which one would be best. This is especially true if you're somewhat new to running and don't have a fairly solid idea of your own preferences and methods. So when looking at different programs we would again always ask yourself a few questions;
Who is the creator of the programme. Whats your feelings towards them and your belief on the sort of training they do or are setting?
Do you like the look of the programme/the contents?
What are your reservations on it?
Most importantly, does it match with how you WANT to train for your race?
Follow your gut instinct. Do what feels right. As you learn you can adapt and create your own versions of plans and make more informed decisions. You should do this in your own training anyway and trust your ability to know whats right for you.
A pro tip: Training for a marathon is hard regardless of level but it shouldn't be hard to understand the plan or see the method to it. If they've made it sound complicated id leave it. It should also have a mixture of different types of runs and sessions and progress as the plans gets closer to the race HOWEVER don't expect it to just keep going up and up in distance or intensity. Physiology doesn't work like that - it should ebb and flow with a general build before coming back down again before race day to freshen you up. It should build your confidence and your fitness as you go. Don't be scared to ask questions if you have an opportunity.
Do you need a coach?
Some people do and its definitely beneficial to have someone there to specifically plan, talk to and give you advice but its not essential. We would always say if you can afford it then do it. It will always be more beneficial to have someone create a programme specifically for you and have that personal interaction. However, not everybody wishes to have a 1:1 coach and to just want a more general plan to follow with session suggestions and a structured idea of what to do and for this we have created personalised plans. They are the same as our downloadable plans but we can added paces for you and more individualised suggestions. You then can download this but without an ongoing commitment. We are also available for questions on these plans via email or social media. We also have free downloadable plans as well as our 1:1 coaching which is very personal via whatsapp and emails as well as training set weekly using the training app with race planning etc... We have.a level for all needs, abilities and preferences. Please feel free to check these out further. BUT back to the article.. we have put together a piece on our suggestion of how to execute.a successful marathon plan regardless of the plan that you choose to follow. This is based off our own experiences and the method we use with some of our own athletes.
Our tips and a suggested structure of preparing for and executing a successful marathon build up
So you've entered and been accepted into the race through which ever process is in place. Now what? Well obviously you have to get training for it! But wait, before you go diving in, pushing up the mileage and inevitably realising you may have gone at it with a bit too much enthusiasm; we always find it better to sit down and break up the next few months and weeks into blocks, each with a goal and planned in a way so that it builds towards the race. We have broken this 4months leading into London Marathon into 3 blocks of 4 weeks and 2 blocks of two. We will explain why as we go...
This first 4 week block we like to focus on 10km-Half Marathon specific work. The plan is to go into marathon work as fast as we can over the 10k/HM so that marathon pace feels more comfortable but also it gives you a bit of confidence and leg turn over that could be hard to come by over the next few weeks as things progress. One thing to note is that we like to keep our long run a decent length all year round 16-20miles dependant on racing plans etc so that background endurance is there to build off. One analogy we heard growing up a lot was about building a house and creating a strong foundation.
We count this as the official start of our marathon preparations. 12 weeks out from race day and its where we start to increase the mileage and start on those long marathon runs. We would typically lose a session per week from the first 4 weeks but the remaining sessions will be longer. We also use these few weeks to find out what fuelling we want to use and start to practice that during those longer efforts.
This is the bulk phase! The phase where most of the heavy miles are put in. By the end of this phase with any luck you will have put a great block of 8 weeks in preceded by a period of strong faster work. Heavy miles =. Heavy legs though so make sure you're on top of eating enough, sleeping enough, stretching and if you can a massage or two to really get those sore legs flushed out ! Talking of nutrition; use this time to firmly start nailing on that nutrition and hydration strategy and trying to replicate race day on those long efforts. We also decide on our racing shoes and kit during this period and test it out in training to make sure we are happy and comfortable. The most obvious being your socks and shoes. This can make or break your race so get confident in what you want to wear and don't let outside influences/marketing sway you. Make your decision and take confidence in it!
Weeks 13 & 14
Now this is a smaller block than the others and for us this is when we find some of those doubts start to kick in, questioning if you've done everything right and thinking about what else you can squeeze in. BUT STOP! Use this two week block positively. Focus on just one or two final long efforts and tick the final few boxes of hard work. Make sure everything is booked and ordered. Hotel? Travel? Gels? Shoes & Socks? Pre race dinner? Pre race breakfast? See our race checklist for reference if you're not sure.
Weeks 15 & 16
ITS TAPER TIME!!! This block sees the work come to and end and culminates in the big dance!! You're ready. Theres nothing more you can do, you can't go back and trying to cram extra training in here will only detract from race day so refrain from doing so. Take confidence that you've done everything you can regardless of any issues that have arisen. Eat well, sleep as much as you can, stretch gently and keep the legs ticking over. Many find it beneficial to maintain their routine but obviously bringing the training volume down. We would typically spend the first week bringing the volume down but maintaining intensity and then in the final week and days before the race bringing both down further.
72-48hrs prior to race day - Carbs are your friend!!! This can take some practice and refining. You want good quality carbohydrates and start to hydrate with salts. We often just make sure we are having carbs with every meal with some added snacks.
The day before race day - Have a good dinner, carbohydrate based but don't feel the need to stuff yourself, you may still somewhat full after the previous few days of increased carbohydrates. Important to hydrate with salts and get an early night!
The morning of the race - Have a good breakfast, now is a good time for some fast carbs in the way of jam or some sugar on your cereal or in your tea but again don't try something you haven't practiced in training. Don't over drink either just sip and a coffee about 90minutes before if you can tolerate it can help but again now is not the time to try caffeine for the first time. The end result won't be good.