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How To Train For A Marathon (Physical Training)

Recently, we introduced a miniseries on how to train for a marathon. Today, we will be focusing on the physical aspects of training. 

The marathon training pyramid theory

Many people focus on the physical aspects of training. Whilst this is a fundamental factor in preparing for your challenge, your chances of success are greatly increased when you combine training your body with the right fuel and mental preparation.


Training your body

Marathon training from a physical aspect is more than just familiarising yourself with long-distance running. You will also be reducing the chances of injury that might put you out of the running game for a substantial period. The last thing you want is to not reach the finish line because your body isn’t used to the strain.

1. Choose how you want to train

a) Marathon training on a treadmill

Training takes time, and there will be circumstances that prevent you from hitting the streets as part of your training. From icy weather to darker nights, safety should be of the utmost importance at all times. Taking to a treadmill as part of your training will allow you to stay consistent in your training throughout the year. 

Also, beginning your training on a treadmill is a great way to increase your confidence. For some, the thought of struggling on a run when people are driving by or walking past can feel quite daunting. Whereas utilising a treadmill allows you to take regular breaks when you need it while you build your ability.

There is a difference between treadmill training and road training, so take this into account when transitioning. 

b) Marathon training on the streets

If you have signed up for a local marathon you have a fantastic opportunity to familiarise yourself with the roads you will be running. Plan your training at different parts of the route so you can get used to the rises and falls and the twists and turns. This will give you comfort come race day as you will know exactly what to expect.

If you have chosen a destination marathon it may be a little harder to replicate the experience. Try, instead, to train in a variety of terrains so your body can get used to different routes. One route may be fairly flat and level, whereas another may be undulating. Training on a variety of roads will better equip your body for a variety of terrains and will strengthen your legs to tackle hills, dips, turns and anything else that might be thrown your way.

2. Train consistently

One substantial challenge of marathon training is the discipline required to train consistently for a prolonged period. Saying no to drinks with friends or leaving a party early so you can train the next morning is a difficult social issue to navigate. 

Whilst balance is essential, it is important to understand that a marathon may be one of the most difficult challenges you will face in your running career. Training consistently reduces the chances of injury that may take you out of the running game and out of your marathon.

How often should you run?

How often you should run will vary depending on how much rest and recovery your body needs. Whilst it may be tempting to run every day, it is important to give your body time to recover from the strain to prevent burn out or overtraining syndrome. 

We recommend seeking guidance from a personal trainer, who will be able to create a marathon training plan that is unique to you.

3. Don’t forget about pacing

If this is your first marathon, your main aim will be to finish the race. Don’t be swayed by the people around you who dash off and run their hardest at the beginning of the race. Aim to finish comfortably by setting and maintaining a pace throughout the run.

Gauging your optimal pace during training will give you the best chances of crossing the finish line.

Running pace calculator

Understanding your optimal pace is essential when running a marathon. Your pace should be the average time it takes to run each mile throughout a training session whilst easily holding a conversation. So, if you run 3 miles, you will add up how long it took you to run each mile comfortably, divide the answer by 3 and the result is your pace.

Setting a pace and maintaining it throughout your marathon will stop you from increasing your speed to keep up with the people around you, causing you to tire more quickly and struggle.

Whatever your usual pace, reduce this when running a marathon for a higher chance of success.

Whether you have 20 weeks or longer to train for your first marathon, you must tailor your physical training to suit your body and ability. 

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