As the official physio for the Brighton Marathon, I see many marathon newbies successfully through to the finish line. Here are some of my top tips to running your debut marathon.
Get fit to run don’t just run to get fit
Before starting your training have a look at your overall fitness and body condition. For some runners the best starting point is to increase your fitness in the gym on non-impact machines before hitting the pavements three times a week. If you have ongoing joint problems or are returning to running after children or a long break then you need to prepare your body for all those miles. Get the right shoes to help from the ground up but consider what else you can do to help yourself at the start of the process. Maybe sway on of the shorter runs a week for a conditioning class like Pilates or circuits to give your body the strength to take on the running. Toning up and slimming down before attempting the longer runs will be of huge benefit to your training.
Make preventing injuries a top priority
Listen to your body. Preventing an injury can be a whole lot more effective than treating one. Address any niggles or twinges before they develop into anything more. Ignoring these and running through the pain may lead to bigger problems further down the line. 66% of the runners that withdrew from Brighton Marathon last year did so because of injury – this need not be you.
Catch any worries early on and nip any problems in the bud. Giving your body a full MOT with a qualified physiotherapist can help to keep it running smoothly and make all the difference.
Allow yourself to be a beginner
When you first start training it can be really tempting to compare distance and times with all your running buddies. Remember every mile counts no matter how fast or slow and as long as you are getting out there and doing something you are moving in the right direction. If you want to compare yourself to anything look back at how you felt when you first started training and how it may have seemed impossible to run for thirty minutes without stopping. During training you will be running more miles and getting faster and pushing harder. Therefore it always feels like a challenge, don’t get too disheartened.
Look after your tired muscles
Remember push yourself but set limits, all those miles will take their toll. You are training your body to outperform itself like never before so give it some TLC in return. Throughout your training you should be scheduling in very important rest days. These give your muscles important time to recover and repair, especially once you begin to up your mileage. Our minds can become obsessed with getting miles on the clock at the expense of our bodies. The most important thing in April is that you are on good shape on the starting line not that your legs are shot to bits! A regular sports massage can also give your muscles some great TLC treatment. A good therapist can release tightness you weren’t even aware of. Maintaining blood flow to the muscles is very important and helps with a speedy recovery from the gruelling long runs. Massage is a fantastic way of encouraging this and you will feel the results.
Remember your longer runs are a dress rehearsal
Your longer runs are aimed to prepare your body for the big day. They are an opportunity for your body to get accustomed to the clothes that you will be wearing and the drinks and nutrition you will be using on the day. Running at your race pace on a weekly basis will help you to reach your targets and without any annoying stops halfway through. This will also help you to overcome mental milestones. Dividing your longer runs and the Brighton Marathon course into manageable chunks will make for easier mental digestion and reduce stress levels on the day.
Fundraise for charity
Keep counting those pennies! There is no better motivation than knowing you are running for an excellent cause. Many runners can sometimes find the long hours of marathon training tiresome, particularly in the winter. If you ever feel like giving up, running for a good cause can make all the difference. You’re bound to hit a rough patch at some stage in your training; this is all part of the challenge! In these moments running for something greater than yourself can really spur you on.
Keep running and good luck!