Marathon Running Tips
Marathon running tips are something a lot of first-time marathon runners look for before starting training. It’s an incredible achievement, something that humans need to push their bodies to the limit to do. When you push your body so hard, it can cause unexpected issues. I tell you what I experienced and how I still managed to get a personal best time. Even with a torn calf muscle! Read more to find out how.
A marathon is an incredible achievement and therefore is a great goal for a person to have. If this is your first marathon distance run, you’re probably wondering how you will manage such an insane distance. You can have a miserable time if you don’t prepare. Reading this article will allow you to avoid the pain and discomfort I went through too.
Marathon Running Tips: Common Problems
Running long distances increases the chances of injury and illness. Your run may require a bit more thought and planning than running a half marathon, or shorter distances.
Some of the common problems are:
- Being over-tired
- Constantly sore and aching
- Low on energy
- Running out of energy before you finish the run
- Low on fluids
- Tight muscles
- Hitting “The wall”
- Not being mentally prepared enough
That seems like quite a long list.
Many of these problems boil down to doing, or not doing a few small things.
These marathon running tips will make an incredible difference to your marathon running experience.
Avoid injury and illness
Before we start a run, no matter the distance, our bodies are not ready to run.
Sure, we can start running right away, but that may cause us to get injured.
We should do a short warm-up before the run. What happens when we warm-up that is so important, and why can’t we do it as we run?
Think of a warm-up as getting the brain awake and communicating with the muscles to run safely, efficiently. The warm-up will practice some common movements that we will do in the coming run.
A warm-up gets the blood flowing and the metabolism firing. As we place demands on our muscles, our body can supply them with the energy they require.
Part of the process of warming up is about thinking about what you are doing. Warming up is about focusing on your running – and starting to get the form and execution right. It is practicing your run the way that you want to run it but under safe conditions. This is why it is better than just doing the first few minutes of your run as a slow jog.
Your running technique is efficient and safe because your muscles are warm and flexible. You are a lot less likely to get an injury.
This is another one of those really important marathon running tips. If you over-train you will really struggle to complete your training. You’re likely to experience many painful injuries along the way.
It’s about recovery, correct nutrition, warming up, stretching, cooling down. We need to listen to our bodies. Is your body telling you, this is hard and uncomfortable, but I’m getting fitter and becoming a better running?
We need to separate that feeling for the niggling soreness that is the start of an injury developing. It’s better to stop, stretch, or even walk the rest of the way to the end. If instead, you cause an injury, you may need a two-week recovery after it.
Over-training can easily cause illness, due to a lowered immune system.
After long runs your immune system can be greatly suppressed for 24 to 36 hours after the run. This effect is due largely to the pressure we are putting on our bodies. We don’t suggest you hide away during this time. However, the right nutrients, protein, carbs will allow your body to recover quickly.
If you run the day after a long run, you’re a lot more likely to lower your immune system further. You need to take care to boost your immune system as your body adapts. Be careful!
Vary your training
In my first marathon, I concentrated on running long distances. In each of my training runs, I tried to push further than the training said. Since I had not experienced such a long distance, I assumed that was what I needed to develop. It is, but is only part of the whole picture.
Something I liked to do was to try to push my pace faster with every run.
Increasing pace sometimes is okay, but not every time you run. A tempo run or fartlek run won’t be effective if it’s just a sprint. I hadn’t realized fastest isn’t best when training for a marathon.
The problem I created was that I wasn’t improving the most useful aspects of my run. I like to mix up fartlek, tempo, recovery, interval, hill runs, and long runs, with varying paces. This can improve your pace, your strength, and your stability. It’s also good sometimes on a recovery run to take your time and concentrate on your form.
Doing a lot of long-distance runs takes a toll on the body. I find it feels like a chore, instead of me looking forward to it. That’s a good indicator to back off a little. It is during these times that I am more likely to feel niggly discomfort. As a result, discomfort can result in an injury.
It is important to train for long distances. I like to have done something close to the race distance before the event. In my mind, this is more for mental preparation than anything else, but everyone is different in that respect.
This one sounds like an absolute no-brainer. Eat only a small amount of food. So that you don’t feel heavy. And don’t get a stitch. Or spew!
You need to eat something that is easily digested. Not heavy, and will give you enough energy to complete your run. Give it a few hours to digest before your run.
Here are a few places you could go to for meal plans:
Fuel your marathon
Fuel during your race is one of the most important marathon running tips I can give. Getting this right can mean always having an enjoyable run. Not getting it right can cause all sorts of pain and discomfort.
If you’re running 1.5 hours or longer you may want to consider taking something for energy. It might be you like to get your energy from energy drinks, or gels, or jelly blocks. I can’t eat many of these – they’re just so sweet.
Practice taking them before the race, so you know they don’t make you feel ill. Figure out which flavours and makes you prefer.
Alternatives could be jelly babies, sultanas, dates.
After a run, you should always eat within 30 minutes.
I didn’t do this for such a long time because I was intermittent fasting.
On longer runs, I would ache afterwards, and not recover.
Alcohol should be avoided for a few hours if possible after a long run. That will make the aching worse.
Try re-hydration or electrolyte drinks after long runs, or in the lead up to a marathon.
These can replenish the nutrients you lose, and reduce the chances of cramps.
You may also think about supplements if that would be your preferred way to go.
I like to make smoothies with all the electrolyte and other goodies in, but not all the chemicals.
Physical preparation for running is a lot more than just doing longer runs. That’s important, but you also need to strength in your body to complete a marathon.
If you don’t, you’re a lot more likely to get a cramp. That isn’t nice at all.
I like also to do exercises to strengthen my butt muscles, my calf muscles, my core (especially obliques) and occasionally some stuff on the ankles and feet. This improves my stability, which means that I am more likely to run with good form, be more efficient, and less likely to be tired, get a cramp, or pick up an injury.
Pick your favorite athlete and follow what they do, I like to follow some of Eliud Kipchoge I’ve seen on the internet.
This is the video I like, and then add my own extra exercises as I need:
Mentally there is a lot to do. You are likely to be 3 or more hours inside your head with your thoughts, as you pound out the marathon distance. I quite often train without music, as I find I settle into a rhythm and ignore it anyway, but on a marathon, I often like to have music on hand.
If something doesn’t go quite to plan, or I feel like I need a pick me up, I will put on a “beast mode” track that gets me back into the groove, and pushing along to the best of my ability.
The thing with this is that if you like to listen to music the whole distance, then you need to make sure you have headphones that can last that long (many wireless ones last only 3 to 4 hours). I have some Tarah Pro wireless headphones that are waterproof and last something like 14 hours. And they’re comfy.
Mentally, you’re going to come across barriers.
Distances that for some reason you find hard to complete, there’s like a mental block – even maybe if you’re not aware of it. This could be that you don’t have enough energy, or are not training smartly, but could also be that you currently have a belief that such a distance is a very long distance. Until you break through it, that will be the case, and the interesting thing I find is that when you have a block like that, your body follows, and things become very hard very quickly. You need to be positive, and you need to break up the run into sizes that don’t seem so huge an effort. In this way, you will breakthrough past the number, and prove to yourself that there are no barriers, and you can do them all with enough training.
One final thing on mindset – on the day, anything can happen. I’m a very optimistic person, and I like to prepare for what I would do if, for example, I get an injury or whatever. What’s the worst that can happen, and how will I deal with those situations? Then if that ever was to happen, you automatically deal with it and move on (if you can!).
How to keep your body working optimally
This is an important part of your training, it one of those marathon running tips that will prevent other problems throughout your training.
This is when the body locks in the benefits of all your training. If you never fully recover, you’re wasting a lot of time, and are probably miserable because of it.
It’s a good idea to make sure you take the time to do some stretching. Muscles in your legs are being put through a massive amount. Give them a regular and comfortable stretching.
I find it’s good to have a foam roller, and a trigger ball to release muscles that get tight. I find that is a great tool to use to help ease up the muscles when they’re a bit tight.
A bucket with ice blocks from the freezer is also useful after a run, to help reduce swelling. Useful on long runs particularly. You could also sit in an ice bath if you wanted to, although I’ve never felt the need to go quite that far yet.
I also have a low power laser that I use for treatment, which reduces the pain a little and seems to speed up recovery a little.
They’re expensive, so unless you have other reasons for having one, I wouldn’t recommend going out and buying one.
Have a winning marathon strategy
This probably seems like a very strange item to feature in marathon running tips? I mean, you just run, right? I think it’s better to be a little more prepared than that.
When you’re running shorter distance races, you can start your race super quick, and if you go overboard, you will recover and still finish the race easily enough.
Running a marathon is different – if you start too fast, you will get to the second half of the run, and your pace will slow, you are much more likely to “hit the wall”.
On race day, you’re likely to feel awesome, and since you’re ready for the race, you’re quite likely to be full of energy and excitement and start at a fast pace. If you didn’t train at this pace, and your food and fluids strategy doesn’t take this into account, then you’re heading for pain. If you’ve trained for a fast-paced race, and your energy and fluid intake is planned for the same, then that’s awesome.
It’s a lot smarter to start off slow, and to conserve your energy at a slightly slower pace than you feel, then as you get into the latter part of the race, increase your pace. If you’re feeling awesome here, and you want to push as hard as you can, it’s probably safer to do here. As you’ve run ¾ or more of the race, you’ll probably have a good idea of how you’re feeling, how much energy you have, and what you can get away with.
That slightly slower pace you took at the start of the race is still probably a lot quicker than if you exceed your anabolic threshold and end up slow jogging or walking until you recover. It takes some getting used to, but this is a good thing to practice doing when you train.
Then, you should also have a think about what you need to take for race day. Pain pills? Sticking plasters? Spare soft water bottle? Pre-race hydration drink? Spare pair of clean socks to change into at the halfway point? I’d be doing all but the last one – although I have heard of people doing that, because your feet can get quite uncomfortable, and a new pair of socks can make all the difference.
How to prevent burnout
As I said before, resting is important. Rest is the time you take to lock in all the benefits from your training, so is another of those very important marathon running tips.
How you train comes down to how much time you have, and want to commit to training, and what your goals are.
You’re probably going to want to run at least 3 times a week, and if those 3 runs are all an hour or two, you’re likely to get tired from them.
Make sure you get plenty of sleep – go to bed early if you must. Stay in bed on a rest day if you can. See my tips for better sleep for more information. Eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods – sorry, that usually means lots of vegetables.
I often find that I work out all my problems, think things through when I’m running, so I’m a happier person because of it. I can go to work and have answers rather than questions. This means it is worth putting a little extra time into training. I also find if I have anything I need to learn, or want to, I can play that on my phone and get more out of the run (although if it is a long run, I probably won’t remember it, or the run either!)
Use These Marathon Running Tips To Finish A Winner
Above all, after all these marathon running tips, go out, and enjoy the satisfaction of running your first marathon race! You have done something absolutely awesome in committing to doing this. Well done!