How to Marathon Train

To avoid injury or illness it is important that you increase your total weekly mileage by no more than 10%. This is because the body needs time to adapt to the changes: the new regimes and the extra stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, all amount to tiredness, both mentally and physically.  

Marathon schedules usually consist of a 16 week plan, in which you gradually increase your long runs to a maximum of 20 miles. Some runners will run up to three 20 mile runs, others will run only one. Some runners stay with 18 miles, but run three-four over the 16 week period. Other runners feel the need to run at least one 22 mile run. It is entirely up to the individual; you do what you feel is right for you. It takes four weeks to recover from a 20 mile run so your last longest run is always four weeks before marathon date.  

Some runners follow a training regime that covers three days per week, some may prefer four and others five. Consistency, quality running, with efforts of speed and hills and threshold runs are all part of the training to increase speed, strength, stamina and confidence. The long runs are ideally run at a slow pace, usually one to two minutes slower than your anticipated marathon pace.

Rest and recovery are vital to allow the body to regenerate. For some athletes, taking it easy is the hardest thing to do. They fear not being able to maintain the improvements they have made if a rest day is taken. Your body and brain need a chance to recuperate and to rebuild and repair muscle damage.

If you want to lose weight you have to burn more than you consume; it requires a negative energy balance, yet training to become faster/stronger requires sufficient energy intake. If you have only a few pounds to lose, it's easier to lose weight and improve performance at the same time, but when you want to lose 10lbs or more you may have to make a choice - increased fitness or weight loss?

Increased fitness gives you the ability to exercise long enough and hard enough to lose more weight so rather than cutting down on fuel, consider focusing on improving your fitness by training with consistency - intervals; short, high intensity intervals and hill training, because they'll all burn more calories in a shorter period of time, rather than plodding with long, low-intensity runs.

Following your longest run, the taper starts. These final weeks leading up to your marathon can be the best time for your body to relax and recover. Give your body a chance to heal from the stress of all those long training runs, track sessions, intervals and hill climbs and allow for the rest and recharge.

Many marathoners who don't take time to taper lose their enthusiasm and just want to "get it over with" because they are too tired.  Three weeks before your marathon reduce your weekly mileage by 10-20%. Two weeks before reduce it by 30-40% and on Marathon week reduce it by 60-70%. This reduction in training load will not deprive you of your fitness. Within these last three weeks reduce the volume and frequency but not the intensity.  Fewer and shorter runs with intense drills will keep you sharp and at your best performance for the day.   

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