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Ten top tips – marathon training for beginners

Alright, alright, I guess I can’t exactly call myself a beginner. The upcoming marathon that I’ll be running on 28th April in London will actually be my third. But despite you all thinking that this doesn’t class me as a beginner, you may be surprised to hear that I actually don’t like running and never do it unless I’m training for a mammoth jog around a big city.

I ran my first marathon (London 2017) in 03:59:57, my second (New York 2017) in 04:06:34 and soon to be third, well I can only imagine a lot slower than the last two, as the training hasn’t exactly gone to plan. I have suffered injury (hamstring tendinopathy) and am currently one week into the flu, so in total I have only done a total of two outdoor runs. And with the marathon 7 and a half weeks away, I could panic, or I could hold my head high, carry on and follow my own tips. 

1. Get good sleep

Sounds easy, right? Well if you’re anything like me and have an overactive mind, this can be one of the toughest things to do. Have you ever tried going to bed early, only not to be able to get to sleep because you’re ruminating about all of the things you have to do when you wake up in the morning? Yep, me too. That’s why I decided to train in the evenings, but hang on – training after 7pm also makes you more alert and unable to sleep as quickly. That, coupled with eating after 8pm can make it really hard. So what I do these days is train two nights a week, one lunchtime session and a weekend morning long run. It is possible, it just takes a bit of time juggling.

2. Drink loads of water

This one won’t surprise you. We’re constantly told to drink 2 litres of water a day. I try my hardest, but probably average out at 1.5litres… UNLESS I’m exercising. I’ll drink at least a litre more on exercise day. It’s not just because I know I need to – we all know forcing ourselves to drink water when we’re not thirsty is hard, but it’s because my body is crying out for it. Tasty, tasty H2O.

3. Don’t drink TOO MUCH alcohol

I love fun and I also love red wine. I have found it hard the third time around to abstain completely and often enjoy one, two, or sometimes a few more (don’t judge) glasses of red wine with dinner, or just when catching up with friends. What I have found though is this has made the process so much harder. So come the beginning of March I’m not going to drink anything until after the marathon. 8 weeks in the scheme of things isn’t that long and I know I’ll be thanking myself on race day.

4. Take gels on your long runs and stick to the ones you have trained with during the marathon

I had a BAD BAD BAD time during New York Marathon. My friends joked before the race, asking whether I have ever felt like I had to do a Paula Radcliffe. Let it be known that her unfortunate moment during the 2005 London Marathon isn’t what I remember her for, but having had a very similar experience (or at least thought I was), I can completely sympathise with her. She’s a legend. I never thought I’d have an issue, but after gobbling a load of gels that were handed out to me on the sideline, the stomach cramps ensued and I ended up a crying mess on the phone to my mum at mile 18.

5. Get some fresh trainers

Not only will you feel amazing, but trainers that aren’t battered and bruised will prevent injury. Here’s a list of the best marathon trainers for 2019.

6. Get a good watch so you can track your pace

I have an apple watch, which I bloody love. But unfortunately the battery life on these beauties is just a bit crap. The pacing isn’t also quite as good as what I feel I need for race day, so I have just purchased a Polar M430 and you’ll currently find me trudging the London streets with a watch on each wrist. How cool am I?!

7. Join a running club

I found this so useful when I ran my first two marathons. I joined London City Runners, which is based in my old neck of the woods, Bermondsey. I haven’t been back this time, as I have been plagued with injury and haven’t been able to run that much, but I still follow them on social media and see they now have their very own arch, which doubles as a pub and event space. 

8. Run a Half Marathon race before the big day

This is something I massively regret not signing up for this time. What was I thinking? I clearly wasn’t. Two years ago I signed up to the Hampton Court Half Marathon and got a personal best of 1:44. I doubt very much I’d be able to do that right now, but it was a great feeling and made me realise I was well on my way for the big London Marathon day.

9. Stretch out with yoga and work hard with WATT bike and spin classes

I swear I did so well in my first marathon because I mixed up my training with spinning, sprint classes and yoga. I treated myself to a fancy gym membership at Third Space, but you don’t really need to do that. Lots of gyms these days offer great classes and if you can’t get yourself to a gym, YouTube and Instagram is teeming with content to help you with your training.

10. Do lots of strength training!

This is the reason I got injured. I didn’t do nearly enough strength training for my first two marathons and as a result I have hamstring tendinopathy. Not great and I really regret not knowing I had to do a lot more strength training. I’d say at least two sessions a week, just strengthening hamstrings, quads and glutes! I have seen countless physiotherapists and every one of them says humans these days have weaker than weak glutes, due to our sedentary lifestyles. Just do it, people – you’ll thank me later! 

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