With race season starting, here are our best tips and insight to get you over the finish line.
Due to Covid, the marathon calendar has been repeatedly thrown into disarray. Races have been subject to new restrictions but with the London Marathon officially happening on Sunday, 3rd October, the delays have not stopped competitors from signing up in their droves. Not only has the new post-Covid era opened up to virtual competitors, alongside regular IRL field goers, the scale of the event is bigger than ever, with the London Marathon set to be the world’s first 100,000 strong marathon.
Wherever you’re running, the challenge is huge – so here’s our expert advice to help get you to 26.2 miles with the right tools in place:
Runners World advise not just planning your fuelling schedule for the full race, but practicing during training on consuming similar food and drinks so that your body becomes accustomed to it. To quote Suzanne Girard Eberle, M.S., R.D, a former elite runner and author of Endurance Sports Nutrition, “remember that sports drinks work on triple duty when compared with water by providing fluid, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, the most important being sodium.”
Wind Down Your Training
The experts at Great Run stress the importance of ‘tapering’, the period where you decrease your mileage in the weeks before the race to conserve energy and avoid injury. “Don’t start to cram in the mileage the week before, this won’t make ANY difference other than make you feel weaker and more tired,” they warn.
This should be the easiest, and most enjoyable part of your preparation. For 3-4 days before your race, eat more carbohydrates than normal and build up your reserves of energy to draw on in the later stages of your race. “During a marathon, your body will burn high amounts of glycogen,” advises Women’s Running in their guide to undertaking a first-time marathon. “Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver as an accessible form of energy.” Going into the race with a surplus of this fuel will help prevent you hitting the wall in the final hour.
As fatigue sets in later in the race, the natural tendency is to slump, allow your weight to hang forwards and hit the ground with more weight per step. This is a mistake, and as race organisers Real Buzz points out, bad running posture hits you both physically and mentally. If you find yourself looking at your feet, “this not only throws your spine out of alignment – putting you at risk of back pain and neck or shoulder tension – but it can also make your spirits flag, as you aren’t making eye contact with the crowd or other runners. Keeping your head up gives you a much more confident stance and sends a positive message to your subconscious mind.”
Respect The Distance
As obvious as it sounds, you should remind yourself that running 26.2 miles is a huge undertaking, even with so many more people now participating (only 7,741 runners undertook the first London Marathon in 1981). Writing in Athletics Weekly, British Olympian Aly Dixon advises runners to “respect the distance but don’t fear it. 26.2 miles is a long way no matter how you look at it. You need to respect that distance and get your pacing correct.
You can’t start off too fast and ‘bank’ time or hang on like you can in shorter distances. You have to be sensible and if anything, start slightly slower than goal pace and pick up as you go on.”
For more on training smart, check out our guides to mental health and exercise, our guide to ITBS and the role of timing in exercise. For any sports performance or training inquiries, contact our expert team here.