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An introduction to training for a marathon
Whether you’re running in Boston or London, Paris or Rome, Sydney or Stockholm, Wiggle is here to help you fulfil your dream of running a marathon this year.
The 26.2 miles will likely be the hardest of your life. Completing the course is a significant feat of athleticism and mental fortitude accomplished by fewer than 1% of the population.
For those that manage it, it’s an unforgettable event and a source of personal pride for the rest of their lives.
What is the Wiggle Marathon Training Guide?
Over the next 16 weeks, Wiggle will be providing a detailed series of training tips, programmes, support, and information to help you turn your running ambition into reality.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll look in detail at different training techniques and preparation priorities to help you reenact the historic journey of Pheidippides.
We’ll also discuss many of the tools that can help you along the way, how to avoid injury, how to recover, and provide some important motivation to keep you focused and training regularly.
Let’s get started
Running a marathon is a long-term commitment and requires a detailed plan to which you are prepared to stick.
If this is your first marathon, it’s important to note that the goal of the race is not to achieve a specific time, but simply to finish.
It will take a typical runner around four months to prepare for the full 26.2 miles, adding the extra distance gradually with the aim of reaching your peak on race day.
Your training schedule
The 16-week plan below should give you a general idea of how to structure your training, gradually adding miles every week and building your stamina and aerobic capacity over the four months.
You’ll see the number of miles or metres you should aim to run on each of the days. Notice how the distances get longer with each week before tapering down before race day to help you peak for the big event. The below plan will not be perfect for everyone, so listen to your body and make the necessary adjustments so that your training is specific to you.
The numbers in the body of the below table refer to miles. Those stating 3x1.5 or 3x2 mean three sessions of 1.5 miles. The figures denoted 6x800 indicate six sessions of 800 metres.
*M = miles | m = metres
Using this as a template for your regime, you can begin to build out your plan. But remember, there is more to marathon training than just smashing miles, there’s also hill and interval training, long runs and speed work, as well as race strategies to think about.
Over the coming weeks, Wiggle’s Marathon Training Guide series will explore all these training techniques and approaches to help you create a complete programme you can tailor exactly to your needs.
Week 1 – what equipment do you need?
This is the beginning of a long but ultimately fulfilling journey, and if you're relatively new to running, or returning to the discipline, you’ll need just a few items to get you started.
If you stick to the training schedule above, you’ll be running around 300 miles over the next four months, so you need a decent pair of dedicated running shoes to pound those pavements.
An ill-fitting pair of trainers can start to cause pain in your knees and hips and the last thing you want is to pick up an injury during training. This will add pressure to the rest of your plan and hamper your efforts. So finding the right shoes is an important investment to ensure your training stays on schedule and that your delicate joints and ligaments are protected.
Before buying it’s important to note if you have any pronation issues (where your foot tends to roll inward) or under-pronation issues (when your weight rolls onto the outer edges of your feet). Understanding the way in which you run is important because it will help you find the right shoe that fits your run style. Wiggle has a complete guide to finding out if you over or under-pronate in your stride, or if you’re a neutral runner, and how to buy the most suitable footwear. Tap the Running Shoes Buying Guide below to find out more, or if you already know your pronation pattern, head straight to the Wiggle run shoes shopping pages.
The value of a good running sock is in the reduction in blisters and potential bleeding suffered during your runs, which will provide significant benefits to not only your running style, but your endurance and motivation. Running long miles is hard enough without the burning, stinging pains of abrasions on your feet.
Many runners also find compression socks beneficial as they are known to reduce muscle pain, reduce inflammation and also help your muscles to recover quicker after your activity.
A good running sock can work wonders in this regard and are relatively cheap, so make sure you pick up a pair.
Training for a marathon means a lot of hours spent out on the road, so having some quality running gear will contribute immensely to your comfort.
Specialist run attire comes with a range of technologies and benefits to keep your temperature moderate, limit chaffing, and provide breathability to help you push that little bit further.
Your clothing needs will change depending on the season: from winter baselayers to shorts during the summer and even wind-proof materials for autumn races for those events disrupted by Covid19.
You will want to wear clothes that wick away sweat from the surface of your skin, stopping you from becoming clammy and uncomfortable.
Female runners will also benefit from a supportive training bra.
Tracking your progress
Measuring your outcomes will help you extract the maximum value from your careful planning and preparation, which is why many runners use GPS tracking systems to help visualise and monitor their progress.
These can be used to create precise routes as your run distance increases, allowing you to check your times against set goals.
Another increasingly popular choice is a heart rate monitor, such as the Garmin HRM-Pro, which will also give you a precise measure of your increasing fitness during your training.
Not only will you need a lot of running fuel to drive those feet forward, but your body will also require big helpings of protein to repair damaged ligaments and muscles.
Beware of rumours that you need to carb-load at every opportunity, however. What your body needs most of all is a varied and balanced diet, filled with nutritious foods.
Runners can also benefit from supplements, such as protein sources and energy gels, to provide a much-needed source of fuel while on your run. Gels/sports drinks can keep up your energy levels and prevent fatigue and brain fog. It is important to 'practice' using gels during your training runs and in the lead up to race day to figure out what works for you and what doesn't. Practising with different gel flavours and brands will ensure they don't make you feel sick.
Detailed beginner to intermediate guide
If your looking for a more detailed plan, covering a complete range of activities to get you ready for that marathon, Shock Absorber has partnered with Wiggle to produce a complete, day-by-day training plan. Suitable for new and intermediate runners, it includes cross-training and strength-building exercises, nutrition tips, warm-down advice, and detailed strategies. It's an ideal place to start for those looking to completely immerse themselves in a complete fitness programme.
Divided into four training cycles, the Shock Absorber plan introduces a graduated difficulty level that will help unlock your potential.
Wiggle’s marathon training top tip (week 1)
- Sleep is hugely important for your recovery when running big miles. Be prepared to make sacrifices for extra sleep to stay healthy and ready to run again.
Wiggle has a wealth of running resources and recently teamed up with former world-record holder and Olympic champion Steve Cram to produce a series of videos on perfecting running strategy and technique. Check out the first in the series below for Steve's thoughts on setting your fastest mile. We'll bring you all of Steve's expert advice along with other useful video tips as the weeks progress.
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