You have to have a little crazy in you to endure what a runner puts themselves through for 'fun' - but that's not exactly what we mean by marathon madness. Marathons happen regularly throughout the year across the world. But the 'big ones', both internationally and in the UK, spike up at two peak times; spring & autumn. In England, the most prestigious race of the year is the London Marathon, taking place at the end of April.
If you're a veteran marathon runner, you've hopefully by now discovered a good system of what to do in the final weeks leading up to a race. But if it's your first time, the thought of running 26.2 miles can be quite daunting, and the last month of preparation can become stressful. Time to fit in training and injury problems often become most problematic in these last few weeks and so we've decided to give you a few pieces of advice. Its not rocket science, and it's certainly nothing new- but a few gentle reminders of what we think you should already know, doesn't hurt...
There are typically two main types of runners a.) those that train too much , and b.) those who do too little.
Research has shown us in the past few decades that we actually don't need to train up to the distance of a full marathon to be able to run one! It might sound ridiculous, but most training programmes don't go beyond 20 miles of running. Yes, we know you need to complete 26.2 miles, but your body's capacity to endure 20 miles and 26 miles is not that much different, as long as you were relatively OK during the 20! You're more likely to run into injury problems by trying to do too much before the big day.
As well, running too much is going to put you at greater risk of an overuse injury. A study in 2003 at the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training found that running 3 days a week significantly lowered injury risk, improved performance times, and had a higher completion rate than those who trained 6 days a week. Why 3 days? 1 long run, 1 speed session, and 1 technique session ( hills, fartleks, drills etc). So if you're finding it difficult to fit in all the training listed in whatever programme you're following - just cut it down to three main ones.
Here are some other useful tips if you are an 'over-trainer' ( aka loves running so much you just can't get enough):
*Save those 60 minute 'plod' runs for when you're not marathon training ( or just get rid of them all together!). Quality running, even for shorter periods, is going to be much more efficient to help you reach your goals
* Aim to only run 3-4 days a week
* Rest days are important! Have at least one day of rest with no strenuous exercise to allow you to recover. This is also important to allow for training adaptations and gains!
* LESS IS MORE!
For those of you who can't seem to find the motivation to do ANY training...well that's another story altogether! Not doing enough can lead to risk of overload on the day of the race ( running too far too quickly, without appropriate adaptation), and lack of endurance to complete the distance. You need to allow for your body to adjust to the conditions and stress you're going to put it through!
If you're struggling for motivation to run, here are some tips:
* Make yourself a schedule and stick to it - better yet make this visible to someone else as well so they can help to motivate you
* Find a running buddy to help you tackle some of those longer run days
* Change the music on your ipod/phone/device to get you excited about going for a run
* Find out whether you're better running in the morning or at night and adjust your schedule accordingly ( but keep in mind your race will start in the morning!!)
* Put your kit on, tie up your laces, and step out the door - you're practically already there. Now you just need to put one foot in front of the other. Easy!
Did you know that 74% of runners become injured each year? Not exactly a very appealing statistic. There are numerous reasons why, but poor running technique and over training are at the top of the list. By poor technique we don't necessarily mean whether or not you run on your toes or your heels ( which is what most people are concerned with for some reason these days). Running technique refers to factors like over-striding, hip extension, knee flexion, and other more specific biomechanical factors that effect your efficiency of movement. Some of these are caused by poor muscle activation/strength and/or lack of range of motion or inflexibility, which inevitably lead to compensation and an overuse injury.
Regardless of the reason. If you've found yourself only weeks away from running a marathon with an injury, what do you do about it?
* First things first. Go seek professional advise, such as a physiotherapist, to help determine a.) what your injury is , and b.) what has caused it. If you know these two things you can then make a decision as to what to do next
* Remember, injuries happen for a reason. Just resting might take away your pain and inflammation, but as soon as you start running again, that reason behind why it was there to begin with hasn't been dealt with, and is likely going to cause a re-occurrence. So you'll likely have a bit of homework to do - such as strengthening, stretching, foam rolling, drills...etc.
* Been injured and missed a few of your scheduled longer runs? Deciding to play catch up? BAD IDEA. You're more likely to injury yourself by doing too much too quickly. Remember, less is more! Get advise from a coach or professional on how to make the most of the time that you have for training.
* Injury or niggle? Not sure if its OK to keep going? Follow these rules to help you decide what to do
1.Pain that is progressive or unchanging
2.Pain that last longer than 30-60 minutes after a run
3.Consistent pain in the same location on more than one occasion
4.Pain that is greater than a 3/10
If any of these apply to your problem, best to stop for the moment until you've figured out what is going on.
Preventing an Injury
The best thing that you can do to reduce you injury risk:
* Avoid over-training. Everyone is unique in how they recover and what kind of training they can handle. Just because your neighbour is running 60-70 miles per week, doesn't mean you can. Your ability to recover is actually part of your physiology and genetics.
* Know your weakness's and continue to work on improving them. As you up your mileage, your weaknesses are going to become more apparent and the culprits of over use injuries!
* Foam roll! We know, its sore. No one ever said it was a pleasant experience ( if they did ,they were lying). But embrace the fact that thousands of other people are enduring this to help their running too. You're not alone!
We're not nutritionists, but there are a few common sense things about nutrition and running to consider:
* Trial out your food plan during your training runs prior to the race
* Test out what you will eat before the race, and how long you need to digest it
* If you plan on using gels during your run, practice! They can sometimes feel a bit rough on the stomach if you're not used to it. It's recommended to have a few swigs of water with a gel so it doesn't sit in your stomach and cause cramp.
* You're probably not concerned about the after at the moment, but its worth having a think of throwing a few things in your bag to keep you going until you can find proper food.
All of these things can be very personal and its best to figure it out before race day to save yourself the stress and potentially disaster during your run. You'll thank us later.
We know you know this ...but don't do ANYTHING new on race day. Ever. No new shoes, no new foods, no new clothes. Its a pretty safe rule of thumb to just stick to what you've done in your training. Less risk of the unknown!
It happens. Remember that 74 % of runners getting injured every year? We HOPE that you've been training smart and have prevented an injury - but they are very common. If you are injured right before the race and are unsure if you can get through it, please don't try to run injured! It will end up being a horrible experience for you and you're likely going to cause yourself more pain or further injury - it's not worth it! It is devastating to train so hard, and for so long and then not complete it, something only another runner will understand. But trust me - you'll get over it, eventually. Marathons happen all the time, and you'll get the next one!
Remember to take in your surroundings and look around. Of course we want you to be focused and run your race, but take a second before the start to enjoy the atmosphere and be proud of what you've achieved to reach the start line. You'll have plenty of time over the 26.2 miles to contemplate why you decided to do this!
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