The spring marathon period is several months away and therefore it's still some weeks before people start training for their races, whether they're running London, Brighton, Paris or any other event. However, as a runner of several marathons over the years myself, (and the maker of a few mistakes along the way), I know it's really useful to get some things in place before the programmed training begins. So here are my recommendations on what to do over the coming weeks.
Start with an aerobic base - The popular time to start marathon training is the first week after new year. Whilst I'd recommend beginning earlier, if this is your plan, don't kick off your programme with a fitness level of zero. 26 miles is a long way and to go from no exercise to the finish line in just a few months is placing your body under a lot of stress and pressure. So if you're currently at a low level of fitness, use the next couple of months to build a base by doing some short runs, getting on the bike or even doing a few long walks.
Avoid overcommitting to other areas - The reality is marathon training takes up a lot of time and life is already extremely busy for most people with work, family and social commitments. Therefore, during those 16-17 weeks leading up to the big day, try to keep things as simple as possible and don't plan to do anything major that's going to require lots of energy and cause unwanted stress. If you're thinking of starting that course mid-way through your programme or planning to build that extension in the new year, I'd consider whether they can be delayed as added responsibilities will almost certainly be detrimental to your training progress.
Get a programme ready - As I mentioned in this past article that looks at the essential elements of a successful training programme, it's really important to have a plan before you start training. There are many free training programmes online, so take a look around and find one that's right for you. The London marathon website offers a 17 week online training programme for varying abilities (beginner, intermediate and advanced). These can be found and downloaded here.
Book some races - It's really useful to run some scheduled events before the marathon, particularly if you're new to the sport and haven't experienced a race before. Not only will it familiarise you with race conditions, but it'll also give you a good idea of where you are with regards to your training progress. A fair suggestion would be to book a 10km race 4 or 5 weeks into your programme, then a half marathon 8 or 9 weeks in. For those based in the UK, the Runner's World events page is a handy resource and can be found here.
Written by Marc Brown