The first step towards mentally preparing for running a marathon is to choose a specific race. Experts say it takes about a year of consistent running to be able to run a marathon, so be realistic about how long you will have to prepare for your preferred marathon event. You may like to try to get a ballot place on a world-famous race such as the London Marathon, choose a lower key affair, or go international and combine your marathon with a trip abroad. Whichever you choose, booking your place on a race gives you a set date to work towards.
Sometimes the biggest hurdle to training for a big event is getting started, and when the race is so far in the future, it can be easy to put it off. Marathon training is all about building up the mileage gradually – which is crucial for preventing injury too – so start running a consistent mileage each and every week. The amount you run depends on your starting point and how much running you already do. Once you have established a consistent pattern of running around three to five times per week, increase your mileage by about 10% every week. Remember to consult a doctor before you start training too.
As well as building up a consistent running programme, experts encourage doing occasional long runs and speed work to practice different skills useful for marathons. This involves doing a long run around once a week – or every 10 days if you’re more comfortable with this. Increase the distance by a mile or two each time, but be careful not to push yourself too hard too soon. Doing some practice 5k and 10k runs can really help. Also do some regular interval training, where you run short distances very fast, mixed in with recovery jogging. Both these techniques will help build your confidence, stamina and aerobic ability to eventually run a marathon.
Rest days are as important as running days when it comes to marathon training. Your body needs time to recover from your increasingly lengthy runs, while you also need to avoid mental burnout from such a long training period. If you want to feel like you’re still doing something towards your marathon effort on your rest days, spend some time in an infrared sauna to help your muscles repair, or take some extra time to prepare a great rest day meal, which should be protein-rich but lighter in carbohydrates compared to running days.
As your marathon date approaches, It’s time to change your training routine so you’re as well prepared as possible for the big race. Tapering is an important part of this, when it’s important to scale back on your mileage somewhere between one and three weeks leading up to the marathon. By this point your body will be ready to race, so it’s important to rest a little so you’re energised to tackle the big day when it arrives. Also focus on your nutrition during the days leading up to the marathon, fuelling your body with plenty of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, as well as drinking plenty of water.