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Coach Dan and Samโ€™s Top Ten Marathon Training Tips

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

In the last episode of The Best Athletics Podcast shares with you Dan and Samโ€™s '๐™๐™ค๐™ฅ ๐™๐™š๐™ฃ ๐™ˆ๐™–๐™ง๐™–๐™ฉ๐™๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™๐™ง๐™–๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™๐™ž๐™ฅ๐™จ' as we begin to head into peak marathon season including some biggies coming up Berlin, Valencia and Chicago!

These tips are full of top quality knowledge and experience over their years of both racing and coaching.

Tip 1: Planning your marathon block.

Marathon training can start anywhere from 8-12 weeks out from race day to even as much as 16-20 weeks depending on your experience as a runner. For those of you that are regular runners running more than 3-4 times a week and completing a wide range of sessions (including intervals, threshold, tempo, hill and long runs) then as little as an 8-12 week block may work perfectly.

For someone taking on the marathon for the first time, a longer block of 16 week+ is beneficial so that you can gradually increase the mileage and volume of your training week by week (see tip number 3 for the sweet spot) to reduce your risk of injury and enhance your recovery!

Tip 2: Practicing race day on your long run.

Long runs are a great opportunities to practice your race day game plan! This includes your race day fuelling strategies, sleep routine, outfit, pre-race meal, hydration and your overall race day mindset - Training your mind to be mentally strong come race day is huge! By the time race day comes around you should have a solid plan in place - This will help minimise any stress so you can feel as relaxed and ready as you can come go time!

Tip 3: Increase your weekly mileage by ~5-10%

How should you increase your mileage and progress your training week on week? This is a very common question us coaches get asked. The sweet spot is to increase your weekly volume is between 5-10%. It is also important that we do not change too much at once and change one principle of training at a time ( frequency, intensity and duration of runs). If we begin to increase our volume by more than 10% that can increase our risk of injury.

For example if your long run is 10 miles this Sunday then next Sunday it should increase to 11 miles (around 5-10%). If you are starting from a lower base then that increase is going to be much smaller - Again this is important when it comes to planning out our training block making sure we get to the distance required before race day!

Tip 4: Hydrating sufficiently.

Hydration is so important and often overlooked. Exercise increases our sweat rate, especially during the summer months when it is hot and humid - This means we are losing a lot of liquid that will need replacing.

One thing you can try is to weigh yourself before and after your run whilst taking into account how much you have taken on board in terms of nutrition and hydration on your run. It is recommended to drink 1.5X the amount of weight that you have lost post-run. This will help rehydrate you post run and keep you hydrated to enhance both your recovery and performance going into your next session.

It is important you are taking on some form of fluid with you in your long runs. You can use something like a camelback or plan on your route somewhere where you can leave a bottle to pick up and have a few sips - Organisation is key - Failing to prepare, is prepare to fail!

A super simple easy way to check if you are hydrated is using the urine hydration colour chart!

Tip 5: Fuel to meet the demands of your training.

This is another very essential tip for overall training - It is so important that we are fuelling for the work required. If we head into our training session under fuelled this will have a profound effect on our performance and subsequent recovery!

During your long run it is recommended to take on 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour as a minimum. For example most gels will contain ~30g of carbohydrate (this equates to 2-3 gels per hour). Gels can be quite tricky to tolerate and stomach, so mixing this up between gels, solid, liquids and drinks can be an important consideration.

Post session you do not want to be in an energy deficit - This will only slow down your recovery and have a decrement on your performance going into your next session! We are looking to take on a mixture of carbohydrate and protein to recover optimally to a 3:1 ratio (90g of carbohydrates for 30g protein). Studies have shown that our bodies cannot take on a huge amount of protein at once thus, at least 20g of protein is sufficient following your training session and dosing 20g of protein throughout the day (every 2-4 hours) can be beneficial. Our bodies only stores enough glycogen for 90 minutes of work - this means that we need to top up those stores during a high intensity session >70 minutes or long run >90 minutes! This also explains the importance of fuelling pre track/tempo sessions! Even if we take on board something light such as; a banana, piece of fruit, cereal and milk, yogurt and granola or snack bar - Something is better than nothing!

Tip 6: Running at your Target Marathon Zone.

If you are targeting a particular pace or time for a marathon you need to spend some time in training running at that target pace! Or even slightly faster so your body becomes adapted to run at that pace and can hold the pace over the required distance. Within your training week having one tempo session where you target running at marathon pace is one way to practice.

If your goal is to finish a marathon then your โ€˜Target Zoneโ€™ will be able to run for the required distance! Again these tips all link - during training you can practice how it feels to take on various types of fuel at marathon pace and become used to how the pace feels mentally!

Tip 7: Strength training is important.

Being strong enough to run is huge! If we neglect our strength work it puts us at a greater risk of injury and enhances the chance of picking up niggles during training. Keeping up your muscle strength evenly on both sides is so important to prevent muscle imbalances and importantly to help hold our form during training especially when we start to fatigue.

In the podcast Dan and Sam share their own experiences with strength training during their rehabilitation following injury!

The team from the Running Room have a free Half Marathon / Marathon S&C Program. It is free to download here:

Tip 8: Fitting running into our lives.

It is important to realise that sometimes we cannot do it all - we have jobs, families, social lives, etc. We do not want to push our training or put so much pressure on ourselves that we end up falling out of love with the sport of running! Training for a marathon usually does mean compromise and sacrifices - missing social events, cutting out alcohol and prioritising sleep to get up for training the next day. However, equally it can mean missing some sessions if we have something important coming up such as a work event, Wedding, Birthday, etc.

Our relationship with running is super important - at the end of the day we are all humans and all have lives. Sometimes it is important to prioritise our relationships and friendships.

When planning your marathon block think about what events you have coming up and look to plan your training around those events. You can easily move you sessions around and remember that running fits into your life not your life into running!

Tip 9: The Biggest run should be 4 weeks out from your marathon!

The biggest running session we do should be around 4 weeks out from race day! This gives your body enough time to adapt to the training stimulus allowing you to become stronger and faster - following this session you should be looking to reduce your load, fine tune your marathon pace and get a few more faster sessions in and then begin to taper off the training! Completing your biggest run as little as 2 weeks out from the marathon will result in marginal gains and will not give your body enough time to recover! As always there are some exceptions to this, for example if you became injured earlier in the block or your block is shorter then you can carry that long run over by a week or so - This would mean you need a harder taper either side of that session and reduce your load quite quickly!

Tip 10:Never try anything new on race day!

One of Nickโ€™s favourites! You do not want to be trying anything new on race day, no new food, shoes, warm up, kit, breakfast, gels - There is a chance it could work out really well however there is also a huge possibility that it could go really wrong! This could make or break your target time!

Try your best to condition your race day plan within your training over the marathon block.

So there we have it, Coach Dan and Sam's Top Ten Marathon Training Tips! You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

If you have any questions or would like some further information then please do send us a DM on our socials.

Best of luck to everyone in your training and races!

Onwards and upwards,

Best Athletics ๐Ÿ’™

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