Advice on how to get into shape to conquer 26.2 miles

Considering that the origins of the marathon go back over around 2,500 years it is only relatively recently that it has become an event that takes place outside of the Olympic Games.

However now most major cities have a marathon event each year and there is even the phenomenon of marathon tourism with runners aiming to compete as far afield as Berlin and New York and London and Boston. Some events that also include elite athletes come with the added attraction of sports betting on who the winner will be and even what time they will achieve.

There are various different kinds of marathon outside the standard 26.2 miles ranging from the 13.1 mile half marathon up to the ultra events that can be the equivalent of four standard distances or more. But the one thing that all these s have in common is that anyone planning to participate needs to prepare carefully if they aim to perform well and achieve their individual goals.

There are four key areas that the marathon runner has to be aware of and combine if this is going to happen and, in order of importance, they are as follows.

Running training

Obviously, the most critical element of training, whether it’s your first ever marathon or your 50th, is to get plenty of miles into your legs.

Look around online and you will find many training plans in which there is a structured build-up to the day of the race. It will be a combination of shorter, higher intensity runs and longer ones that are nearer the pace at which you think you’ll be running the actual marathon.

It’s also important to consider the route that you’ll be running on the day. There is little point in training on the flat if you’re going to be encountering hills around the course. Plus there’s the old runner’s saying of “hills for fitness”. So if you train on some gradients it’s sure to increase your stamina and help you to run even faster on the flat.

General strength and fitness

This seems like a good moment to mention other kinds of fitness training to include in your regime.

Strength and resistance training might not seem to be immediately relevant for running, but it is an invaluable element of race preparation. Hitting the gym and doing exercises like lunges, squats, deadlifts and stretches will build power, develop muscle and increase your stamina. It can even help to prevent injuries.

It’s a good idea to focus on two key areas – core strength and the lower body as these will be the most engaged in running. The former will ensure a good running posture and the latter will make your legs more powerful and capable of propelling you for longer periods of time and at higher speeds.

Nutrition and hydration

Like a car, the performance that you can expect from your body is only as good as the fuel that goes into it. Plus, as well as providing the energy for your runs, the quality of the food you eat will also be vital for helping your body recover and replenish yourself.

Maintaining the right kind of nutrition is generally a question of common sense. You will find that a typical marathon diet plan focuses on getting the right balance of the macronutrients of carbohydrates, fats and protein.

It might surprise some that carbs are important but they provide the immediately-accessible energy that runners need. Fats are also good for providing calories in a fairly concentrated form while proteins are vital for muscle development and repair.

Remaining properly hydrated especially during and after training runs is also very important.

Getting in the right headspace

One of the biggest obstacles that prevent runners from performing at their best is their state of mind. Often the brain can place artificial limitations on what we believe we can realistically achieve.

A way to overcome this is through the now well-recognised practice of positive visualisation. So if we can imagine ourselves achieving a sub-four-hour time, the greater our chances of actually managing it.

In a nutshell, believing is achieving.

It’s also important to make training for the marathon an enjoyable process in itself. Plenty of runners manage this by listening to podcasts or music when they run. This can put you into a neutral zone where it’s possible that the minutes or hours spent training seem to positively fly by.

A final thought

Using a combination of all of the above will soon get you into good shape for a marathon. But one thing that can ruin your plans along the way is injury.

If you do pick up a niggle then don’t run on reckoning it will go away – it’s likely to get worse.

So rest up until it’s better and follow any advice a doctor or physio gives you.

Then you’ll soon be back on the road to making that marathon starting line.