Training tips for running a marathon - The Life Coach

Training tips for marathon running (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Pavel19)

Training tips for marathon running (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Pavel19) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Pavel19

Two of the biggest marathons in the south take place in April, so Surrey roads and parks will soon be busy with runners in final training. If you’re one of them, Ben Short has a countdown to help you start the race in peak health and fitness.

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2017


So, you’ve signed up for the Brighton Marathon on April 9 or the London Marathon on April 23 and have been steadily putting in the miles over the last few months.

If you are a first timer, there is something you should know... you need to steadily take it easier this month. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to train hard right up to the big day. Then they start the race with tired legs, are more susceptible to injury and struggle to finish.

It seems obvious but you don’t have to run 26.2 miles before the marathon to know that you can do it. Aim for your longest run to be around 19 to 21 miles. Any further and you are likely to put undue strain through your joints and risk injury. So here is a five-week countdown for marathon newbies. Good luck – the one thing I can guarantee is the euphoria at the end is worth it.

Five weeks to go:

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Aim to run your peak weekly mileage so far in your training. Enter a local running race so you get the feel for what it is like to run in a crowd of people. Check out the Richmond Half Marathon and 10K on March 19 ( or aim to finish one of your training runs at the start of a parkrun ( That way you will run the last three miles surrounded by other runners and it can replicate specific race conditions.

Four weeks to go:

Make this your last week to record your highest weekly miles. From here on you will need to scale down the length of your training runs – known as tapering. Look to run 20 miles at your target marathon pace, wearing the clothes and trainers you plan to wear on the big day. Make this your ‘mock’ marathon, replicating the food you will eat beforehand and choose a course with a gradient and surface similar to the real thing. Book yourself a sports massage straight after a run to iron out any niggles or aches. You should also increase the amount of slow release carbohydrates you eat.

Three weeks to go

Scale down your runs by 20 per cent in terms of distance and intensity, making sure you have a minimum of at least two days rest a week. Increase the amount of protein you consume and go to bed half an hour earlier than you would normally, every night from now on until marathon day.

Two weeks to go

Sleep is important this week so postpone social engagements to celebrate post-marathon, unless you can ensure you are in bed at a decent time. If injury and niggle free, aim for an easy-paced eight to 10 miles maximum at the beginning of the week, then the rest of your training runs should be reduced to half that amount, factoring in three days’ rest. Run a fast-paced parkrun or three miles at the end of the week to boost your confidence, aiming for your personal best this year.

One week to go

It is key that this week has the least total mileage of your training plan – I suggest four miles, two miles and then one mile, with at least four days’ rest. Analyse your best training runs to see what you did effectively that could be replicated on race day (consider nutrition, clothing and pace). I would typically run all my training runs at target marathon pace this week. If you suffer a minor injury… don’t panic! Seek help from a physiotherapist. I pulled a hamstring the month before last year’s London Marathon, but thanks to my brilliant physiotherapist, I recovered well and ran my personal best time on the day.


If you do one thing this month:

Soak up the atmosphere at the Surrey Half Marathon on March 12. It is the county’s largest half marathon and takes place from Woking Park. Visit for more information.

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