Answers to all those questions about marathons.
Running a marathon may seem like an intimidating challenge, but with the right planning and preparation, you can make it through the race and be proud of your incredible accomplishment.
If you’re thinking about signing up for a 42km run, This guide can help you to prepare yourself for the challenge. We’ve covered everything from pre-race warm-ups to post-race nutrition, so lace up and let’s get going!
How far should I run for marathon training?
Most marathon training schedules are 15 to 20 weeks in duration. During this time, you will typically need to run three to five times a week, increasing your distance and speed as you get nearer to the day of the marathon.
Basic plans will include gradual building of kilometres over the weeks in the lead up to your race. As you become more experienced, plans will include different types of runs, exposing you to different tempos, efforts and terrain.
It’s always a good idea to include some cross training, including strength training and more gentle modalities, like yoga, pilates or walking, on recovery days
Should I follow a special diet for marathon training?
In the weeks before the marathon, the food you eat is just as important as the hours of training you put in. Your dietary choices will have a huge impact on your race time, energy levels, hydration and the time it takes for your body to recover after race day. A sports dietician is best placed to give you specific advice.
Our Exercise Physiologist and resident runner has these tips for marathon fueling and recovery
- Pre-run, simple carbohydrates are best. Try to avoid fibrous or dense foods as these can wreak havoc on your stomach.
- Stay hydrated. A lot of marathoners mistake dehydration for hunger and will eat instead of taking on fluid. There are lots of specially made sports drinks on the market, but my go-to is Tailwind – which includes electrolytes for hydration as well as carbohydrates for energy
- After your run, be sure to refuel adequately to aid recovery. Protein is important here. A protein shake and a piece of fruit works well in the first 30 minutes after finishing.
- Eat well generally, with complex carbohydrates, Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, proteins and healthy fats. Eating well for marathon training includes what you eat day to day. This helps to optimise recovery so you can train well
What should I wear on the marathon day?
Whether it’s your first or 100th marathon, choosing the outfit for the race is a really important decision. The best advice we can give you is to make sure you have worn the kit on your long training runs to trial it out for practicality.
Seasoned marathon runners always dress as though its 15 degrees warmer than it is. To be comfortable on the day, you should avoid fabrics that hold a lot of moisture, such as cotton, which is likely to irritate your skin as you run.
Some essentials you will need on the day include;
- High-quality socks and running shoes
- Lightweight, moisture wicking clothes
- Sports bra for the ladies
- Anti-fog sunglasses
- Sweat-proof sun cream
- Anti-chaffing cream
How do I warm up before running a marathon?
Running a marathon is one of the biggest physical challenges you can give yourself. Dedicating some time to warming up before you set off is crucial for running a great race and preventing injuries.
Warming up before the race will ensure that your muscles are performing at their best by increasing your body temperature. The increase in your core temperature will send extra oxygen to your muscles, loosen your joints and encourage the neural pathways between your brain and your muscles to communicate to improve muscle control.
There are many techniques for marathon warm ups, with each runner having their own tried and tested methods. Here are some of the most effective methods of warming up before the marathon.
Walking is the ideal low-intensity exercise to ease your body out of resting mode and into marathon mode. By taking a gentle 5 minute walk, you will warm up your muscles, joints and tendons by stretching them out in a similar way to what they will go through while running in the marathon.
In the start chute, doing some calf raises and ankle circles, gentle hopping from foot to foot can help to prepare your feet, ankles and calves for the task ahead.
Your legs are not the only part of the body that need to be prepared for the marathon. The hips and spine bear a lot of the load as you are running. Some effective dynamic stretches to try before the marathon include leg swings, walking lunges and opposite toe touches.
How do I recover after the marathon?
You’ve done it. You’ve crossed the finish line! As the adrenaline wears off and your heart rate returns to normal, the excitement can start to give way to something else: muscle cramps and fatigue. So what are the best ways to recover after the marathon?
Although it may be the last thing you want to do, walking for 10 minutes after the marathon is the best way to cool down. Walking will benefit your body in two ways:
- It will prevent you from having low blood pressure and subsequent fainting
- It will promote extra blood flow to clear your muscles lactate, cortisol and adrenaline that build up in the bloodstream
Make sure to take advantage of the drinks and food available at the finish line. The sooner you start rehydrating and taking in calories, the sooner your muscles can start the recovery process.
Some recommended post-marathon snacks include:
- Protein shakes
- Granola bars
- Bananas, oranges
- Bacon and egg roll
Change out of your race clothes
Cooling down too quickly can send your body into shock and increase your likelihood of contracting a cold or having skin irritation. By changing out of wet and damp clothes after the run, your body can cool down at a normal rate and you will feel more comfortable. At the very least, have a jacket handy for the finish line.
Research has shown that it takes 7 to 10 days to fully recover from the cellular damage sustained during a marathon. By getting 9 to 10 hours of sleep in the nights after the race, you can fully support your recovery.
There is also some evidence for massage, ice baths and gentle exercise. On the days following a marathon, it’s best to include gentle movement like yoga, walking and stretching.
Do I have a running injury?
Just like any form of exercise, running can cause injury to the body. Any concerns you have about niggles or pain in the lead up or during your event are best addressed with the help of your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist. With some tweaks to training load and some adjuvant exercises, you’ll likely be able to keep on training for your event.
Don’t take the risk of causing further harm to your body by failing to treat the injury. Call Transcend Health on 02 4961 3399 so one of our physiotherapists can help you get back to training with education and treatment to keep you working towards your goals.