Marathon tips for novice runners

Marathon tips for novice runners

CurraNZ ambassador Joasia Zakrzewski shares her top marathon tips for novices.

A GP from Dumfries, Jo come to the sport late but climbed the ranks to become an accomplished distance runner, from marathon distance (PB - 2 hrs:39) distance to the one of the best in Britain for ultras (100km – 7hrs 31!).

Named Female Ultra-Runner of the Year 2014, Scotland Masters Athlete of the Year 2015, Jo has medaled for Team GB at every World 50km/100km/Trail Championship she has taken part in (14 medals in total). 

Here, she shares her best tips for newcomers to marathon training.

As the craziness of spring marathon season arrives upon us, it is easy to get overwhelmed by it all.

Having started as a non-runner, running my first marathon in 2007, and progressing through to becoming a slightly more seasoned marathoner, representing Scotland over the distance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014, I can see how people get carried away, whatever their level and don't get the best out of themselves on race day.

Here are some tips for marathoners preparing for their big day this spring.

You should gradually increase your distances up to a maximum of about 22 miles, but I would never suggest running over the marathon distance as race-day adrenaline will hopefully carry you over the last couple of miles. Your legs will feel tired for a few days after these sessions (eg to midweek if long-running on a Sunday). However, if you are still feeling it almost a week later, then you've probably increased the distance too much.

Speedwork shouldn't be forgotten as you increase you run distance, so include a midweek interval session of shorter reps above your race pace. This will be tough at the time but will hopefully make race pace feel easier.

Think about how you fuel your long run, how you aim to fuel during your race, and make sure you get the right balance of nutrition pre- and post-runs, eg carbs before and protein afterwards, and ensuring adequate hydration.

I use CurraNZ which helps in many ways as you build up to the race. For me, I’ve noticed it aids lactate clearance and reduces fatigue in interval sessions, helps reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after a hard session, long run and the marathon itself, increased fat oxidation (very beneficial for longer runs) and contains antioxidants which fight oxidative stress.

The dose which works best for me is 1 capsule daily for general health and recovery, and 2 capsules 2 hours before any interval session or long run.

As a vegetarian who tends to be prone to anaemia, I also take an iron tablet every day, but I wouldn't suggest taking these without having your iron level checked.

I also take glucosamine for my joints (I've almost broken more bones over my lifetime that I've won medals for GB), though some people question whether this is beneficial or not. With any supplement, if it does you no harm (and you know exactly what is in it.. I am very conscious of this having been on the WADA drug testing database), then the placebo benefit may be just as useful as a scientifically-proven one.

This is key to training well. Adaptations to training are made when you recover… so don't leave your best work out on the road in training. Make sure you recover from each key workout so that the next one is just as useful in building up towards the race.

On race day, just relax and enjoy it. The hard work is done. The actual race is the icing on the cake for all the effort you've put in. Running the marathon is easy compared to the training required to get you to that start line race-ready, so take the stage and go for it.

To avoid going off too fast, some people think of the marathon as a 20-mile warmup and then a 6-mile race, while others work off the premise that for every minute you run too fast in the first half, you'll be 2 minutes slower in the second half.

By race day you'll know whether you need to eat your breakfast two-three hours beforehand, or whether you're more like me and graze up until 45 minutes before you run. Don't change anything on the day - ignore others and stick to what work for you.

I would suggest cutting down on fruit, veg and fibre the day before and morning of the race and switching from brown bread to white breads, as you don't want to be spending half of your race looking for toilets.

The same goes for clothing and shoes... don't wear anything new - try them out for a few runs beforehand (or races if you like to keep "lucky" items for special events).