This week, high-flying CurraNZ marathon veteran Andrew Heyden shares his invaluable tips, gleaned from many years of competitive international running.
Whilst it’s over 25 yrs since my first marathon, I still have strong memories of the thrill of crossing the finish line at the London Marathon in 1995 as a 21-year-old and I still get a strong sense of satisfaction after more than 60 marathon finishes.
If you’re into running, have completed a 10km and are injury free then attempting your first marathon may not be as impossible as you might first think.
Sure, 42.2km or 26.2 miles sounds daunting at first, but with time, some dedication and a bit of will-power the majority of runners can complete the training required to get through a marathon.
I’ve helped countless friends and friends-of-friends with their marathon plans and usually share some common advice.
Here are some considerations and tips to get you on your way to a marathon finish line.
1. Pick a race!
Start by finding the right race, far enough in advance and perhaps flat and not too hilly. Having a target locked in helps with the motivation to get started.
2. When to start training?
Depending on how long you have been running consistently for, around 20 weeks should be enough for most people who are regularly running a few times each week
3. Get a training plan
Whether from a book or a coach, a plan helps give you a schedule to stick to, shows how to build up the training and the types of sessions that suit, from long runs to recovery runs and hills or intervals for strength and speed.
4. Build up the long runs
The weekly long run is a key to marathon training.
This helps build up the fitness and strength needed on race day. It also builds some confidence and should be used to plan and refine your nutrition strategy.
Build your long runs slowly, adding to the length every week or second week.
Most beginners aim to cover 30-35 kms four weeks out from race day. Try not to skip this key session each week.
In the early weeks, time on your feet is more important than distance, so it's less about the kilometres and pace. It’s fine to walk the last few kms but aim to build up how far or long (in time) you run each week
This is a key to marathon training, it's okay to miss some planned runs due to work, a cold or family life, but try to be consistent and find time.
6. Prioritise diet and sleep
Marathon training can be tiring so for your block of training try to make sleep and eating well a priority.
Sleep is key to let your body recover.
Think about refueling within 30 mins of your runs and make the main meal the day before your long run a run-friendly meal, ie plain and carbohydrate rich, not too creamy or spicy!
7. Make it public
Once you have set the amazing goal of running a marathon, tell your friends and family as their support will help keep you going.
Signing up to raise money for a charity close to your heart can give additional motivation.
8. Find a training buddy
Having someone to run with makes sessions feel easier, pass quicker and helps keep you motivated to when you have agreed to meet up with someone.
Perhaps join a local running club or get involved with Park Runs to meet other local runners.
9. Get the right kit
Make sure you have the right clothes and the right shoes. Comfortable moisture-wicking clothes will keep you cool and dry and help prevent chaffing.
The right shoes will help prevent injury and are worth investing in. New shoes are often only the price of a couple of visits to the physio!
10. Enjoy it
It’s supposed to be fun. Enjoy the journey, getting fitter, hitting interim goals, meeting other runners and wearing new kit!
Enjoy treating yourself to nice food once or twice a week and be proud of yourself for setting a new challenge.
About Andy Heyden
Andy Heyden is a British expat living in Australia. Amongst his long list of achievements and having represented Australia at the 100km World Championships, he holds the world record for running a the fastest marathon time (whilst dressed as a monk, pictured right).
A long-time CurraNZ ambassador, Andy holds Australian multiple titles and records, having set a number of his personal bests in his 40's (originally set in his 30's) after using CurraNZ.