Getting Ready for a Marathon: How to Run Your First Long Distance

Getting Ready for a Marathon: How to Run Your First Long Distance

The end of spring is the time for marathons series around the world. How to get prepared for your first long distance and why marathon is not for newcomers – the answers to these and other questions are provided by Igor Tyupin, Master of sports of International Class (equal to international champion), track and field athletics coach.

Is marathon recommended to everyone?

No, marathons are not recommended for beginners. It makes sense preparing for a long-distance run, if a person has 3-4 years of regular training with increasing the load. I do not recommend getting prepared for a marathon, if you don’t have such experience.

How to train for running a marathon

There is a generally accepted recommendation to increase the training load for no more than 10% weekly. In general, this rule applies to marathon training.

It is better to manage loads using the principle of only one variable. According to it, only one factor needs to be varied for maximum progress, while the rest of parameters remain unchanged. For example, if you increase the weekly run distance, then it makes no sense to work on speed increase. If you are at the stage of increasing the intensity, it is reasonable to reduce the total training volume a bit to tolerate loads better.

Common mistakes in preparing for a marathon

Common mistakes in preparing for a marathon

A big mistake is trying to set records on every training session. Runners who are preparing for a marathon make this mistake more often, especially when the start is approaching. Training volume and intensity are constantly growing, and the amount of rest is decreasing. The main rule is: sometimes you need to retreat to be able to win. Therefore, it is a lot more reasonable to alternate light and hard workouts in your marathon training program.

Another common mistake is using a mechanical approach. The runner thinks something like this: “To be able to run a half marathon, I need to include 21 km of short running segments in a workout, otherwise the body appears in an unusual situation and gets tired quickly.” This is fundamentally wrong!

Special endurance can’t be enhanced by such a straightforward method - no matter what speed and distance we are talking about. Tempo running should be used in marathon training in limited amounts. Even more – it is better to give up long tempo run, perhaps, this is the most dangerous of all special exercises for a runner. It gives little effect but spends a lot of adaptive reserves. Read the paragraph above one more time (about the principle of one variable): you can either increase the distance or increase the tempo in a single workout, not both at once.

Another mistake is rapid start. If you set too high standards at the beginning of your marathon preparation, i.e. choose long running segments, prefer hard workouts etc., there is a great risk that you will simply leave give up before the start of the marathon. Bring yourself to the ultimate loads gradually. Do not rush into battle and spend all your resources at the first workout. Overestimating running speed and volume can be dangerous.

How long does marathon preparation usually take?

The optimal time to get prepared for a marathon is 4-5 months, a maximum of 6 months. The training cycle is usually divided into three stages - let's call them Accumulation, Transformation and Implementation.

  1. During the first stage you should make accent on volume and strength. The stage consists of general conditioning exercising, cross-country running (not more than 2-3 times a week), special exercises (for example, a series of jumps uphill). During this period a marathon runner reaches the maximum running volumes.
  2. At Transformation stage a lot of attention is paid to interval running with a gradual increase in running segments. The running itself becomes more rapid and intense. In this case, the total volume of training is somewhat reduced (as the intensity increases).
  3. For Implementation stage the key task is to bring the runner to the peak form on the competition day. At this stage athletes need to avoid long and exhausting training. For marathon runners it is useful to perform in a couple of minor starts (5-10 km / 3-6 miles). For half marathon it is necessary to choose distances of 3-5 km (2-3 miles).

How to avoid mistakes in marathon preparation

  • The best way to control your condition and avoid mistakes is to keep a diary and record each workout: date, type of exercising, distance, time, speed, heart rate, general condition, notes.
  • Secondly, you need clear planning. Consider your current fitness level and draw up a detailed a plan on weekly load increase, days for speed increase, and days for special exercises. This task is better to fulfill with the help of your coach.
  • Thirdly, you need to be honest with yourself and avoid wishful thinking. This applies to your current form, training results, and keeping a diary. Assess yourself adequately. This will help avoid errors in loads distribution and make your first marathon closer.
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