Preparing for Success
What is success when running a marathon?
It is the same as success when running any event, and what people consider to be success is a very personal thing, and success when running a marathon should be the same as any other running event. But to avoid answering a question with a question, we are going to define success as "hitting the time you wanted". You may also define success as "getting to the finish", and that's OK also, especially if it's a one-off ultra or a 7-in-7 marathon type of challenge.
A marathon is a standard distance, and a quick search online shows there are literally thousands of in depth day-by-day guides on how to train for a marathon, so there is little point in adding my preferred one to the list. Find one that suits your lifestyle, or read many, and pick and choose bits that suit you.
Using a plan or guide to help set yourself a realistic target is really going to help you focus your training. Preparing for a marathon is as tough mentally as it is physically. If you find that you have set yourself an unrealistic target, either too slow or too fast, don't be afraid to move your own goal posts to adapt as you learn about your real fitness levels. Remember that life can get in the way too and that needs to be factored in.
• Make your training a bit harder than the race. For example, on your long run, find a route with a hill or two (assuming your targeted marathon is a flat road-course). But don't over do it. If you are doing a road race, train on road, so you get used to road pace and road impact. Off road running is very different.
• Speed and stamina, or performance-related training, is excellent marathon prep. Be it Thursday night with the club, running mile reps on the track or flogging round Knaves hill for 90 minutes. Light weights/high rep at the gym are also a really good option.
• Make your marathon part of a races series. Book a 10K and a half marathon in the lead up to your target marathon, and don't just run them, race them. You can put the results into a race-pace predictor and see how on track you are for your target marathon time.
• A rest day or two will do you more good than anything.
• Stretch and plank everyday. Make it part of your daily routine
• If it really hurts, stop doing it.
• Always wear sun-cream
When race day arrives be prepared, be very prepared. Make a list of what you will need on the day, and have it all packed/laid out the night before. Plan your diet for the few days prior and make sure you try out race day breakfasts before the big day to avoid any unwelcome stomach upsets. Most importantly, know your morning pre-race routine, and don't be last in line at the port-a-loo.