18 June 2012

How to run a Marathon

If you're thinking about doing any kind of running, read this first...

How to run a Marathon

Back in April Whatever After's very own Isla achieved one of her life-long ambitions – she ran the London Marathon. People thought she was crazy, some of you might think she’s crazy, but for anyone who might be considering doing something similar, here are Isla’s top Marathon tips…

Please note: Recommended running distances for different age groups are included at the bottom of this feature. A full marathon isn’t recommended for anyone under 18, but there are other kinds of runs you can do! 

TRAINING

It takes about four months to train to run a marathon. The London marathon takes place at the end of April, so I started training in the first week of January. I was already running a few times a week at this point and the longest distance I had run was 10km (about 6 miles).

I followed a training plan (which I downloaded from the Runners World website) and was quite strict about keeping to the plan (although I did miss the odd run here and there when it was pelting it down with rain outside… and that time it snowed… and that time I wanted to stay on the sofa, eat biscuits and watch films).

My training plan meant I was running on average 4 times a week and easily covering 20+ miles a week. Ever heard the phrase it’s a marathon not a sprint? Training for four months felt like the longest marathon EVER. But I was so thankful for it on race day.

FOOD

The best thing about training for a marathon means you can eat ANYTHING. But there are definitely foods you can eat that give you more energy than others – and it’s energy you need to keep you running! Bananas are brilliant. Nuts to snack on are great. A healthy, hearty breakfast like porridge is awesome. Jelly babies are great to take on a long run to give you an energy boost.

Of course water is vitally important – you NEED to keep hydrated. Drinking two litres of water a day is ideal. If you go out for a run and you feel thirsty, it means you aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day. To monitor how hydrated you are, your pee should be as clear as possible when you go to the loo (ewwww…. I know!)

REST DAYS

Rest days are as important as running days. During rest days you do exactly what it sounds like – rest - giving your muscles and body time to recover from exercise. If you ignore rest days you won’t have the energy for running days, it’ll be much harder, you won’t be able to run as far and you’ll be more prone to injuries, which will stop you running for much longer. 

INJURY

Training and running a marathon isn’t a walk in the park. Literally, it’s actually not. By preparing your body for 26.2 miles (which is how long a marathon is… no, really) you are more often than not going to suffer from injuries along the way. During training I felt more aches and pains than I’d ever felt. One week it was knee ache, the next I’d pulled my calf, the next I had backache… I went to the doctor, saw a physio and kept stretching and doing yoga exercises on my rest days to help strengthen my muscles.

CHARITY

One of the best things about running a marathon is being able to raise money for charity. I nominated Kidscape bullying charity as the charity I wanted to support. I asked my friends and family for donations and raised money throughout my training. I raised £1800 in total and I know how much this money means to Kidscape to help them to continue supporting young people affected by bullying.

There are lots of fundraising websites where you can make your own page and raise money. Check out the Just Giving site for starters...

RACE DAY

At 9:45am on Sunday 22nd April I lined up with 37,941 other runners to run the London Marathon. It was such a special day. I’d be lying if I said the race wasn’t really tough in parts, specifically from mile 18 – mile 22 where I started to get really tired and just wanted to stop running and eat a nice Sunday roast instead. But everyone supporting around the course was absolutely brilliant and crossing the line after 26.2 miles of running was one of the best feelings.

If you decide to train for a long run, whether it’s a 5k, half Marathon or the big one, you’ll get a similar feeling of having achieved something and got fit in the process so I really recommend it.

HOW FAR SHOULD YOU RUN?

I’d advise against anyone with no previous running experience deciding to run a marathon, whatever age they are. I first started running a few years ago and did a 5k, then a 10k, then a couple of half-marathons, before I took on the challenge of a full marathon. 

Recommended advice for different distances, depending on your age, is:

Under 16s – 5 kilometres (k)

Aged 16 and over – 10k

Aged 17 and over – half marathon (13.2 miles, approx 21k)

Aged 18 and over – full marathon (26.2 miles, approx 42k)

Remember if you’re doing any running at all, make sure you have a good pair of trainers, have been drinking plenty of water, have got enough fuel (food) inside you to run and are following a good training plan. Training plans can be found on the Runners World website, along with advice and support.

Happy running! x

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