Preparing for a marathon is a real personal challenge for many runners. Whether you want to improve your endurance, achieve your weight loss goals, run for a charitable cause, push your limits or challenge yourself, it is a sporting event that requires rigorous and careful preparation.
Whatever your motivation, a number of factors come into play to better prepare you for a marathon and, of course, to cross the finish line. From training to sleep to your nutrition plan, one of the advantages of marathons is that the keys to success are known in advance, and it’s up to you to follow them to achieve your goals.
To make it easier, we’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of key elements to consider when preparing for and running a marathon.
1. Establish a training plan
The first rule, simple but fundamental, is training.
As for any competition or event, preparing for a marathon requires a rigorous plan, defined in advance and adapted to your goals, performance, strengths, and weaknesses. It is essential to follow a training plan that includes not only regular and varied but also personalised running sessions:
- Do you find it difficult to run long distances? Train in long, low-intensity sessions.
- Need to increase the speed? Train in shorter but more intense runs.
- Not enough muscle? Prepare muscle-strengthening exercises to strengthen your legs and abs.
Preparing for a marathon takes not weeks but months. Therefore, define a detailed and precise plan for each week (like three running sessions during the week and one muscle strengthening session…). Finally, training on a terrain similar to that of the marathon to get used to the race conditions can be an excellent idea.
2. Gradually increases distance and intensity
The most important thing in preparation is not to rush to increase the distance in training sessions.
This could easily lead to injuries. It is, therefore, advisable to gradually increase the distance run each week depending on how you feel and your progress in previous weeks.
3. Value warm-up and stretching
Often neglected or even underestimated, warm-up is essential to any sports preparation.
Before you start running, warm up for about ten minutes to prepare your knees and body for the following effort. In addition, at the end of each running session, stretch your muscles (mainly in your legs) to reduce the risk of pain and stiffness.
4. Don’t forget hydration and nutrition
When preparing for a marathon, your eating plan is as important as your training plan.
Remember to vary your diet and opt for seasonal vegetables, quality carbohydrates (rice, wholemeal pasta, etc.), fruit (bananas, dates, etc.), white meat and fish. If necessary, take a vitamin supplement (multivitamins, magnesium, zinc, etc.), which can help you recover after exercise. Remember to ask your doctor for advice if you want to take a supplement.
On the marathon day, you should also prepare and eat snacks, preferably liquids and specific gels, to avoid fatigue and a drop in activity level. Avoid eating unfamiliar food provided at refreshment points, and carry familiar snacks in your rucksack or pockets.
5. Allow time for rest and recovery
The benefits and effects of rest and recovery are often overlooked. However, they often make a difference to your performance and the treatment of injuries and pain. Planning and respecting rest days is essential to allow muscles to repair and strengthen. For elite athletes, 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep is recommended.
6. Listen to your body to avoid injury
Listen to your body and, at the first sign of pain, avoid straining muscles or joints. Performance is good, but good health and avoiding pain are better. The goal of a marathon is to prepare correctly and cross the finish line.
7. Determine the necessary equipment
Choose and test your running shoes well. Running shoes that are comfortable and suited to your stride (to avoid pain and injury) are essential for marathon preparation. Use your running shoes only for this sport and do not use them for other sports (football, weight training, tennis…). Try on the shoes in the shop to ensure you choose the right model for your feet.
8. Prepare yourself mentally
Mental preparation is as necessary as physical preparation. It is crucial to set achievable goals, focus on the positive aspects of the race, visualise the race and choose the music or podcasts you will listen to during the marathon to motivate you.
9. Have a medical check-up before the race
You will also need your doctor’s approval to prepare for a marathon.
Therefore, you must have a medical check-up before you start training, especially if you have a medical history or health problems. A doctor can tell you if you are fit to run a marathon and advise you on how to train safely.
We wish you the best of luck in your preparation and a good marathon.