How to run a marathon
Lots of blokes have thought about running a marathon but few have dared. malehealth.co.uk reveals all you need to know to make it to the line. (And, no, you don't need to dress up as an ostrich.)
Believe in yourself
26 miles 385 yards is a long way - equivalent to over 100 running track circuits or five trips up Everest. But anyone who's reasonably fit and well-motivated can make it. Many of the London Marathon competitors are relatively new to the sport.
Get off your butt
Serious training is essential. You need to start at least four months before M-Day if you're already running fairly regularly, six months before if you haven't bought your trainers yet. In other words, don't try and run your first marathon next week.
Warm up first
No matter how fit you are, spend a few minutes warming up before any exercise. Jogging on the spot and some high knee lifts will do.
Head off the road
Training on grass or earth puts less strain on your muscles and joints - and you also stand less chance of getting run over.
Build up your stamina slowly - you shouldn't run so fast that you can't talk as you go. At first, aim to run half a mile (or whatever's comfortable), then walk a few hundred yards, then run another half mile, and so on. Have every other day off at this stage - your body needs time to recover.
As your stamina increases, use 'repetitions' to boost your aerobic capacity. After a period of normal running, speed up for one, two or three minutes. Then jog or walk for recovery for the same length of time before repeating a fast stretch. Over time, increase the number of fast runs and cut down the recovery periods.
Alternatively do 'fartlek' (no, this doesn't mean eating more chick peas - it actually means 'speed play'). This involves less structured variations in speed and distance but, typically, could include five minutes of normal running, half a mile of pace running, jogging for recovery and then another fast half mile. Fartlek is normally done over more undulating terrain: the rises and dips help vary the effort needed.
Three to four months before your marathon, you should be running at least four days a week: one 40 minute easy run, 40 minutes of repetitions or fartlek, 40-50 minutes of even paced running and one long run of 1-1.5 hours. You should be able to run 15 miles comfortably a month before your marathon attempt.
With two weeks to go, reduce your training runs by 25 per cent. In the week before your marathon attempt, attempt only short runs or easy jogs and rest for 48 hours before the big day.
Stuff in the carbs
Eat loads of pasta, potatoes, rice, bread, fruit and vegetables for energy while cutting down on fats. (About 60 per cent of your daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrate.) Keep your fluid intake up (but not down the pub) and consume isotonic drinks during the marathon itself. Don't waste your money on vitamins or supplements - they won't help.
Never run if you have a temperature, feel ill or have a pulled muscle. If you're tired, ease off. Good shoes are essential - contact a specialist running shop for advice.
Could running a marathon damage your health? A study of participants in the 1993 Auckland marathon suggests that your risk of injury or other health problem is greater if it's your first marathon, if you participate in other sports, if you're ill two weeks before the event, if you're currently taking medication or if you drink alcohol once a month or more. Men are generally more at risk of hamstring and calf problems while women are at increased risk of hip problems.
Keep a log of your training so you can see the improvements. Having a running companion, or joining a club, will help your motivation, as will the goal of participating in a competitive marathon. Don't get disheartened if you can't stick exactly to your training schedule - it needs to be flexible to fit in with your work and other commitments.
For more information: Visit the London Marathon website www.london-marathon.co.uk
Page created on May 9th, 2003
Page updated on March 10th, 2010