Marathon training plans
When I signed up to the New York Marathon last year, I decided I wanted a bit more structure to my training. I wasn’t new to running. I already had four marathons under my belt, and I loved the experience of these – running with friends and all crossing that finishing line together.
This one was different though. There would be no fancy dress and no friends running alongside me. And this time I had a goal in mind: I was determined to run the New York Marathon in under four hours.
I’d used a training plan before, on my first ever marathon, as I needed the confidence to be able to perform on the day. This time, I needed something that would push me further – so I went for Bupa’s advanced training programme for marathon running.
The Bupa training programme takes around four months, which I think is perfect for runners of all levels. Having said that, if you have less than four months to go, you may still be able to benefit from following a plan. Just work backwards from the day of the marathon to see where you should be in the programme and begin from there. But if you’re a long way off the distances or times at this point in the programme, it might be better to postpone your plans. Pushing your body too hard could mean risking an injury. You can also adapt a programme to suit your needs. I didn’t always stick to it rigidly, as I wasn’t able to run on all of the days suggested – so be flexible.
As well as following a good training programme, there’s a few other really helpful pointers I’ve picked up over the course of my marathon training. Here are my five top tips.
Get fitted for good running shoes. One of the great things about running is there’s not much expense involved. But if there’s one thing you should spend money on, this is it.
- Plan your running routes. Think about the time of day you’re running as well as your route, so you can avoid busy times with lots of people or traffic. A traffic-free canal path is my favourite. As your runs get longer, think about how you can keep the route interesting with different landmarks – this can really make a difference to your motivation.
- Stay safe. This is linked to the point above – but is a really important one, especially for women running on their own. Always tell someone where you’re going, and if you’re going out when it’s dark, it’s better to stick to busier routes, with well lit paths and plenty of people about.
- Experiment with food during your training. This includes what to eat the evening before and the morning of your run, as well as what snacks you may need while you’re running. Does a bowl of porridge give you the energy you need for a long run, or are you better on a couple of rounds of toast and a banana smoothie? Will some jelly beans in your pocket give you the boost you need at the final mile, or is an energy drink your secret weapon? You want to work this out well before your race day.
- Consider using a running belt. You might find it easier to have your phone, Vaseline, snacks and other crucial items around your waist, rather than in your hands or jangling in your pockets. Plus – having your phone with you on the day means you can find your supporters easily once you’ve crossed the finish line!
One final piece of advice, for the day itself – if you have supporters coming along to watch you, make sure you know exactly where they will be standing. Pick a landmark or building you know along the route, and find out what they’re wearing so you can easily spot them. Getting support from a familiar face in the crowd during the race can really give you the boost you need to get through those final miles.
So, did the training programme work for me? Yes! I felt like following a plan made me much more focused on what I wanted to achieve, and confident that I could do it. And it worked. On race day, I ran the marathon faster than ever before and finished in just under my four hour goal. Whether you’re starting out with your first marathon or a regular runner, I’d definitely recommend following a training programme.
I used the Bupa Advanced training programme for marathons, but there are Beginner and Intermediate programmes too. So you can be race-ready no matter what your goal. Good luck!