... and what to do in the months before you start training.
It’s the middle of October. You either can’t quite believe that you’ve got a place in the 2017 London marathon or you can’t quite believe that you didn’t (but you've entered another one anyway!) Either way, next spring you are going to be running your first marathon. After the initial euphoria has worn off, you’re left wondering what to do now. It’s tempting to get your running shoes on and start building up the miles, but with six months to go until the big day, upping the ante now risks burnout and injury. So, how should you spend the next few months before your marathon training plan kicks in for real? Here are some ideas…
* By all means keep running but don’t start increasing your mileage just yet. Maintain your fitness by enjoying some different kinds of running. Always run 10K on the roads? Why not give the cross-country season a go? Do most of your running long and slow? Perhaps enter a 5K and work on your speed?
* Work on building up your strength and core. Marathon training will be hard on your body so the stronger you are, the better your body will cope. Whether it’s Pilates or yoga, lifting weights or body-weight training, start some conditioning work now so you’ll be stronger by the time the running ramps up.
* Treat yourself to some downtime, both physically and mentally. Sticking to a 12 or 16 week marathon plan will be tough on both body and mind, so you want to be fresh when you start. Take a couple of weeks off running altogether – maybe over Christmas – and give yourself a really good rest.
* Enjoy some quality time with your friends and family now, before your training starts consuming more of your life. You’re going to need them on board to support you, so involve them from the start and spend more time with them while you can.
* Sort out your training plan. Look online and in magazines – there are loads out there to choose from. If you want something more personalised, look around for a running coach who can write one tailored to your needs. Work out exactly what you’ll need to do training-wise and how you’ll fit in in to your week.
* Think about who you are going to train with, if anyone at all. If you dislike running by yourself and don’t know anyone else training for a marathon, you might want to seek out a local club or group to join. You’ll get great support from training with other people!
* Consider what races you might want to run in the build up to your marathon and get them entered before they sell out. A half marathon, or perhaps a 20 miler? There are lots out there to choose from and they’ll be helpful milestones along the way.
* Think about your diet and nutrition. If you need to lose a bit of weight, it’s best to start doing so now, before the training plan kicks in. Losing weight whilst in full marathon training is hard, really hard. Investigate what will be provided during the race in terms of nutrition and drink, and try it out. If it works and you like it, great, you can train with it throughout your plan. If it’s not for you, you still have time to find something that suits you better before the miles in your plan ramp up.
* Have a look through your running kit, including shoes, and see if there’s anything new you are going to need – you can always add things to your Christmas list!
* Work out the logisitics for your event. If it’s far away from home, get your transport and accommodation sorted now, before everyone else. You’ll want to be comfortable for the weekend, so don’t risk having to sleep on a friend’s floor or having to stand on the train. Get your bookings made now.
* Plan what you want to do after the marathon to aid your recovery. If you want a day or more off work, book it now. Fancy a short break or holiday as a post-marathon treat? Sort it now so you have something definite to look forward to.
* Start work on your fundraising. Set up your fundraising page and let people know about it now so that by your final weeks of training you can focus on running and not chasing people for money.
Your first marathon will always be a special one. Yes, both the training and the event itself will be hard work, but by using the next couple of months effectively to prepare as much as you can, you will enable yourself to train well and build up to a really successful race.