London Marathon Preparation
How long do I have to train before running the London marathon?
It depends on your physical condition and fitness level. The preparation period can vary from a minimum of 4 months up to a max of 8 months. It’s essential to keep in mind that your marathon prep depends on the goal you set as a runner. Is your goal reaching the finish line in a healthy state? Or is your focus on performance and running the marathon in under 3h30min?
Individuals with little running experience should dedicate 8 months to their prep for the marathon. The first 3 months should consist of short runs and 10K competitions. The following 3 months should include long slow distance (LSD) training. Taking part in a couple half Marathons (21K) would also be beneficial at this point. The final 2 months of preparation should be focused on the full Marathon (42K) distance by increasing the volume of training (Km run per week) and improving performance with Interval training.
If you are an experienced runner and have participated in a number of 10K competitions, 5-6 months should be sufficient to prepare for the marathon.
Those that have experience with half marathons and have run a few long distance competitions, as little as 4 month preparations can be sufficient.
How often should I train and how many Km do I have to run each week?
The volume (km) and frequency of training will be determined by your personal goal. Some individuals can prepare for the London Marathon training only 3 times a week with an average of 50-70Km run weekly. When preparing for a marathon, remember that the quality of your weekly sessions is far more important than the number of sessions.
Beginners should take a rest day or active rest between running sessions as running even at a very low pace can stress the joints, ligaments and muscles, leading to injuries. Ideal active rest activities include swimming and cycling.
Intermediate runners can increase their training to 3-4 running sessions a week.
While advance runners with a performance goal (Specific time to finish the marathon) can go up to 5 running sessions each week.
What should be the intensity of my training sessions?
Intensity is measured by Heart Rate (HR). Depending on your fitness level, you should stay between 65% and 95% of your HR max. Here is an easy formula to calculate this:
Men: 220-age = 100% HR max; (100% HR max)* 0.65 = 65% HR max
Women: 226-age = 100% HR max; (100% HR max)* 0.65 = 65% HR max
Another option is to monitor and use your average HR during a 10K run. If you haven’t participated in any competitions yet, you can use your average HR during a 1h long run at a high intensity.
The first part of your training preparation (first 3 months) should be stress free, therefore, it is better to run intuitively and let your breathing dictate the speed (intensity). The second part of training (month 4-6) should be based on your HR max and HR average - speed up or slow down your running based on these figures. The final stage of your preparation (last 2 months) should be based on running rhythm - how fast can you run 10 or 15K? How many minutes to run a Mile (1,609Km)?
What training methods should I use to increase my endurance?
We identify essential and non-essentials training methods to run The London Marathon. Your training should consist of a combination of both of these methods.
LSD (up to 30km)
Competition specific Very Long (34-38km)
Interval training: Series of low to high intensity with rest periods in between.
Fartlek: Periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.
Progressive runs: Run with structured pace increasing from beginning to end.
Both essential and non-essential training methods are crucial for runners with high performance goals.
Can my training prep include activities other than running?
Yes! Even though other activities are not essential to run your first marathon, they can be very beneficial for increasing endurance and keeping joints and ligaments healthy.
Training activities can include:
Cycling and Swimming: Great for increasing endurance while adding no extra stress to joints and ligaments. Swimming is also perfect as an active rest session or as an LSD endurance training, if you can swim for at least 1h.
Resistance training: Perfect for maintaining bones dense, healthy and muscles strong. Weight training should be days apart from LSD and Very Long runs.
What nutrition should I follow?
Nutrition is crucial to prepare for a challenging competition, such as The London Marathon. Probably the most challenging competition in the country.
Once you’ve worked out your target calories, the macronutrient split should be as follows:
You will need to personalise this macronutrient split as some individuals perform better with higher intake of carbohydrates and others with higher intake of fat. You should also maintain a steady intake of protein of at least 1.5g per 1kg of body weight.
Maintaining optimal body weight is also extremely important. Losing 2-4kg can result in extra 5-10 min on your marathon time.
What trainers should I wear?
Opt for supportive running trainers with enough cushioning to absorb some of the impact of running.
Buy more technical and lighter trainers only once you feel confident running long distances and have found your natural running style.
Ideally, you should use the same pair of trainers during your prep period and during the marathon. You may consider buying 2 pairs of the same trainers depending on how long your prep is.
What to do the week before the London Marathon?
Do not train long runs for one week immediately before the competition. Rest and try to recover from all the volume training you have done. Opt for massages, stretches and water immersions.
Instead, you can run twice for a maximum of 30min at a very low intensity during the week before the marathon.
On the last few days leading up to the comp, it is crucial that you re-feed properly. Increase your low GI carbs consumption slightly 3 days prior to the run to re-fill the glycogen deposits in your liver and muscle.
On competition day, do not do anything you haven’t tried during your prep, such as altering your pace, different energy drinks or brand new shoes!
Best of luck to everyone running the London Marathon.