A quick Google search brings up all kinds of marathon training plans - 17 weeks, rest days, an energy-boosting diet etc, etc. All this will get you to the 26.2 mile mark, hopefully, but it's the sneaky little tips and tricks from the people who have actually gone through the experience/ordeal (depending on how you look at it) of running a marathon that we're interested in. Which podcast will make the long runs bearable? Can I drink booze in the lead up to the marathon? And, what shall I eat before a training session?
So, we've joined forces with TV presenter and fitness blogger AJ Odudu, who's taking part in the London Marathon for the first time this year. From running camps to interviewing Kelly Holmes she's definitely done her research. "I’m both excited and terrified in unequal measure (currently the excited to terrified ratio is 1 to loads)," she says. "Yes, I enjoy running. Yes, I have good fitness levels already. But I’ve never ran 26.2 miles in one go before and I’ve never had to face the potential humiliation of being over taken by a novice dressed as a chicken."
Find out all about AJ's first marathon experience on InStyle.co.uk on the 24th April, and for now, read on for her tried and tested training tips.
And if you're not at that stage yet, check out this beginner's guide to running.
DON'T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY
If you haven't already, now is the time to practise running with race gels and energy tablets to replace sugar and sodium while running. Practising now will ensure that they don't react badly with you on race day. It's also a good idea to start running in your race day kit to ensure your sports bra fits well, there's no chaffing and that you are running in comfortable trainers half a size bigger than you usually wear to avoid losing toe nails and gaining blisters.
Being so close to race day, now is not the time to overtrain and risk injury. Make sure you're tapering down with shorter runs and low impact workouts such as swimming and yoga. These workouts will keep you fit whilst protecting your joints and improving your mobility.
Listen to motivating podcasts, watch inspiring films (I love I Am Bolt and No Easy Mile), make sure you know how to use your activity tracker and pick one power music track to give you a pick me up on the go.
SLEEP TO WIN
Staying hydrated and getting that all important rest and recovery is crucial to ensure your body feels fit and strong for race day. Rest with at least 8 hours of sleep each night and recover by stretching, foam rolling and soaking your legs in a bath full of ice cold water for 10 minutes after every run: it's brutal but brilliant for your body.
Training for a marathon isn’t just about your legs. Core strength is crucial for running efficiency, synchronizing the way that your pelvis, hips and lower back work together, enabling you to run faster for longer.
Tip: Core exercises such as planks, abdominal twists or classes such as Pilates and FitCore will help your core come core-rect!
VARY YOUR TRAINING PROGRAM
The marathon requires a combination of endurance, strength and speed so training should incorporate all three of these components. It'll also keep things interesting and stop you getting bored and running out of enthusiasm.
Tip: Run 3 Times Per Week
1 x Speed/Interval Run (e.g. Run two sets of 6 x 400 metres at 5K pace; jog 200m for recovery. Rest for 4 mins between each set)
1 x Long run (approx 10 miles upwards) : At a slow/conversational pace
1 x cross training session (i.e. Fitness class)
1 x Recovery Run: A leisurely jog
REST & RECOVER
If you don’t value the importance of some R&R, you’ll lose strength, speed, energy and eventually your immune system will crash. If you’re cranky, in pain or just feeling weaker than normal then it’s time to chillout.
Tip: Hit the road to recovery by taking some days off from training. Maybe have a sports massage or do some yoga poses, though nothing too strenuous. Most importantly get to bed an hour earlier each night, that Netflix episode will still be there tomorrow.
DO A HALF MARATHON
Set yourself up by running a half marathon. It can be a valuable tool to help you estimate your marathon finish time and gauge how well your fitness has progressed since the beginning of your training. You’ll even get a medal.
Tip: Boost your confidence by signing up to a half marathon a month before the full marathon. Note how you feel at different stages of the race- without swearing!
DRINKING IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD
Alcohol hinders our training for obvious reasons: dehydration, hangovers and feeling sluggish. But don’t beat yourself up too much if you’ve had a heavy weekend of cocktails, your friends won’t plan their weddings around your races no matter how nicely you ask them.
Tip: Cure a hangover with lots of water, ginger tea and maybe a paracetamol if it’s that severe. Get a good night’s sleep before resuming training and try to ensure that all your runs aren’t fuelled by rum.
Keep A Food Diary
For me, porridge is the best pre-run meal as it provides long lasting energy and adding honey and fruits will provide quick releasing energy too. The perfect combination when running long distance.
Tip: Keep a food diary for the next week to identify which foods work best for you.