I CAN runners

A step ahead – 5 tips to get marathon ready

It’s about this time of year we hear the all too familiar grumbles when it’s mentioned that Christmas is less than two months away. Yes this year has flown by. For many, now is also the time to start thinking about the running season, particularly as the London Marathon is less than six months away.

A lot of marathon participants tend to leave training until after the festive break as a means of running off the seasonal chub, as well as giving us something to do when we’re broke and bored in January. However, if you wanted to get ahead, we have five tips for our I CAN running team to start doing right now that are bound to transcend your running ability, give you an easier running experience on the day and undoubtedly a much better time.

Whether you’re working towards a personal best, or simply aiming to finish a marathon comfortably, following these simple tips are bound to see you through:

Get a training plan

Getting out and running ‘round the block’ is great, it’s amazing actually; you’re already lapping everyone on the couch. Do it.

However, for many runners including those who are more experienced, 26.2 miles is a really, really long way. If this is your first time, it’s unlikely that you’ll have put your body through anything like this before. Getting and sticking to a training plan will make all the difference to your day. Luckily there are loads of easy-to-follow guides available online, and in app stores. Nike+ Run Club is a really popular one. Once you key in your details, experience and race dates it creates a work out plan and can track your progress.

Not so keen on tracking everything digitally? The highly respected Hal Higdon has many free guides depending on your ability and running ambitions, which you can work to.

Plan your routes

OK so you have a plan, and the distances you need to run. But it’s not always as simple as just setting off out your door, hoping that you somehow make it back within the miles you’re looking to cover.

Even the most dedicated runners will concede that running can sometimes be quite dull. One of the things that makes it interesting is the different and varied routes you can take in your area or indeed anywhere you go.

You can use apps like Strava or MapMyRun, or even good old Google Maps to plan your running routes. Walkit is a good website, which can find circular (from your door and back) routes through areas of the lowest pollution.

Warm up and warm down

If there’s any one of these suggestions readers are least likely to take away it’s this one. Stretching, and doing it properly, offers us very little in terms of immediate rewards and endorphins. That coupled with the fact that the time you set aside for training, you want to actually be running. We get it!

BUT, stretching and getting your muscles properly prepared and warmed down, before and after runs respectively, is crucial. Remember, you are putting an unbelievable amount of strain on your body, strain which it’s not used to. Conditioning and preparing your muscles, as well as warming down effectively can reduce the risk of injury and stiffness in the days following your runs. You’ll thank yourself for keeping your muscles warm, especially in the winter months.

Check out the Runner’s World complete guide for different stretches and more info.

Extra tip: Ever thought about taking up yoga or pilates? These activities are ideal to counterbalance the strain of running on joints and posture, increasing flexibility and core strength.

Take up another hobby

One thing you’ll soon start noticing is your fitness will start improving leaps and bounds. You’ll be getting quicker, more agile and you’ll start to feel stronger in your legs, particularly noticeable when running up hills.

Now is the perfect time to take up another sport or hobby. ‘Cross training’ will increase your stamina without just working on the same muscles in the same way as with running. You’ll also find that running regularly will enhance your performance in whatever that hobby may be. Lap it up!

There are also loads of runners groups out there. A good place to start would be parkrun. Every Saturday morning at 9am there is likely to be a free 5k somewhere for you to join. Check out their website. Running is a great way of meeting people, finding inspiration and motivation.

Did I mention yoga?

Gear up and get out

The great thing about running is that the barriers to entry and participating are incredibly low for most able-bodied people, compared with other sports. You really only need to slip on a pair of trainers, and out you go.

Getting the right pair of trainers, especially for road-running, will help protect your joints and muscles. Some stores like ‘sweatshop’ will have the facilities to observe your running stride or ‘gait’ and use that to make recommendations on the right shoe for you. If this all sounds like jargon, you’ll get the hang of it. A good customer service assistant should be able to answer all of your questions.

And it’s not just shoes; running shorts, shirts, socks, gloves and even hats all have their benefits, as does Vaseline! You can avoid being the runner with ‘all the gear and no idea’ by getting down points 1-4.

With that you should have all you need to get going. With running it really is all about “getting the miles in”. The more runs you do, the better you get and the more you learn about yourself and your ability. By starting now, running a few times a week, we have no doubt that come April you’ll be the one flying by the other runners, flying the flag for I CAN (or your other chosen charity).