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Get set for your best marathon yet

Running a marathon is a real achievement, but it takes some planning and commitment to be run-ready. Rude Health magazine asks three marathon runners for their top tips

Tony McGrath, manager at ClubVitae at Clayton Hotel in Cork city

“Before you begin you should ask yourself why do you want to do this? You must remember this is a huge physical and mental challenge. You will most likely have to call on these reasons for motivation during your preparation and the race itself. You should run at least three times a week. Two of your weekly training runs should be speed workouts, where you work at a pace that’s faster than what you’ll run in the race, and one should be a slower run, where you go at a comfortable pace for more miles. Protein is necessary for muscle recovery, so I like to get some within 30 minutes of every workout. Cutting down on protein in your meals is not an option when you’re training.

“Alternate your running shoes. This is good for a few reasons. One, your feet won’t be as susceptible to blisters because your foot lands differently from shoe to shoe, and that changes where the shoe rubs you. Two, it will give the foam in your shoes a chance to reshape. Three, you will extend the life of whichever pair is your favourite, so you won’t be trying to break in a set of new shoes right before the race.

“Deal with any injuries picked up in training straight away. What starts as a minor ache can become serious if you try to ignore it. As soon as you notice something feels off, schedule an assessment with a physio. It’s better to prevent an injury than recover from one.

24 hours before the run

“Go to bed early. it is essential to get a good night’s sleep. If you are finding it hard to fall asleep try rubbing some lavender on your temples. Drinking 500ml water two hours before the race should be enough if you are properly hydrated in the 24 hours before that. Eat the meal you’ve eaten before all your long runs one hour before the race.

Starter for 10

If you are a beginner or a seasoned runner the following 10 tips should help in planning a better marathon for you. The important thing is that you did enough training to complete it.

1 The Plan – There are lots of training plans available online. My suggestion would be to consult your gym / trainer. Your plan should reflect your targeted race date, the distance you are training for and your present fitness level. Most plans start from basic, so if you have already been running a little, you can skip the first 1-2 weeks of your plan.

2 The Runs – A lot of people do their long run at the weekend when they have more time. Simply pick which day of the week suits you best and stick to that. Your short runs are important too as it will help you recover and pick up speed.

3 The Shoes – The most important piece of equipment is your shoes! Go to a good retailer and get your feet measured correctly to ensure good support from toe to heel.

4 The Pace – It is good to invest in a running watch, these can be expensive but are great at tracking your distance and pace. If you don’t want to fork out for a specialist watch, there are many free apps available on your phone too.

5 The Water – Carrying a drink bottle for more than a few miles is very annoying. There are plenty of bottle waist belts, hands-free bottles or hydration packs available.

6 The Fashion – Be sure to test your running shorts and socks on a long run so you know that there will be no comfort or friction problems.

7 The Research – Research the course, try to build in the gradient of the course to your short and long runs. This means that you’ll be more prepared for sharp hills and inclines.

8 The Body – Running is a high impact sport so do not ignore your body – check out any aches and pains. Be sure to warm up pre-training as it reduces your risk of injury.

9 The Test – It is good to do a test race about a month before marathon day. Perhaps a 10km or a half marathon. Aim to run this race slightly faster than your marathon goal pace. It will give you practice running in a competitive setting with a large group.

10 The Rest – Rest is the most neglected part of training. Rest is doing nothing, sleeping, eating, hydrating, getting a massage, and chilling out. Rest is when your muscles and bones strengthen, your immune system rejuvenates, and your body prepares itself for your next session.


Alan Williams of Alan Williams Coaching

My top tips on how to perform at your best for the Dublin Marathon

1 Variety in training – Variety in your training runs is important to improve fitness levels and performance. Incorporate flat runs, hills, fast runs, slow runs, intervals. The body adapts quickly to training, so if you’re doing the same run over and over you’ll hit a plateau before long. Keep the body responding by applying a different stimulus. It also keeps things interesting for you. Cross training also works really well to break up the amount of running you’re doing. A session on a bike or a punch bag occasionally can be a lovely way to freshen things up.

2 Strength/flexibility work – Resistance training is a fantastic way of building strength in the muscles, which will make you a stronger, faster athlete and build your endurance. It will increase your metabolism, meaning you burn fat more efficiently and become leaner. It will also help you prevent injury. Strength training can be done through bodyweight resistance, lifting weights or a combination of both. Flexibility work often gets overlooked but can make a huge difference to your body’s ability to perform at its best.

3 Don’t skip the long run – There’ll be times when you’re struggling to fit all of your scheduled training sessions in, but don’t sacrifice the long run. Long runs help build endurance and also prepare the body for what is to come on marathon day.

4 Rest and recovery – Rest days are equally as important as your training days. Personally I find two rest days per week works well for me but it varies from person to person. Some important factors to consider in the recovery process are your sleeping habits, nutritional requirements, stretching routine and hydration levels.

5 Fuel your training – As with any training goal, your diet is crucial. As your training goes up you’ll have to eat more food. Carbohydrates will be an important fuel source, especially for longer runs. Slow release energy foods are essential. During my own marathon training I found oats a great way to start the day. Foods such as bread, pasta, rice, fruit and veg will become useful sources of fuel as the miles go up. Use wholegrain versions where possible. Try to get a protein source into each meal too. Foods such as chicken, eggs, turkey, fish, nuts and seeds are all good protein sources. In addition, aim for 2-3L of water per day.

6 Break it down – Don’t be overawed by it. Everything is manageable when you break it down. Follow a solid training plan and you’ll be fine. Start small and gradually build it up. Undoubtedly a marathon is a massive challenge but if you plan, prepare, look after the body, and believe in yourself there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your dream run.


Tom Dalton of TD Fitness

Join the club – Finding a running buddy or a running club is a great way to boost morale and motivation. Running with people of similar abilities can make you more comfortable when it comes to pushing yourself.

Eat right – When increasing your distance, load up on slow-releasing carbohydrates like brown rice, brown bread, and porridge for sustained energy release. Post run, replenish your energy stores with fat-releasing carbs like pasta, brown bread or a jacket potato.

Cross-training – Taking time away from running to incorporate different types of training into your fitness is important not just for giving your joints a rest, but also because it allows you to focus on strengthening your core and legs, which in turn help improve your running.

Mix it up – Break away from what you’re used to and start switching your run up by adding things like sprints, intervals and hill runs that will challenge you and help build your endurance.

Foam roller – Giving yourself a massage with a foam roller will help prevent overuse injuries that can accompany training for a race.

Yoga/swim – Try training that is non-weight-bearing such as swimming, yoga, Pilates, biking or simply stretching.

Hills – This run should be done where there are intervals of hills incorporated in the run and not just a flat. It is important to incorporate these types of grade inclines into the running routine to build strength and endurance.

Rest – This is a complete rest day that allows stretching, foam rolling, and/or core-strengthening exercises while allowing the body time to recover.


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