The key to a long race is the miles you run in training. You therefore have to build up your mileage gradually as you approach the race.
How long it takes to build up to marathon level will depend on your starting point, but as a general rule you should not increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. That might not sound like much, but from a starting point of just ten miles per week you could be ready for a marathon in six months without adding undue stress on your body by following this formula.
One way to maximize your efforts is to be sure that every run counts. That means that in a typical week you might do one long run, one hill run, and one interval or pace run.
Your other workouts would be active rest – either easy runs, or perhaps better still, other forms of cardio workouts.
Try to add variety to where you run, and choose surfaces that are ‘leg friendly’ – tarmac is better than concrete, trails and grass are better than tarmac. Watch also for hazards like heavily cambered roads, driveway slopes, potholes etc.
Its essential to listen to your body, if your feeling tired and drained of energy, then it will clearly be unwise to push further into your run.
Try and establish why your tired, for example poor sleep, over worked, lack of suitable food and fluid either before or during your run.
As a general guide, your body will store sufficient fuel within both your muscles and liver to enable around 90 minutes of steady paced aerobic activity. If your leg muscles are unable to be resupplied because your not taking in any fluid or energy bars during your run, then you will slowly fatigue. Its too late to think you can simply eat and drink at the 90 minute mark, as your body will need to break down the food and fluid in order to replace the lost energy source.
If your running for more than 60 minutes, look at taking a small water bottle with suitable energy drink.
Your footwear will also need to be looked at, when you start to increase your miles, you will need to make sure that your trainers are adequate for the demands that your going to place on them, running shoes are a lot different to gym / sporting trainers. Spend time finding the right ones for you, and this will save you a lot of potential problems, such as blisters or shin splits.
Along with your trainers, your clothing will also need to be suitable, running shorts and vests are designed to reduce rubbing of the skin from a sweaty fabric. A small amount of Vaseline will work wonders to help prevent rubbing, and is best placed in areas such the top of the inner thigh, around your arm pit and especially for men, over the nipple.
Runners nipple is a common complaint, especially for marathon distance runners. A small amount of Vaseline around the nipple should prevent this painful condition.
Any training plan you have to build up the miles, should also include a reduction in the mileage in the last few weeks before your big day. This reduction is called tapering down, and is a chance for your body to become fully recovered in order to be able to perform to its best potential.
Avoid over-training at all costs, its far too easy to miss one planned sessions, and then simply attempt to double the mileage for the next one - gradual progression will bring positive results and not injury.