December 1, 2018

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Have you ever trained for a marathon and wondered if what you’re doing is the right thing? To avoid making some common errors that could cost you dearly come race day or stop you even getting to the line, we have compiled some common marathon training mistakes in the list below and what to do to avoid them.

Fail to set a realistic goal time

It is important for your training ahead of a marathon, and for the pace judgement in the race itself, to have a realistic idea of your goal time. You could do a hard half marathon a few months out or something that may indicate what you can run. Otherwise, go for a very conservative goal in your first marathon with the aim to build in your next one.

Don’t practice marathon race pace in training

If you don’t know what “4hr marathon pace” feels like, how are you going to run it in the race itself? The marathon is about holding back, being patient and judging your pace. This can be worked on in training with specific long runs as it’s a skill that many overlook and as a result, go out way too hard in the marathon itself then fall in a hole before half way. You’ll run your best marathon if you have practiced what you need to do in training, so make sure you do this!

Start your long runs too far out from the marathon

If you have done some running in the past (i.e. trained for half marathons/ 10km etc), a 8-10 week specific marathon prep is ideal. In this prep, it is good to get in 4 long runs with specific marathon paces with your longest run being about 35-37km or so. If you are doing runs like this, 12 to 18 weeks out from your marathon, you are starting too early and quite possibly, have run your marathon race well before race day. Remember quality is key and timing is everything to ensure you get to the start line ready and excited to race, feeling fit and healthy.

Don’t train on a similar surface/ gradient profile to the goal marathon course

Make sure you have a look at the marathon course a long way out and work out some training runs to make them specific to the surface and terrain. If it will be your first marathon, I’d choose a course that is relatively flat in cool conditions as this help to make your experience better and limit too many other variables other then the distance itself. If you do have hills on course make sure you train on hills and if you are running on the road, make sure some of your specific long runs are on the road.

Focused on running the kms and forget about recovery (nutrition/ recovery modalities)

Training for a marathon isn’t just about bragging rights to your friends about the crazy long run you did on Sunday or how many kms per week you are covering. You need to make sure you’re recovering appropriately after each session and that means having a drink or food containing carbohydrate and protein within 15min, getting a deep tissue massage once every couple of weeks, ice baths, core work and making sure you get enough sleep each night.

Try to do it  alone

Before you start a program, look into the local area and try to find a group to train with. Investigate who the coach is and his/ her training philosophy (we have all running groups listed in our “find a run group” page under connect). Training with a group pushes you more and also having a coach, allows you to take the pressure off yourself and focus on your training rather then worry if you’re doing the right training, when to back off if something goes wrong etc. Some people function fine without a group or coach but most people benefit immensely.


By Benita Willis