Beginners guide to training for a marathon PART 2

marathon training, running advice
Foreword by Sporteluxe’s Melanie:

Following on from Part 1 of our marathon training series, we take a more in depth look into technique and running stride, other beneficial training and what we should be eating while training for a marathon. My training is well underway for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Sydney Marathon, however I still need all the help I can get at this stage, as race day is fast approaching (September 20th) and I want each training session to be as efficient and effective as possible! Richard Ivanov, senior personal trainer and manager of Vision Training in Mosman and lululemon ambassador has some more expert advice for what should be on our running radar.

Story by Richard Ivanov:

Your technique and running style:

marathon training, running advice

At this stage you should already be running with the end goal of successfully completing the race distance of 42kms. As mentioned in the previous story, it’s best to change up your running routes and make sure you’re running on all terrains – the road, beach, around an oval, trail etc.

Ensuring you have the correct running technique down pat is important; it will not only save you some valuable time, but also (more importantly) protect your from suffering from various and often long-term injuries. It is especially vital to make sure you have adopted an efficient technique when running long distances as it will protect your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and neck from straining, tearing and pulling. The more serious you are about training, the better the outcome.

So remember the two most important outcomes are:

A) efficiency

B) injury prevention

To start with I usually look at my client’s technique. The easiest way to assess this is by having them run on a treadmill or run a short session outside and watch their technique. I will often film their running stride using a handy iPhone app which films in slow motion, making it easier to determine what’s going on.

There are four areas of your foot that you need to be aware of:

  1. Achilles tendon
  2. Heel bone
  3. Plantar fascia ligament = bottom/middle of you foot
  4. Metatarsal bones

Key things to learn:

  • Limit time spent on the ground – less time your foot spend on the road, the better it is. If your heel is hitting the ground first it’s like you are running with the hand-break on.
  • Forward posture – look ahead, relaxed posture, shoulders back.
  • Land your feet softly underneath your bend knees not in front of it.
  • Avoid over striding.
  • Avoid excessive heel striking.
  • Aim for a short and relaxed arm movement.

Some drills that will help you:

  • High knees: this drill teaches powerful and efficient forward leg drive and a bouncier foot strike.
  • Lean forward with a towel: this shows how gravity can pull you forward.
  • Skipping: this drill teaches you to drive hips and strike on the forefoot.
  • Butt-kicks: butt kicks accentuate the recovery portion of the running gait phase and improve leg turnover cadence.

Training that will help:

marathon training, running advice

Marathon training is mostly about running, but it is also important to include other activities as well. As a first time marathon runner you definitely want to enjoy the journey. The worse thing would be to finish your marathon but hated it so much that you never wanted to run again. Not even for the bus.

I believe that no matter what the goal is, you should have fun and enjoy it. Mix it up. Go for cycle, swim, trail or beach run. Training will be much more enjoyable if you mix up your routine.

But when it comes to running your program should contain following:

  • Long runs

Long runs increase raw endurance and should be long enough to leave a runner moderately to severely fatigued. Try not to increase the duration or distance by more than 10 per cent week to week.

  • Tempo runs

A tempo run is a sustained effort at lactate threshold intensity, which is the fastest pace that can be sustained for one hour in highly fit runners and the fastest pace that can be sustained for 20 minutes in less fit runners.

It can be as simple as going for a timed 5km run. Record your run in your diary and try to beat it next time on the same route.

  • Interval runs

Interval Training describes any session that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of rest. For example, a good starter workout is running as fast as you can for 1 minute and then walking for 2 minutes. You can also add in hill sprints, this will increase your fitness level and get your heart rate up.

  • Other sessions

Recovery runs are also important to prevent injury and cool the body down.

Strength and mobility training should definitely be a part of your training program too. The stronger and more mobile/flexible you are, the better you will be for your marathon. It will also be easier to stay injury free too – remember injury prevention is more important than the km done. One full rest day per week is also critical for recovery.

Nutrition: what should you be eating?

marathon training, running advice

Eating for fat loss is different from eating for performance. Don’t overcomplicate. The simple rule is: eat healthy and move more. In your case it means run more.

Once you start running over 60 minutes you need to consider your nutrition pre/during/post training. Try different things in you preparation for the big race and keep it as healthy as you can. Eat plenty of veggies and protein sources such as lean meat, eggs, fish and legumes. Also ensure you are having good carbs such as sweet potatoes, brown rice and healthy oils such as nuts, avocado, olive oil. I understand there are things we like and we don’t, there are ways for everyone so it’s important to fins what works for you. The more colourful your plate is the better.

One of my biggest tips is to drink plenty of water daily; I can’t put enough emphasis on this – it is so important to stay hydrated. On the day before your big runs especially make sure you increase your water intake.


Marathon training does mean making some sacrifices. You need to eliminate (or at least minimise) alcohol intake, junk food, staying up late, and partying hard. This doesn’t mean giving up your social life but if you are serious you will need to commit to being health conscious and be okay with some necessary lifestyle changes. It is really up to you and your goal at the end of the day. Remember that the worse your lifestyle is, the more it’s going to hurt on race day.

Stay tuned for the next instalment, where we’ll tell you what’s best to do the night before/ the morning of your running race and what essentials you’ll need!
Image credits: iStock