Building up to – and coming down – from a marathon
Updated: Mar 30
Preparing to run a marathon is no easy feat.
Contrary to what some might believe, training is as much about muscle strength as it is about fitness. Running for hours on end puts tremendous strain on each leg, by some estimates more than double a runner’s bodyweight.
“We almost always see runners coming in with injuries where they have pushed too far or too hard on getting the mileage in and improving their pace but have not been doing enough strength training and cross training,” says Melissa Reynolds, Senior Physiotherapist at Ultra Sports Clinic.
For this reason, it is essential to follow a weekly weight-training programme that focuses on strengthening your legs, hips and core muscles so that you have the foundations to meet the demands of your shorter tempo runs and longer slow runs.
“Depending on your running schedule, try and fit in at least two strength training or cross training sessions per week” Melissa says.
But there is another aspect that should not be overlooked during training: If you want to run more efficiently by sparing energy and reducing the risk of injury it may be worth looking at your running form.
As the saying goes, ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’, so the last thing you want to do is expend energy unnecessarily. There are several tell-tale signs that runners are not relaxing, including fist-clenching, tightening of the shoulders and frantic breathing.
“Try and avoid overstriding by working on increasing your cadence (taking more steps per minute) and landing softly with your foot underneath your hip. Also, try to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed, hands unclenched and breathe deeply using the diaphragm” says Melissa.
The post-race routine is just as important. “Just as you stretch during your warm-up, so you should when cooling down. After you run your muscles are still warm, so stretching them at this point will reduce the chance of injury.”
Finally, Melissa advises that athletes get at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night as this gives cells time to repair and restore. A good night’s sleep does not come easily to everyone, of course, but there are some things you can do to help you along.
Try and stick to a consistent sleep schedule because consistency results in a steady circadian rhythm. Intake of alcohol and caffeine should be closely monitored, as these are notorious sleep disruptors. Lastly, monitor you’re eating and drink patterns prior to bedtime. Make sure you are adequately fuelled as falling asleep on a full belly or going to bed hungry can affect your body’s ability to be ready for the next day of training.
Lastly, runners are also urged to get a sports massage on completion of the race, as it will help muscles relax, relieve pain and reduce the risk of injuries going forwards.