Sweaty Betty blog: Marathon
Empowering Women Through Fitness
Mike will be poised to answer all marathon training questions – for now, he’s given us his top five marathon tips.
1. Reach for the Stars
Set yourself a goal and reach for the stars, but remember, a marathon is about more than just a time.
2. Food Glorious Food
Eat lots of carbs a few days pre-race to maximise your glycogen stores which release the fuel you need during the race. And don’t forget to add some lean protein to increase muscle strength and promote recovery.
3. Grab your Water Bottle
It takes your body 48 hours to fully fill its H2O stores. So start drinking the proverbial 8 cups of water per day for the entire week before the marathon.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
If you have a few weeks up your sleeve before the big day, it’s the perfect time to rehearse. Complete a few training runs at the same time that the marathon will start, review and practice your hydration and nutrition requirements, and make any necessary changes to your race day strategy.
5. Each Step is Precious
To be in peak shape for your marathon race day stay OFF your feet the day before the race – limit all walking (make someone else do it!).
6. 40 winks
Quality sleep is essential for your recovery and race day performance. So start tucking in early at least 1 week prior to race day.
7. Limber Up
Stretch, stretch and stretch again. Stretching aids muscle recovery, decreases muscle soreness, and reduces your chances of becoming injured! If you find stretching a chore – it might be a good time to try Yoga.
8. Spa Time
With the physical and mental rigours of your training schedule you deserve some spa time. A 60 – 90 minute massage will help relieve the stress of training and tired sore muscles.
9. Be Happy
Staying positive is essential to your race day performance. No matter what happens on the day, whatever obstacles are thrown your way; stay positive.
10. Fun Times Ahead
When race day arrives don’t forget to have fun. Enjoy the buzz of the other runners, the spectators and their silly antics. Soak up the atmosphere and make friends with your fellow runners. You will be celebrating at the finish line before you know it!
Two years ago I managed to get round the New York Marathon - no medals won (well except the one just for finishing!) but it was a pivotal moment in my life. Getting fit - and staying that way - has been the challenge since.
So when I was approached by the London Met University to try out their advanced fitness test I was delighted to be of service (if not a little apprehensive).
The test takes about 2 hours and from the basic sort of BMI tests it goes way beyond that to test your VO2 max levels, lactate threshold and your body composition. Dr Neil Clarke put me though my paces but was very encouraging (he did mention that my hangover wasn't helpful - you can't always plan these things..my best friend had just become a QC with a party the night before! And best to save your energies before the running on the treadmill bit - I had done a 10k earlier that morning (to try and clear that head!) and to be honest was a little weary by the end.
Fascinating results - this is one I would recommend to anyone really needing some helpful advice with their training - and how to improve their endurance. See more at www.londonmet.ac.uk/depts/fls/healthclinics/fitness/and maybe take the test!
Thank you London Marathon Runners.
Thank you for pushing your body and mind to its limits, thank you for being no less than amazing. The race may have ended at Buckingham Palace but the sense of empowerment and fearlessness you inspired will last for a lifetime. On race day the peace and solitude of running is replaced with the buzz and blare of the crowds, and what are often solo running achievements are now victories shared with thousands. Thank you for moving us to tears with your courage, it was a privilege to share the journey with you.
The Sweaty Betty Cheer Wall set up camp at mile 19. We cheered, we cried and were thoroughly impressed and amazed by every runner. We were also especially proud of our own SB girls, Danielle and Ashley, running their very first marathon. Well done girls! Below Danielle provides a unique insight into what it is like to run 26.2 miles non-stop.
Arriving at Maze Hill, seeing all the other runners, definitely calmed the nerves to know there were so many others in the same boat. The horn blows and the marathon begins...my legs feel shaky over my first few strides as I am not sure what I what I have gotten myself into. For the first 6 miles I try to keep my pace slower than normal, almost feels un-natural to conserve energy for the rest of the run. The water stations and shower points are a god send, it was a hot run but sipping water and lucozade at each mile made a huge difference in how I felt. The shower points were a much needed refresher. The crowd was unbelievable, coming up to mile 19, I caught a glimpse the SB flags in the distance. Seeing the amazing cheer wall helped me to pick up my stride and push through the last 7 miles. As we ran alongside St. James’ park the overhead sign announcing the final 800m gave me a huge sense of relief, I had made it without stopping. Crossing the finish line I was tired and elated!! I was so glad I had ran and was so glad it was over. Later sitting in St. James’ Park, sitting with family, enjoying the sun, knowing I had accomplished my goal was amazing.read more
A marathon is not necessarily the easiest of sports – in fact many would argue it is the toughest. At mile 20 with 6.2 to go, your body starts to breakdown muscle tissue for energy, and yet it still captures our imagination. It spurs us to train month after month, week after week, and step after step, so we can cross that line and claim the victory.
The first marathon run was in 400BC when a Greek messenger ran from a town called Marathon to Athens, a distance of 26.2 miles or roughly 40 kilometres. Upon arriving he proclaimed “Nike!” (The Athenians had defeated Persia) and he promptly dropped dead. Now we can share the glory, declare the victory and with our months of physical, nutritional and mental training avoid a similar fate. Marathon running can be a joy and you may experience the “runner’s high” but equally there are battles to be fought. We have prepared a Week-Out guide for you to make your 26.2 miles go to plan.
The 7 days prior to race day are crucial training days for your body and mind. During this last week you need to "taper" off your running amount and lighten your workout routine to give your body the rest it needs to repair, recover and renew for race day. A good guide is to run a 1/3 of your weekly training distance at your normal pace and if you have been including interval training, consider an easy session that won’t make you sore. With the extra time on your hands and pre-race nerves you may be tempted to run your regular distance but try to avoid this as you will risk exhaustion on the day. Use the time to relax, perhaps catch-up with friends you have neglected due to your crazy training schedule or watch that film you missed at the cinema. This 1 week of rest will result in improved running economy and heighten your mental freshness; both of which you will be glad of at mile 20!
Try to get a good 8 hours sleep each night of your taper week. Get a good night’s sleep two days before marathon day as its quite normal for nerves to keep you awake the night before.
With 7 days to go to race day it is important to fuel your body with adequate and nutritionally rich foods. Increase your carbohydrates i.e. breads, pasta, cereals, and fruits and vegetables and up your protein levels and fluid intake. Eat regularly throughout the week and eat things that you've eaten many times before your long runs.
The night before the race, eat an early, high-carbohydrate dinner, but don’t overdo it as you want to feel light on your feet, not bloated and heavy come race morning.
If you have travelled for the marathon and will be in a hotel on race morning make sure you pack your normal pre race breakfast – the last thing you want to be doing is running around looking for a banana.
At the beginning of your taper week write a complete list of everything you will need for your marathon. Include; your running number, race kit, sun screen, sport drinks and power gels etc. and prepare these items a few days prior. You do not want to be packing the night before or stressing the morning of your race looking for your lucky running socks. Also, don’t forget to pack your favourite post run fluids and nutrition – so you can begin your recovery as soon as possible!
Marathon running is as much about your mental preparation as it is about time spent on the road. Running distances often becomes a mental game when your legs are exhausted, your energy stores are completely depleted and you are experiencing a degree of pain. When you hit this point, often called ‘The Wall’ (in a marathon it is pretty much inevitable), it becomes a question of not whether you can finish but rather if you believe you can finish. This is where your mental preparation pays off. You need the mental stamina and strength to conquer The Wall and finish your race. With 7 days to race day practice thinking positively, visualise running the last few miles and crossing the finish line. Consider creating a positive mantra that you can focus on and use to block out the pain / hunger /exhaustion that are causing you to slow down, stop or doubt yourself. A common mantra is “The pain is only temporary”.
Yoga, due to its benefits of increasing your ability to centre your thoughts, and visualise your race day triumph, is becoming increasingly popular amongst runners, not to mention the benefit of stretching your muscles.
Make sure you wake up least 2 hours before your start time. Eat a light but high-carbohydrate breakfast and start making your way to the starting line – the last thing you need is the stress of running late!
Start slow. Standing at the starting line, with its heady mix of excitement, adrenaline and nerves, it is hard not to sprint the first mile once the gun goes off! This can throw your pace out and have you struggling at 10 miles. So start slow and if you have energy to burn in those final miles you can reap the benefits by flying past your competitors.
By now you would have practiced and refined your race day pace and nutrition plan. Now you just have to stick to it! Familiarise yourself with the course; where the drinks stations are and identify approximate landmarks of when you will need to refuel.
Once you have settled into your running rhythm, you will be sure to find a few competitors keeping the same pace. Don’t be shy, make them your friend and the miles will slip by as you motivate and encourage each other to cross that finish line.
Hurrah – you made it! Refuel as soon as you can with fluids and your favourite post run snack. Wear your marathon medal with pride and well into the night and even all week if you like – you certainly earned it!
As race days are approaching it is time to train, and think about the kit fit for this purpose. April kickstarts marathon fever with London, Paris and Boston marathons all falling within weeks of each other. May and June welcome more and more women trying a triathlon. View our selection of must-have kit for your training regimes.
With only a month to go until the London marathon, and thoughts of the 1000's of women in the depths of their training preparing for race day, I was reminded of an article I once read in runner's world. It documented the quite awe-inspiring (and recent) battle women have had to fight to be considered eligible in the long distance running stakes.
Inspired by the note on her returned race entry form explaining that women were not physically capable of running 26.2 miles, Roberta Gibb made a stand. Wearing only a black bathing suit, Roberta hid in the bushes at the start line of the 1972 Boston marathon (the most famous marathon other than the Olympics) so she could, in the very least, start the race she had intended to finish.
The following year, revolt – this time in the form of Katherine Switzer, made an appearance at the marathon. By entering using only her initials and avoiding a pre-race medical by sending her coach to vouch for her with a medical certificate, K Switzer received her number and status as an official race member. A mere four miles in, when local press recognised a women’s presence in this ‘man’s’ domain, race officials charged after Katherine to remove her from the race.
Inching forward, later in 1972, the American athletic authorities ruled that whilst women could in fact manage long distance running and participate in a marathon, they would have to start 10 minutes before the men, efectively in a separate race. That year the six female entrants heroically lay down as the ‘women’s’ gun sounded, awaiting the start of the ‘male’ race where they rose and ran alongside the men.
The defining moment(s)…
Victory, otherwise known as Grete Waitz, who was known for her perfomance ability at middle distances made it to New York to tackle new ground, 26.2 miles of it, in 1978. After having only ever run 13 miles, Grete’s victory that followed was even more prolific; winning her first ever marathon with a new world record of 2.32.30. Not only did Grete change the way women were seen and associated with long distance running, she also went on to beat her personal best, and world records for the next two years.
In 1981, after many inspirational and courageous acts, and a persistance that can only be revered, the women’s marathon was made an official Olympic event.read more
Well, isn't it lovely Betties, spring is finally here! The mornings are getting lighter, and too, the evenings! Everyone is in slightly better form with the prospect of warmer weather and longer days. The daffs are starting to flower, one can even buy a bunch from good old M&S for a mere 99 pennies! I have a bunch adorning my desk to add a little cheer to my day! March is nearly over which means...oh crap!!!!!!!...the London marathon is nearly here!!! OK scrap all that gorgeous-days-of spring chat...we've got more important things to talk about...like 26.2 miles baby!!!
OK, so, you're doing the marathon, or you know someone's friend's dog's aunty who is doing it. All of those people you see in droves running for miles at the weekend are sure to be marathon entrants. So where are we at with just 4.5 weeks to go? (As someone running the marathon, I like to do the countdown to the decimal point e.g. 4.5 weeks as opposed to 4...4 is a much scarier proscpect!). You're probably scheduled to do your longest run this weekend or the following, and then it's all about reducing your mileage for the big day! So let's make a checklist shall we! Every girl likes a list!
1. Stick to your training plan:
You will have been following a 16-20 week plan, which will seem like forever, but with just 4.5 (it's all about the decimals) weeks to go, now is not the time to make any changes to your programme. No tweaks, no adjustments!
How are your trainers looking? Are they still giving you the suport they once did? Trainer life lasts approximately 3-6 months for regular runners. If you've been training for the big one, and you've had your trainers for longer than that, you've got just enough time to get a fresh pair (same make and style as the previous ones...again, no tweaks, no adjustments), and break them in before the big day.
3. Aches and Pains:
If you are nursing a niggling injury and are just ploughing through it, then do be sure to get some professional help. Vowing to yourself to just get through it, may lead you worse off in the long term!
4. Food & Drink at home:
You're about to put your body through its paces. I know I don't really need to mention this, but now is not the time for the McDonalds diet (even if they do make salads nowadays). You want to ensure you are stocking up on lean meat and fish and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Also opt for somplex carbohydrates like rice and sweet potatoes, over ones that will bloat you like bread and pasta.
5. Food & Drink when racing:
26.2 miles is a long way. Sadly a bowl of porridge the morning of, will not last you throughout the race. Be it sports drinks or sports gels you intend on using, you must add them to your long runs now. Some sugary drinks and gels can lead to severe cramping during the race if your body is not used to them. I'm a fan of Go Gels, less gloopy than the other gels and mildly more-ish!
6. Food & Drink the week before:
You may have heard of carb loading, which is essentially depleting your body of carbs about 6 days before the race and then loading up on them 3 days before the race to store as much energy from food as you can to ideally reduce the chance of hitting a wall during the race. I'll cover this in more detsil over the coming weeks.
Do you plan on listening to music on the day? If so, choose your songs wisely! I'm going to post about what will be on my playlist in the coming weeks, and do let me know the tunes which you intend on running to. I generally set my playlist to how I will feel at each stage. Mile one is all about the party tunes, and then mile twenty, is hard core kick ass beats that will help me push through!
Again, 26.2 miles is a long old time! Make sure you wear comfortable clothing. How will you know if it's comfy? Practice your long runs in your intended marathon garbs.
I'm going to be all about the marathon for the next 4 (.5!) weeks so feel free to comment with any questions that you might have on injuries, food, training, race plans etc. Fit Girl About Town musings...
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