With the London Marathon taking place in just over a week – 23rd April, we approached a panel of health experts who have put together a useful guide for the best ways to prep.
There’s no getting round it, 26.2 miles is no small feat. It also leaves room for a lot of mistakes; one’s that can make 26.2 miles seem like most of a lifetime. So before you take your first step into the world of Marathon running, make sure you’ve run through this quick list of tips and tricks.
1. Start from the bottom up
A marathon. It’s as much about you as it is about your feet. They’re the ones pounding the pavements after all so it’s crucial you treat them well. “One of the most common complaints is blisters,” explains Dave Wein, Carnation Footcare Podiatrist. However if you’ve got the right protection then blisters won’t hamper your efforts. “Opt for effective blister plasters such as Carnation Footcare Hydro Blister (£1.99, firstaidfast.co.uk) (1) which will help protect the blister and promote a speedy recovery of the affected area”, Wein recommends.
2. Never wear brand new trainers on a race day
Although new trainers can look fresh and ready to go it is crucial the ones you choose to run in have been broken in slightly and moulded to the patterns of your feet. A general guide is to run at least 20 – 30 miles in your chosen trainers before your marathon. This way they are a little worn in but they still feel new and supportively cushioned.
3. Give yourself a little boost
If you’re training for your first ever marathon it is easy to feel a little overwhelmed and over worked, especially if you’ve taken a big step up in your exercise regime. “To keep your energy levels steady, so you’re ready to hit the ground running try taking an energising supplement, such as Quest Vitamins Once A Day Energy B & C (from £3.99, qnutrapharma.com). (2) This is packed full of vital nutrients including folic acid, iron and magnesium which help to support optimal well being and reduce feelings of tiredness and fatigue” suggests Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist.
4. Take your tapering seriously
Follow your plan carefully. A few extra long 10-mile runs won’t necessarily improve your run and may even put excess strain on your muscles. A few weeks before the run start reducing how much you’ve been doing and make sure you give your body plenty of rest, especially if you’ve encountered any little niggles during training.
5. Stay Moisturised and hydrated
For your body to be in prime condition it is essential you’re consuming plenty of fluids both, during training and during the marathon itself. The same can be said for your skin, if the skin on your feet becomes cracked it can become sore and rub causing you unnecessary discomfort, “If cracked skin is a problem, such as often occurs on the feet, the What Skin Needs Cracked Skin Cream (RRP £12.99, www.whatskinneeds.co.uk) (3) is designed to help repair dry damaged skin” explains Dr Roger Freidman.
6. Don’t Discard the Carbs
In the lead up to a marathon it can be tempting to cut out the carbs and focus on your protein intake. However carbohydrates will help your body build up vital energy reserves that you will need when it comes to the big day. Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com, (4) the online shopping destination for all things health and well-being advises “When you’ve got about seven days to go you should try to eat approximately 5-7g of carbohydrates per Kg of body weight per day”. Then increase your intake again when you’ve got three days to go. “Try to increase your carbohydrate intake to 8-10g per Kg of body weight per day. This will ensure your muscles are topped right up with glycogen”, Shona adds.
7. The Day before
Make sure you get plenty of rest and you’ve got everything ready for the next morning, so you know all you’ll have to think about on marathon day is the run itself. Shona suggests, “Top up muscle glycogen levels and ensure you are well hydrated. Continue eating meals high in carbohydrates and drinking plenty of fluids. Do not skip your evening meal – this is an important time for topping up glycogen. However, stick to familiar and simple foods, avoid fatty or oily foods and avoid alcohol.”
8. Make each mile meaningful
If you hit a wall mid race, breakdown each mile into something meaningful, whether it’s for a loved one, your chosen charity, friend, pet or a personal mantra. Attributing meaning to each mile will help you focus on something greater than yourself and pull you through the trickiest moments.
9. Celebrate and Recover
Take time to truly congratulate yourself on your achievement. No matter what time you may have clocked, you are a marathoner and that is seriously special. In the week after the run give your body time to recover and opt for gradual low intensity exercise, such as a gentle jog, brisk walking or Pilates. If you’ve got aching feet massage them for an instant relief. Wein suggests “Try Carnation Footcare PediRoller (RRP £6.99, firstaidfast.co.uk). Not only can it soothe your feet in the days after your marathon it may help avoid Plantar Fasciitis”. Known as runners heel, it accounts for 8% of all running injuries and can often be triggered by a rapid increase in running miles. David explains “Regularly massaging the area with the PediRoller will help to strengthen the foot muscles and prevent straining, reducing the pain. For an extra inflammatory effect, the PediRoller can also be frozen before use, which will help to reduce any swelling in the plantar fascia and ease the tension in the underside of the feet. Perfect for all post-marathon runners”
Running a marathon may be gruelling at times, but truly there’s nothing quite like completing those 26.2 miles.
Good luck to all those taking part.