Guide to marathon training

Running a marathon can be a huge accomplishment, but of course it is no easy feat. How to you maintain a reasonable pace for 26.2 miles? You not only need to get fit, you need to train your body to become energy efficient. This guide to marathon training is a useful starting point.

Marathon training goals

If you want to finish a marathon with a respectable showing, your aims should be:

  • Increasing the number and improving the efficiency of mitochondria (energy producing organelle within your cells; they are the "powerhouses" for your body).
  • Increasing the amount of fat burned relative to the amount of carbs - the more amount of fat you can turn into energy, the less glycogen you'll use. Glycogen depletion is the main cause of "hitting the wall".
  • Increasing your aerobic threshold - if you can increase this threshold, you can increase the intensity of your runs without burning up your glycogen stores.

How to achieve these marathon training goals

A reasonably fit person will need at least 12 weeks to prepare for a marathon. Every week you should aim to include:

An interval session: Run intervals one day per week. Aim to run for 500m, then walk or jog for two minutes in between. You should be running at a high intensity; certainly much faster than you would run the marathon. As your fitness improves, work your way up to 12 intervals per session. The day after your interval session should be an "active recovery day", on which you go for a walk or light cycle.

Two aerobic threshold runs: These are runs at a pace that you can maintain at your aerobic threshold. If you're just starting out, these runs can be easy jogs. Try to add half a mile each week.

One race-pace run: An important part of marathon training is understanding your body's threshold and determining your optimum race pace. This should be of a higher intensity than your aerobic runs, usually just above your aerobic threshold. Start with at least two miles and aim to add a mile a week.

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