Marathon runners have the mental and physical endurance to take their bodies over 42 kilometres and then be able to attend work the next day without aches and pains. The body gets used to running these long distances and once the proper training routine and eating plan has been put in place, it is easier to run marathons and running becomes enjoyable and even addictive. Any runner will keep adjusting goals once their personal best time has been reached and many runners aim to run a marathon in under three hours. This goal takes months or years of commitment to training.
With any type of long distance training, it is important to get the rest and run ratio correct. Running long distances will stress the body and make it susceptible to illness and injury so it is important to take steps to prevent burnout, injury and illness by focussing on proper training and nutrition. When running a marathon, it is important to pace yourself and a last sprint may cause injuries. Most injuries can be avoided by proper running technique, suitable shoes and adequate stretching and strengthening.
Tips to improve marathon time
- Eat regularly and include protein in every serving. Many people make the mistake of eating too little or only eating twice per day. It is important to keep the metabolism strong and fuelled with regular meals, usually eating every four hours.
- Runners should also not eat too much immediately after a run as the body is not giving proper signals and it may be craving something that will not be needed in the long term.
- Investigate refuelling drinks or energy drinks that may supplement your diet and improve energy levels during the run. This process could take time as each person is different and there are many flavours and consistencies to choose from when looking at energy drinks and gels.
- It is important to ingest carbohydrates during the race and this can be done by eating a banana or energy bar or drinking energy gus. These packs of thick liquid have been packaged to ingest on the move and they contain carbohydrates, sugar and other substances to fuel the runner. If a runner finds these gus horrible or hard to digest, they can drink energy drinks or eat something suitable while running. It is important to experiment with these carbohydrates during training runs and not attempt to try something new on marathon day.
- Avoid alcohol or high carbohydrate sugary foods the day before a run as they may cause dehydration and sluggishness. A hangover is also a horrible side effect when trying to run any distance in the sun.
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. At least 2 litres of water daily will keep the body hydrated, but runners should drink when their bodies indicate thirst. Runners tend to spend more time outside in warmer conditions and it is important to replace water, sodium and electrolytes that have been lost from sweating and evaporation.
- Adjust sleeping patterns during the training period and go to bed earlier because marathons start early. It is important to get about eight hours of sleep in order to have enough energy and endurance. Sleeping tablets the day before the race will make it difficult to wake up and feel energetic.
- Dress appropriately for a run in clothing that will not chaff or rub against the body. Take enough warm clothing and keep wearing it when the race starts.
- Stick to regular running program, increasing distance every week and running at least three times per week and only taking time off when ill or run down. Most runners have four training runs in a week.
- When attempting any type of half marathon training, a good starting point is the ability to run ten kilometres easily. The training is then increase gradually each week until the runner is ready for a half marathon. Then the marathon is a goal and any runner aiming to run a sub-3 hour marathon should have completed a marathon.
- Follow a professional running program or listen to the coach and do not attempt to increase distance or speed without consulting a specialist or conducting research.
- Run at different speeds and keep the long run slow, while the shorter runs can be completed at different speeds. Keep a steady pace for the first two thirds of the route, then increase speed for the last third. This will teach the runner speed and proper technique and prepare the body for the marathon.
- Run in all weather on various surfaces to be used to anything that could be throw your way on race day. Nature can be cruel and it is necessary to train in all conditions.
- Windy conditions are common and it is important to have trained in the wind and not only on the treadmill.
- Learn proper technique for running up hills and include hill running or running up steps in the weekly training routine. This will prepare the body for the challenges of the inclines during the race.
- Use interval running and sprinting sessions to change the tempo and train the body in a different way. By running consistently at the same pace, the body gets used to the same rhythm and this will not lead to improvements in running time. Sprint, hill and interval training should be performed after a proper warm up.
- Speed intervals will wake up the fast twitch muscles and help to let the body move faster when needed. Sprints can be done on the treadmill or on the track as it is easily measured, but it is necessary to warm up properly before increasing speed.
- Heart rate training will educate the runner on the functioning of their body and they will be able to assess when they can push themselves to the limit when reading their heart rate and a given place. There are even foot pods and pedometers that measure distance and this is useful for a training run or to check time during a marathon. Many monitors measure time per kilometre and this can be checked during a race.
- Do core training to improve posture, decrease back pain, improve stability and maximise energy usage. Simple exercises like the plank or bridging will improve core strength and single leg exercises will improve balance and stability. When the muscles get tired during a marathon, the core will stay strong and there should not be any excess movement that will tire the body. Strong core muscles will also prevent the runner from slouching or hunching during the last few kilometres.
- Improve leg strength in the gym with resistance training. Squats, lunges and hamstring exercises will improve leg strength that will help the runner up hills.
- Run with a different partner once a week who will challenge your pace. Trying to keep up with a faster runner occasionally will push your limits and challenge your speed.
- Give the body one day a week to rest or have an active recovery day by participating in a yoga, stretch or pilates class. Running occurs in one plane and the continual forward motion needs to be changed with multi-dimensional exercises that will improve strength and flexibility.
- Keep educating yourself on new running techniques, supplements, exercises and stretches. Being in control of goals and training is empowering to any runner and it prevents injuries to a large degree.
- Keep a detailed training log of mileage, injuries, physiological and psychological observations. This will improve future running days. It may even help a new runner in their quest to run a marathon.
- Speak to other marathon runners about their experiences, but be selective about taking advice from everybody. Every body is different and there are many ways to perform properly that may not suit all runners.
- For a personal best time, choose a race with fewer runners and an easier course in order to achieve the goal before moving to more challenging or popular races.
What is required to run a sub-3 marathon
Runners will have to run a kilometre in under four minutes and twenty seconds. This minute interval is just an average and the runner will slow down slightly on uphills but speed up on the way down. It also takes longer to get through the first few kilometres with all the runners who start together and the field only starts separating after the first few kilometres. The good news is that there are many marathons in a year and there is always another scheduled run if the first marathon takes longer than three hours. Planning the major marathons with adequate rest between will give runners more than one chance to achieve their goal. The sub-3 hour marathon takes dedication throughout the day when planning meals, rest and runs and only the focussed runner will achieve this goal.