A trial run for the Dublin marathon
Much of what can go wrong in a marathon is down to lack of preparation, so now is the time to get things right
The purpose of these long runs is to train your body to be on your feet for an extended time, so the slower the better. Photograph: Thinkstock
You know you are seven weeks away from your marathon when your only topics of conversation are running and food. If all is going to plan, you will be running somewhere between 15 and 20 miles every weekend for the next month.
Weekends are now filled with alarm clocks, porridge, energy gels, blister plasters, GPS watches, foam rollers and Vaseline. Planning, running and recovering from your long run can be a full-time job.
However, by the end of this month, each of these long-run experiments should leave you knowing exactly what to eat, what to wear, how to pace yourself, how to keep positive and which of your toes is most likely to get a blister.
These next four weeks will either build your confidence or destroy it. It’s up to you to get your head as well as your body in the right place for race day. So much of what can go wrong in a marathon is down to lack of preparation.
Learn from mistakesSeptember is the month to make all the mistakes and learn from them. Go on, have a strong curry the night before your run, skip your breakfast, wear the shorts that chafe and go shopping for the afternoon after your long run. You will make these mistakes only once.
Treat each long run this month as a trial run for the marathon.The preparation and the recovery are every bit as important as the run itself.
Being relaxed, rested, prepared and confident starting your run, knowing your pace, your route and when you are going to eat and drink on the way are all key to finishing your long run feeling strong and positive.
The negative voices in your head are especially loud as you hit the second half of your long run. They get louder, in fact, as you start to doubt your ability.
Think technique, run tall and try not to look like someone who has been running in circles for three hours. Run confidently and smile, look forward and don’t bend over even if you feel like curling up on the side of the road.
Pull your body up out of your legs and let your whole body, not just your lower legs, share the effort.
Don’t dread your long runs. Make the most of them. All too soon they will be over. Make these long runs fun. Get a bus somewhere and run home, arrange to meet others, bring a few euro in your pocket so you can stop for a drink rather than carry enough food to climb Everest. Don’t be afraid to stop and walk if you need to.
The slower the betterThe purpose of these long runs is to train your body to be on your feet for an extended time, so the slower the better. All your long runs should be run at a pace slower than you expect to run on race day.
If you don’t know what pace that is, listen to your body; you should be barely out of breath when running your long run. In fact, you should be able to hold a conversation.
When you signed up for the marathon you may not have had thoughts about chafing, blisters, toilet stops and, of course, those negative voices that keep reminding you that you are not good enough to run a marathon.
A well-prepared and positive long run each week is the best way to knock these demons on the head and start the tapering phase full of confidence.
It is important to enjoy this month, as these are the weeks that make the memories. You will learn far more about your body in these few weeks than you will on race day.
Very soon you will enter the lovely world of tapering, but for now, this is the month to fine-tune your race strategy and enter October excited and confident about what lies ahead.
To see Mary Jennings’s marathon training plan, see ForgetTheGym.ie