Give yourself time and be consistent. You need at least three months of training to have the stamina to complete a marathon. So, whether you have three months or six months to go before the big day, get your shoes on and start your training now! Be consistent. Have a training plan that progressively increases the mileage covered and stick to it week after week, month after month.
Get time on your feet. It’s not so much the mileage or speed; but time spent running and walking that prepares you for completing the marathon. Very gradually build up to doing one weekly run that is up to three hours duration; or, if you are walking, your goal is four hours on your feet. This is your goal about 4-6 weeks out from the marathon, after which you ever so gradually reduce so that you are fresh and raring to go on race day!
Make your journey to the marathon interesting and fun. Try making every training session different from the last one. Explore new places. Organise mystery runs with your mates. Get lost and get very fit. Play “chase” now and then. Do the occasional day-long or multi-day hike (Even if you are a runner, a long hike in the bush is wonderful physical conditioning).
Do not over-train and ensure you recover. You only need to do three long runs or walks per week (Plus one short, faster one, if you are really serious). While you should be active on the day in-between, you must ensure that you are as close to fully recovered before the next long training session. Make every fourth week a relatively easy “recovery” week. Have your regular training partners; but do the majority of your training on your own so that you go at your pace and distance and do not risk being constantly dragged along too far and hard too often by others. The risk of injury and illness is too high.
Run or walk mostly on trails. Training on roads and pavements is especially hard on the legs; especially if there is an unrelenting off-camber. Train on trails that vastly reduce the impact shock and which vary the stresses on the legs with every stride. You will find you can go longer and faster and still recover in time for the next session.
Eat a nutrient rich diet. Your body cannot recover properly or build strong, healthy tissue if your diet is lacking in essential nutrients. Have a home made Super Smoothie that contains proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, essential oils and antioxidants within an hour of finishing each training session.
Keep hydrated. Weigh yourself before and after a training session: If you lose 1kg then you must replace this by drinking 1kg of fresh water (1 liter), plus an extra ½ liter for good measure over the hour of finishing. You will later be able to dispense with the weighing because you will have learned to listen to your body signals. Got the idea?
Get plenty of rest and quality sleep. Ideally, you want to have a sit-down job, rather than one that has you on your feet all day. It is during deep sleep that your body produces its daily peak of growth hormone that stimulates repair and growth. Be in bed and asleep by 11pm every night and get 7-8 hours of sleep.
Treat injuries before they incapacitate. Unless you fall over, or are run over by a bus, running and walking injuries happen slowly. Cut your training short and take a compulsory four day rest the moment there is a hint of an injury and then gradually work your way back into training. The same rule applies to illnesses like colds. Follow this rule, and others, and you will never have to visit a health professional about a training related ailment.
Listen to your Inner Voice. The most important rule has been saved for last. You are a living being – not a mindless automaton. Learn to listen to your Inner Voice. If it is telling you to stop, then stop; if it is telling you that you can go further or faster, then do it; if it is telling you that you need more water or food, then give yourself some; if it is telling you that you need a few days break, then do it. Ignore your Inner Voice at your peril – illness, injury and mental staleness are the inevitable consequences. Listen carefully to your Inner Voice and you will thoroughly enjoy your training and you will complete the marathon with a personal best.