Do marathon runners need to do the full 42km in training?
Not at all. A marathon takes about a month to fully recover from, so even if you only jog this distance in training, you will have to spend some time recovering. This means that your training in the days and even weeks after will suffer. I always say that your longest long run should be no more than two and a half hours here in Malaysia. You lose too much fluid otherwise.
Your body should be able to store enough energy (in the form of glycogen) for this amount of running time. Once this glycogen store runs out, the body will find alternative ways to create more glucose. However, this process takes longer, produces energy less efficiently and will take more of a toll on your body, making it longer for you to recover.
What should you eat before/after a run?
Drink 500-750ml of water 45 minutes before training, then while running drink about 50-100ml every 15 minutes. Get a fuelbelt or something that you can comfortably wear so you don't have to carry a bottle in your hand. If you are doing speed work, replenish your fast-twitch muscles with a sports drink or gels between repetitions.
For any run over one hour or speed training, eat 200-400 calories of easily digestible carbs like toast and jam. A good, balanced diet should suffice for getting enough sodium, potassium and calcium, but if you're really prone to cramps, try extra salt tablets in your pre-run drinks and maybe even potassium supplements.
After a tough run, eat something within 30 minutes to supply your muscles with fluids, carbs and some protein. Aim for a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein to best aid recovery. Chocolate milk is ideal for straight after a hard session.
How do you pace yourself during a run?
One of the most important paces to find out is your 'threshold pace'. This is the pace that you can run at where lactate does not accumulate significantly in the blood during the workout, but stays at a constant level instead. If you find it difficult to maintain this pace while running outside, use an online 'treadmill conversion chart' to find out the exact speed and try doing the run on a treadmill. If you can start getting the tempo runs right, you will race so much better.
Is stopping to walk okay?
If you are a beginner, a combination of walking and running is recommended anyway. If you are running, try not to stop and walk for too long, although it may be necessary to do it from time to time. If you stop and walk for any period of over five minutes, it becomes very difficult to get the body back into the running motion again.
Three tips to prevent injury:
- Get the correct running shoes
- Never increase your mileage by more than 10 per cent per week (if you run 30km one week, don't run more than 33km next week)
- Do at least two sessions per week on hip stabilisation and core exercises, concentrating on good form rather than number of repetitions.