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Your Ultimate Guide To Training For A Running Event

A Beginners Preparation Guide.

*DISCLAIMER: This is general advice; you must not consider it our professional guidance in all situations. The advice in this article is based on what Josh has noticed in his years of coaching new-to-running clients. The examples provided throughout this booklet are from the 5-day sixteen-week marathon training plan. If you are doing a shorter distance, you will be completing reduced versions of the provided; however, the advice remains the same, which is why this article can cater to all levels of runners.


GETTING STARTED

Recognising and respecting your limits is crucial, regardless of your past running experience. Starting slow is vital whether you were once an avid runner or are entirely new to the sport. Over the years, I've experienced the highs of consistent high-volume training and the lows of extended breaks from running. From personal experience, I can attest that even a brief two-week hiatus can significantly impact your running efficiency.

Methodically Running

Expecting to maintain the same level of performance after just a few weeks of inactivity is unrealistic. That's why many coaches emphasise the importance of gradually building up your training for a new running distance over a minimum of sixteen weeks. A gradual approach allows your body to adapt to the increasing stress and prepares you both physically and mentally for the demands of your upcoming event.


Our running programs for you below are developed around four building blocks to ensure you are prepared for your best runs yet.



THE FOUR BUILDING BLOCKS OF A RUNNING TRAINING PROGRAM


1. BASE KILOMETRES


These are the foundations of any effective running program: gradually increasing your weekly mileage in preparation for your event. This progressive approach allows your body to adapt to the increasing physical demands, minimising the risk of injury and maximising performance gains. Three to five runs per week would be optimal, but lifestyle and availability come into play and may not be practical. The majority of these runs should be done at a comfortable pace. Consistency is the key! Most of these runs should be completed comfortably, allowing you to build endurance and aerobic capacity without overstressing your body.



2. THE LONG RUN


They are typically scheduled every 6-8 days. These extended outings aren't just about logging kilometres; they're invaluable opportunities to fine-tune your gear and race-day strategy. From shoes to nutrition, these runs allow you to experiment with everything you'll need on race day. It's crucial to avoid introducing new elements on race day; each long run provides the ideal testing ground to identify what works best for you. Moreover, these sustained efforts gradually acclimate your body to the demands of longer distances, building endurance and mental fortitude. Here, we have conveniently linked some top gear to try.


3. SPEED WORK


Engaging in speed work sessions and intervals is essential for boosting your aerobic capacity and enhancing your running pace, particularly over longer distances like the marathon. These workouts incorporate techniques, including short, intense sprints and longer fartlek-style runs, to challenge your cardiovascular system and improve your overall speed and endurance.


4. REST & RECOVERY


Rest and recovery are paramount to your training success, perhaps even more so than the workouts themselves. During these rest periods, your body repairs and strengthens, enabling you to perform at your best. Adequate rest helps prevent injuries and guards against burnout, ensuring you stay motivated and energised throughout your training.



SUPERCOMPENSATION

Learning about the concept of supercompensation for runners from Jason Koop, an esteemed ultramarathon runner and endurance coach, revolutionised my approach to programming endurance training. Unlike the traditional progressive overloading method commonly used in strength training, Koop advocates a different strategy: incorporating a week of higher volume followed by 2 to 3 weeks of lower volume. We have utilised this approach in the attached programs to allow ample time for the body to adapt to the increased workload during the high-volume weeks and experience adaptation during lower-volume weeks.


For instance, consider week thirteen in our 5-day Marathon Program, which requires you to run 80 km. Attempting such a significant distance in week one would likely lead to excessive fatigue and potential injury complaints. Moreover, running such a high volume too close to race day without adequate adaptation could leave you entering the race already fatigued. It's crucial not to schedule the highest volume week immediately before the event, as your body needs time to adjust to the intense stimulus.


This is where the taper week becomes essential. In week sixteen of the program, the prescribed distance is reduced to 45 km—almost half of the previous week's distance and slightly higher than the race day kilometres. Scaling back significantly on overall kilometres and the intensity of your runs during the taper allows your body to peak for the event. This strategic reduction in training load ensures that you arrive at the starting line well-rested, recovered, and primed for peak performance on race day.


Kiplimo Crossing The Finish Line

MAX DISTANCE

The marathon training plan peaks at a long run of 32 km. In all plans, you are rarely running the race-day distance. As you approach race day, that brings the question: where do those final few kilometres come from? The answer lies in the culmination of your meticulous training and strategic tapering during week 16 and the potent cocktail of adrenaline and excitement that fuels every step on race day. Your body is primed to leverage peak conditioning through consistent training and diligent fueling. The tapering phase in week 16 allows your muscles to fully recover and replenish glycogen stores, ensuring optimal strength and endurance on race day. The adrenaline surge and the event's electric atmosphere amplify your performance, propelling you forward with newfound energy and determination. In essence, those last few kilometres on race day are a testament to your dedication, preparation, and unwavering commitment to conquering the marathon distance.


HYDRATION & FUEL ON THE RUN

Ensuring proper hydration and fueling strategies during distance running events is paramount for performance and overall well-being. Most races provide water and aid stations along the course, but preparing well in advance is crucial if you plan to carry your hydration. Invest in a hydration pack or belt and practice running with it during your training sessions. Remember, race day is not the time to experiment with new gear or strategies—stick to what works best for you.


During training, especially on long runs where aid stations may be sparse or nonexistent, it's essential to have tactics in place for staying hydrated:


  • Carry water using a hydration pack, belt, or handheld bottle.

  • Choose a short loop course for long runs where you can stash water at a designated spot.

  • Plan your route to pass by water fountains or other refill stations.

Water Station

Now, let's talk about fueling to prevent "hitting the wall," a common struggle for many marathoners. Your body's glycogen stores, its primary energy source during a marathon, have limits. As these stores deplete during the race, your muscles may fatigue and feel heavy—a sensation commonly known as "hitting the wall."


Consuming carbohydrates during the race is essential to stave off this dreaded phenomenon. Energy gels or chews are popular for convenience and quick absorption, but you can also opt for fruits or energy bars. Aim for around 60 grams of carbs per hour for runs exceeding two hours. However, testing various fuel types during training is crucial to find the best for you. I learned this the hard way during my first marathon when I discovered that energy gels didn't agree with my stomach.


Start experimenting early in your training program to determine the most effective fueling method for your body. Plan by deciding which fuel to try during your long runs each week. This approach helps you find the right fuel and keeps your pace in check as your focus shifts from speed to how your body responds to the ingested fuel. By fine-tuning your hydration and fueling strategies, you will be better equipped to tackle the marathon distance with confidence and resilience on race day.



EVENT DAY

Don't try anything new on race days—no new shoes, shorts, or shirt. Don't drink three cups of coffee if you usually only have one. You should fine-tune your clothing, gear, fuel, and hydration strategies during your long training runs.


Coach Tips:

  1. Hydrate well for several days leading up to your marathon.

  2. Drink a big glass of water before bed the night before long runs and race day.

  3. Drink another one first thing in the morning.

  4. Eat a simple, high-carb breakfast, if possible, several hours before long runs and the race.

  5. Smear on a little Vaseline in areas vulnerable to chaffing (these will be discovered on your long runs).

  6. The temperature will rise throughout the race, so don't overdress.

  7. During the event, start slowly.


Getting caught up in the adrenaline is easy, but starting too fast is a mistake. There will be plenty of kilometres to pick up your pace if you feel fantastic! Don't blaze by every aid station or try to drink from a cup while running full blast. Either practice drinking while running before race day or pull over for a few seconds to consume. 



POST-EVENT

Immediately after you finish:

  1. Drink several cups of water or a sports drink to nourish your tired muscles.

  2. Walk a little to let those muscles cool down (just like in training).

  3. Do gentle stretching.

  4. Eat some simple carbs, whether you feel like it or not.

  5. Try to get plenty of rest and sleep.


Example Day From Running Program

SELECT YOUR PROGRAM

As mentioned previously, these programs have been tailored to help anyone improve their running, whether you are an avid runner or completely new to the sport.


We have conveniently divided each distance goal into sections so that there are no excuses other than to choose your preferred frequency and get running.


The programs are set up on Trainheroic Software, which is free. You can download the application here if you do not already have it on your phone.

Once you have set up your account, type the 'Program Code' into the 'Enter Access Code' section, and you can freely follow that program.






Distance Goal Program Code

Marathon - 5 runs per week 171448021

Marathon - 4 runs per week 1714438065

Marathon - 3 runs per week 1714438104

Marathon - 2 runs per week 1714438145


Half-marathon - 3 runs per week 1714438191

Half-marathon - 2 runs per week 1714438235


Training for 10km - 3 runs per week 1714438297

Training for 10km - 2 runs per week 1714438335


Training for 5km - 2 runs per week 1714438376

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