Easy-to-follow three-month guide to building up to a 42.2km run
With Africa’s first city marathon taking place on 21 September 2014 in Cape Town, and already 1500 entrants signed up within the first month of registration opening, runners are eager to take advantage of the scenic value and spectator benefits that this newly revitalised marathon event will offer. The question, though, on many a mind is how do runners prepare themselves for such a task, especially over the notoriously flu-prone winter period, when every bit of spare time available is required for training.
Elana Meyer, former long-distance runner and Olympic medalist and Cape Town Marathon’s official coach Mauritz Jansen van Rensburg share some insight into what to focus on when preparing for a 42,4km run:
- Get a decent pair of running shoes by visiting your local sportswear shop and seeking advice on a running shoe that fits snugly and offers natural support to your arch;
- Get a training partner, if you can, to support and motivate you, particularly on difficult days or moments when you just wish you could give up;
- Have a training goal (that will motivate you on days when you don’t feel like running), like entering the Cape Town Marathon;
- Pick out a beautiful running route that will stimulate all of your senses as you set out on the road. Running has a powerful ability, not only to nourish you physically, but mentally and spiritually, too; and
- Dress appropriately for weather conditions. Don’t fall into the trap of wearing a polycotton t-shirt that suffocates your body and prevents it from getting their air it needs.
- Warm up before you train;
- Run at a pace that is comfortable for you and take it one step at a time (walk before you jog, jog before you run, run before you sprint);
- Listen to your body;
- Map out a marathon course that you plan on tackling in three months’ time, that carries the same topography you will be encountering during the Cape Town Marathon. If you live in a flat area, try to train on a treadmill and alter the incline periods frequently, or run up and down the stairs;
- Increase your training programme gradually by not allowing yourself to get greedy. Its not a cram-fest, it requires time, patience and focus. Your body will respond more positively to a steady, slow increase in training, preventing unnecessary injuries and illnesses. And to top it all, get plenty of sleep;
- Incorporate strength training and core stability exercises into your training programme;
- Have fun when you train by adding variety (different routes, distances and speeds);
- Fuel your body with good nutrition, to have ‘petrol in the tank’. For instance, hydrate on your runs by sipping a sports drink and/or energy gel (as opposed to water) that contains a nice mix of fluid, carbohydrates, electrolytes and sodium; and
- Cool down and stretch slowly after your run.
Just before the big day:
- Run a ‘dress rehearsal’ at least a week before the marathon, running in the actual gear you will be using on the day of the race. Visualise yourself enjoying a strong, relaxing run, which will boost your confidence and give your body the all-important last minute conditioning it needs;
- Relax in the week prior to the race, by keeping your after-hours schedule down to a minimum. Manage your work demands so that they don’t evoke too much mental or physical stress and decline social invitations, if need be. The point is to relax and grow your inner strength as much as possible; and
- Increase your carbohydrate intake in the last few days before the race. Meals that include pasta, potatoes, bread, fruit, milk and yoghurt, as well as sports drinks, are a good call. All of these will fuel your ability to sustain a good run on the day.
What to eat when preparing for a marathon:
A good diet, with the right nutrients, is essential to sustaining weeks of kilometre running when in training, and then during the marathon itself. Cape Town Marathon recommends the following tips to maintain a marathon training-appropriate eating regime:
- Your diet should be high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat, with a good intake of water;
- The best sources of carbohydrates include grain products (preferably low grains) such as bread, rice, cereal and pasta, as well as fruits, vegetables and low fat diary products;
- Good protein foods to eat after a run (which help to repair damaged tissue and stimulate quicker recovery) include milk, cheese, yoghurt, white meats and eggs;
- Good fats from natural food sources include avocados, fish, almonds, soybeans, olive oil, flaxseed, eggs and yoghurt;
- Potentially changing your regular meal plan to include more carbohydrates and less fat should start at least two to three months before the marathon. Low GI carbs such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice are ideal to introduce into your general diet. The final week is when real carbo-loading should take place, making pasta and porridge your friend;
- A few hours before the run, eat a meal high in low GI carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat, such as a yoghurt smoothie with fruit, porridge with fruit, a chicken sandwich and fruit, or toast with honey;
- During the run, replenish your carbohydrate store by eating sports gels, isotonic drinks, bananas, oranges, honey, dried fruit, jelly or sweets every 45 to 60 minutes, with around 30 to60 grams of carb per hour, and stay hydrated with plenty of fluids and electrolytes; and
- During the first 30 minutes after a race, refuel your body with a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. This could include chocolate milk, yoghurt smoothies and lots of fruit.