Top 10 Marathon Tips

Johnny Danielle

Training for the Donegal Marathon on 21st August or racing further afield?

JT Physiotherapy’s RunWell Clinic is here to advise you on how to get set.  The key to running a strong marathon is to remember the 3 “P’s”: Prepare, Patience and Perseverance. We have put together our top 10 tips to help you along the way.



1.  Proper Training

When running, we direct up to 3 times our body weight through our landing foot.  This force is transferred from our feet, into our ankles, knees, hips and back. Any inefficient movements in the running stride or weak points along this chain are targeted by the force and over time, injuries can occur.  At the RunWell Strength & Conditioning Classes our philosophy is that prevention is better than intervention. Our RunWell Clinic team, made up of Chartered Physiotherapists and a Sport’s Scientist will guide you through a programme of the most effective exercises designed to ensure you move as efficiently as possible when running, whilst also strengthening and conditioning areas most at risk of injury.

2.  Adequate Recovery

Muscle tissues need recovery time after an intense workout.  Our Recovery Suite has a low stress solution for quick, comprehensive leg for runners.  The NormaTec MVP Recovery System consists of full-length leg and arm compression boots, which can be used before or after race training.  These help rejuvenate the muscle tissue and dramatically reduce tightness and soreness—meaning less downtime and greater productivity.  The NormaTec’s special Sequential Pulse Technology uses compressive patterns to help rid the body of waste products produced during intense or prolonged bouts of exercise. The process mirrors naturally occurring waveform flows in the body, like a super massage only better.

3.  Set Healthy Expectations

Setting a finish time is a little like picking the winning lottery numbers because there are so many variables that can affect your performance, for example the weather.  The best way to go into a marathon is with healthy expectations. This means aiming for a strong finish and being open to what the day may bring.

Running your first marathon is all about conquering the distance, not beating the clock. It’s a way to establish your marathon fitness, which you can continue to build on and improve in future races.

4.  Nutrition

“Given the vital importance of glycogen to an endurance athlete’s performance, you should increase the percentage of carbohydrate in the diet in the 2 or 3 days leading up to the marathon.   Carbohydrate loading may result in around 2-3% increase in time trial performance in events longer than 90 minutes.”  says Liam Leech, in-house Nutritionist and Sport & Exercise Scientist. Liam says “Aim for carbohydrate-rich foods, such as wholegrain pasta and breads, potatoes, rice, fruit and fruit juice, breakfast cereal and milk.  7 – 10 grams of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight should be sufficient for muscle glycogen loading which will fuel you on the day. ”.  Proper hydration during training and on race day are vital. “Sports drinks are significantly better compared with water for providing fluid, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, the most important being sodium”.  Liam can design tailor made nutritional plans to help you in your preparation for the race.

5.  Hill Runs

Start doing runs with the same topography as the marathon. For example, if your marathon route involves hills then you need to add hills into some of your training sessions.  This is also a good way of building strength to regulate your heart rate over varying terrain.

6.  Add speed to your longest long run

Four weeks out is a good time to do your longest run, 26 miles.  With eight miles to go, begin running one minute per mile slower than your marathon goal pace. Then speed up every two miles to run the last couple of miles at goal pace or slightly faster. This run will teach you how to up your effort as you become tired.

7. Taper

About 4 weeks out, you’ve run your longest run, your mileage and intensity are gradually dropping, and you find yourself with much more time on your hands. It can be tempting to add more mileage to your training plan for insurance, but doing so will only risk you leaving your best miles on the training path. Follow a gradual taper and rest up so you can run the distance on race day with fresh, strong legs.

8. Pace yourself

Run the first two to three miles 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than goal pace. This preserves glycogen stores for later in the race so you can finish strong.  No matter how much you’re raring to go, keep things under control until well past the halfway mark. Then you can start to up the tempo.  If you feel relatively good at 18 miles, that’s the time to get aggressive (with eight miles to go, if you’re still fresh, you can approach it mentally like a shorter race). A good runner should aim to negative split.  Finish quicker than they started rather than going hell for leather and blowing up.

9.  Warm up

Fifteen minutes before the start, begin some gentle dynamic stretching. Concentrate on the muscles of the back side of your body–your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Try to keep stretching after you’ve been ushered to the start area.  Jog on the spot, just enough to keep your heart rate slightly elevated and the blood pumping throughout the body.

10.  Celebrate and Recover

Take the time to appreciate your accomplishment.  You trained hard, dedicated your time, and achieved your goal. No matter your time, you’re a marathoner and that is special.

Incorporate a recovery program into your after race time – see tip 2 for our Recovery Suite.  Try to abstain from intense workouts for the first week after your marathon to give your body time to recover. If you do want to workout, choose gradual, low-intensity activities like mat work or Reformer Pilates.

During the second week, if all feels well, start back with running at an easy effort for 30 to 40 minutes. Run a little longer during the third week but keep the effort easy. If you feel up to it, you can add in some intensity during the fourth week.


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