Double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah makes his London Marathon debut on 13th April this year. He will run all 26.2 miles in just over two hours ‘fingers crossed’. He joins over 36,000 other runners of all ages and abilities which include world record holders, celebrities, fund raisers wearing shark suits and those who just want to soak up the experience. Perhaps you are one of those fortunate few to gain a golden ticket and undertake this superhuman event.
If this is your first Marathon, average times are roughly between four and five hours depending on your past and current fitness levels, this is a mammoth task for anyone and just finishing is a fantastic and worthwhile achievement. Running for this length of time is no easy task and will take months of hard training through those cold, dark winter nights. Training programmes can vary from 26 weeks to 12 weeks and if you have left it until the New Year to start training then you are cutting it fine as there are only ten weeks left until the gun fires!
One of the biggest challenges whilst preparing for the marathon is avoiding illness and injury. Statistics show that over 30% of entrants never make it to the start line. This can be devastating after all the hard training you may have already completed, more so if you are running for a charity.
It is important to make sure that you are medically well enough, not just to run the marathon, but to endure the long hours of training that will be involved in the build-up. If you are on regular medication, it would be worthwhile checking in with your GP or sports physician to make sure that nothing needs to be adjusted to accommodate the increased physical activity. Clearly, as you increase your training load, if you start to get symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, palpitations, undue shortness of breath or anything else unusual, you should seek medical help.
In addition, you need to make sure that you fuel and re-fuel your body adequately given the demands of training. People training for the marathon will often lose weight as they build up their training mileage, which can be a health benefit, but needs to be managed so that you don’t make yourself unwell. Using low GI (Glycaemic Index) foods to make sure you stay well supplied with energy as you build your mileage and also getting used to carrying some form of energy supplement for during the event will be important. Refuelling, ideally within the first hour of completing training is also important to keep your body prepared for the next session and to prevent illness through body stress.
Needless to say, hydration is vital, and you may have to get used to drinking before you are thirsty, especially as the weather improves closer to the event. As people increase their mileage they will sometimes find that certain foods will increase their bowel transit time with the result that they get the urge to go to the toilet more frequently - there are some high profile examples of this! Finding the right foods and fluids, getting into a routine that works for you and then keeping to it on the day of the marathon is important to ensure that there are no distractions on the day and that you don’t hit the ‘Wall’ when you finally get close to your goal.
An overuse injury can be caused by repetitive movements such as too much running, this creates micro-traumas which over time build up and overload your joints and tendons. This may lead to pain in your back, hips, knees or Achilles. Causes may relate to intrinsic or extrinsic factors, but usually there is a combination of both.
There are many controllable factors during the preparation phase which can reduce your risk of pre-event injury. Worst case scenario you may be able to defer your entry to the following year if you have a valid injury or illness. Here are some recommendations we at Perform have set which may help you plan for those vital few weeks.
Address any muscular imbalances:
Muscular imbalance should be addressed to ensure correct movement patterns are formed allowing the individual to run efficiently. We recommend a weekly prehabilitation programme which focuses on specific deficiencies. These may include gluteal activation; slow heavy strengthening of hamstrings, calves, tibialis posterior and trunk stabilisation ‘core’.
Address strength deficits:
A big mistake many runners make is thinking that their running takes care of leg strength; unfortunately this is not the case which is why many who participate endure injury as a consequence. Regular resistance exercise has been shown to develop strength and capacity in muscle, tendon, ligament and bone; thus it provides a certain degree of protection against injury. You don’t have to lift heavy either as body weight can be effective, you should complete exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts.
Ensure you make time to stretch or use a foam roller; these should be separate sessions of 20-30minutes and not just quick stretches before you run. Take your time and make it count, attention to detail will serve you well. Common areas of tightness are low back, adductors, hamstrings, hip flexors, IT Band, quadriceps and calves. Additionally a regular sports massage can assist in recovering from those long training runs.
Don’t just run to improve your cardio-vascular fitness, try completing interval sessions on a static bike, rower or x-trainer. Vary your pace, intensity and recovery to develop your overall fitness. You may want to use a heart-rate monitor to allow you to train at different intensities. Variety in training will keep you interested whilst lowering those impact miles. Monitoring your heart rate will ensure you are training within limits and not pushing too hard.
What do Perform have to offer you?
Perform Preparation: 1 ½ hours
In preparation for the London Marathon we want to ensure you get to the starting line and perform at your best. We have devised a sports physiotherapy and podiatry screen which includes assessment of functional movement patterns, gait analysis and foot pressure plate analysis. We can detect dysfunctions, abnormalities and your potential injury risk; provide corrective exercise, orthotics and advice on the precise running shoes to ensure your training programme is complete.
Cost: £195 pp
Perform Train-Monitor-Recover: 2 ½ hours
Cost: £150 pp
Contact us for more information
Paul Williamson MSc Sports Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy Lead, Perform at St. George’s Park
Dr. Charlotte Cowie
Perform Clinical Director and Sports Medicine Doctor, Perform at St. George’s Park