Women’s Health Digital Editor, Amy Hopkinson, shares her tips from last year to help you conquer 26.2
Taking on 26.2 is hard. In many ways it’s the ultimate leveller – whether you’re a fitness newbie or regular recreational athlete, completing your first marathon is a daunting challenge. Just ask Amy Hopkinson , Digital Editor of Women’s Health. Fitness is her job and also her passion, but despite the six-pack abs, training for her first marathon in London last year threw up a raft of new challenges that she had to navigate. But, cross those hurdles she did – emphatically.
Running in 2018’s uncharacteristically sweltering 24C, she crossed the line in 3hours 57minutes. We can gloss over the fact she sprinted so hard down the Mall that she was immediately sick and nearly fainted, because YAY, she did it. And now, back in training for the 2019 Paris Marathon, she is here to share her learnings and get you across the line in one exhausted (but undeniably elated) piece. Let’s get going.
- 26.2 miles sounds like a long way, but it’s nothing compared to the hundred you’ll run in preparation. It’s therefore really important that you correct muscle imbalances and weaknesses as quickly as possible in the gym, otherwise you’ll exacerbate the issues and end up injuring yourself.
- Tape your toe nails – the benefits are two-fold. First, it’ll stop them bruising and bleeding and making your miles even more painful. Second, it’ll stop them falling off just before summer and leaving you with troll feet. I hear sandals are going to be in this year, by the way…
- I train in two identical pairs of shoes. One for outdoor running and one for treadmill speed work, and not only because mucky outdoor trainers inside is bad gym etiquette. You’ll get used to the feel of the foot wear at different speeds, plus it’ll split the mileage of your training between the shoes and, although broken in, they’ll be relatively fresh on race day.
- Everybody chafes. Fact. Nipples, armpits, thighs or otherwise. Body Glide yourself up, baby.
- Use your training splits to inform your fuelling. There is no real rule from the experts. Some need to take it from 45 mins, some take 90 mins until they’ve burned through their reserves. So, go do a run and look at your mile split times afterwards. When you notice a slowdown, that’s the time for your first gel. Mine takes 45minutes and I then have a gel every 45minutes after that, too, to keep my mile pace consistent. That will sound like a lot to plenty of people, and maybe it is, but it works for me. The only problem is that gels can upset some stomachs – the key is to work out a plan in your training runs, so you’re not caught short on race day.
- The 10% rule is there for a reason. Don’t increase your miles too quickly, only add 10% to your overall mileage every week. I’ve seen so many friends and colleagues ending up with tendon or ligament injuries because they go on three runs, think that their cardio system can handle it – but then realise their body can’t.
- Spend time on your feet. Sometimes your scheduled gets in the way of training, and that’s OK. But, although not a substitute for a run, walking everywhere during training season is a good way to keep things moving.
- Running is a full body movement that requires force from the glutes, stability in the core and drive from the upper body, and so when warming up, you need to activate all of these areas. I’ve got into the routine of a 10 minute flow before every run. It was a faff to begin with, but now it’s become habitual. And, especially by firing up the glutes and core, it’s stopped me getting lower back niggles.
- Ice baths really work. I’m sorry. They helped my shin splints no end, and are eminently more practical than my tactic in my twenties of cellotaping wine coolers to my legs all day…