Fitness and Performance

Your Marathon Journey

Feb 1 2021

Kicking off your marathon training can be daunting. You will inevitably have days when the last thing you want to do is run, but with some planning and determination, you will find the power to push through.

The buzz of achieving something you thought impossible is well-worth the hard work you put in. Our RunFit Service Specialist, Rebecca has achieved three marathons and is currently training for an almighty ultramarathon this summer. Below she shares some sound advice to support you on your marathon journey.

First things first, congratulations for signing up to a marathon! Let’s get training…

Now, time to find a training plan. Try not to get overwhelmed by the amount of choice there is out there. Most plans have the same basic structure, with short, and interval runs during the week, supplemented with a longer and steadily increasing run at the weekend.

The amount of time you should spend running during your training will depend on your level of ability. During the first lockdown, our Bodyset physiotherapists saw an increase in running-related injuries, as people used their newly found spare time to increase the distance and frequency of their running activities in a relatively short space of time.  In order to avoid injury it’s important to build up your stamina and strength at a steady pace.

If you’re a beginner, training with intervals is a great way to gradually increase your distance. As an intermediate or advanced runner, the intervals will improve your endurance. Eventually the long run will feel easier and your pace may even increase. For the first few weeks, focus on finding your marathon pace and getting used to it, you will typically discover it about halfway through.

When it comes to frequency, it is best to go for quality over quantity. A beginner should be running around 3-4 times per week, whilst an experienced runner is generally better off running a maximum of 5 times a week. This should be enough to build up the stamina and get the miles you need under your belt. You also need to integrate cross and strength training to target areas of the body that contribute to your marathon performance. You can find out more on this in our cross and strength training blog.

The final preparations…

As you draw closer to the big day your mileage will likely have reached its peak. The longest run is usually 20-22 miles, three weeks before the marathon.

During the longer runs, make sure to practice when and what you’re going to eat to avoid any unwanted surprises on the day. After this, a period of tapering (reduced training) begins. This will help your body recover from all the hard work, providing any niggles with a chance to settle. Don’t worry if you initially feel more sore, or even a bit ill with cold-like symptoms. This is your body recovering and it is to be expected.

In the final week, you should barely be training at all, eating an extra 400 calories per day. This is more widely known as carb loading. It’s to make sure you have enough energy to complete the full distance. Going for a walk or 15 min easy run the day before will get the legs moving. Be sure to have a quality dinner, with food that you’re used to and try to get an early night.

When marathon day arrives, have the same breakfast that you’re used to. Keep sipping water or your regular sports drink, little and often. Make sure you take a trip to the loo before, remember, it’s normal to be nervous.

Most importantly enjoy the day. All the training has led you here, and you’ll smash it!

The aftereffects…

No matter what your level, the day of the marathon and the two days after will be sore. As tempting as it is to simply lie in bed, the best thing to do is to keep moving little and often throughout the day. If you have access to a sauna, steam room or a pool, go there to relax and stretch out.

On the second day after the marathon, it’s always worth having a full body massage, to help your back and legs recover. As the first few days go by, the pain and stiffness will decrease. If you’re feeling okay, try a 20-30-minute run with walking.  The reason for continuing to run in the first few weeks after the marathon is to keep your tendons happy. They are used to all the impact and usage and if you suddenly stop, they may become painful. You can do other activities such as cycling and swimming too.

After that… the future is up to you. If you don’t fancy continuing with your running, find a different sport or activity to try. Keeping up some form of fitness will mean that you continue to feel the benefits of your marathon training transformation.

Rebecca Nygren

Regional Lead and Senior MSK Physiotherapist




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