How To Prepare For A Marathon?
Belief and Ambition
Conventional wisdom will tell you that the marathon is a tough and unforgiving distance from which days of recovery is essential. I am not suggesting that this isn't, at least in part, true. No matter how many times you toe the line for the classic 26.2 mile distance, you would do well to respect this and remember it IS a long way. However, for some the usual 1-2 marathons a year isn't enough and then the madness starts. The most important part is the belief and desire that you can and want to do this. You will hear all sorts of advice that this isn't possible, isn't sensible or will risk injury. Cut through this, focus, plan and commit. If you believe then this is totally possible (and from my experience was easier than expected).
It goes without saying that, as with all running events, training is the foundation for this. Long runs and a rock solid base mileage are key. If you don't feel comfortable with consecutive long runs over a weekend then you probably aren't ready yet. However, remember that once you get into multiple marathons that dreaded weekly long run will be a thing of the past as 26.2 miles will be your long run! As always build slowly to minimise the injury risk and ensure your training is structured and well balanced. When you are comfortable running a single marathon at a conservative pace then you are ready.
I would add fuelling to this, find a product that works for you and ensure you keep the muscles properly supplied with energy.
This is vital, as remember you have to do the distance all over again shortly afterwards. It is my belief that you can run, but not race, multiple marathons - this doesn't mean that you can't still target a quick marathon or two during the season though. For me, a pace of PB time +10-15 mins allows me to run back to back marathons at the same pace each day for a double. Obviously if you are taking on more days back to back then it would be wise to be more conservative with your time goals. Likewise you need to take appropriate factor of terrain, weather and elevation. Less is more in this respect.
I'm a huge SiS fan and I use only their products, pretty much the full range from their GO Isotonic, GO Caffeine & GO + Electrolyte gels, ReGo, energy, electrolytes and SiS Rego Protein Bar for recovery. The main factor is to use products that work for your.
Time for recovery is short and so you have to maximise it - get into the strict habit of taking on a protein and carbohydrate based recovery drink within 30 minutes of finishing whilst your metabolism is still raised. Stretch (even if this is just a short walk), get a massage if possible, rest and a decent nights sleep. Refuelling is also critical, even if this includes the odd liquid carbohydrate (that's an excuse for the odd beer by my reckoning!). Don't try anything new, stick to what works for you in training.
Help yourself by being wise in your choices of events - don't choose races that involve hours of travelling in between them, especially for your first attempt at multiple marathons. Time in the car is recovery time wasted and not going to help your stiff and sore muscles. Consider events where the opportunity to complete a marathon double (or more) is part of their plan as well as yours.
Ok, so accept that this is going to be tough, if it wasn't where would be the challenge? Physically your conservative pacing and training should ensure you are capable, but the legs won't go where the head doesn't lead. It is often said that 90% of distance running is in the head and for multiple marathons I would increase this figure. Remember that after a certain distance (this will vary from person to person) you run with your head not your legs.
Your legs may well feel stiff and sore to start with, but this will pass as you warm up and acclimatise back to running again. Don't let this set a negative tone for the day and try to forget that you ran a marathon yesterday. Just focus on the task in hand; yesterday was yesterday and today is today.
This is a different challenge and will not suit everyone, especially if your sole target is to run as fast as possible chasing a marathon PB. However, this is a great way to broaden your marathon experience and enjoy running for reasons other than chasing the clock. You may also be surprised what the conditioning of your body from multiple marathoning allows you to do - by example, I ran 38 marathons or longer in 2015 and still PB'd at both target races. Plus I had a lot of fun and ran some great events every month with incredible camaraderie.
Remember you are doing this for fun (and the challenge of course). None of us are 'elite' athletes and so we can afford to approach this with a somewhat positive and relaxed attitude. Happy miles pass much quicker than unhappy miles, so smile, push on and get the job done. The reward will be worth it.Hopefully the above will either help you decide to give multiple marathoning a go or perhaps provide a different view to those that have already taken the plunge. If you are serious about achieving a specific marathon total, for example to earn the coveted blue and yellow vest of the 100 Marathon Club, then doubles (or more) are definitely a big step along the road. Good luck and please get in touch if I can help in any way. See you on the circuit.