How To Train For a Marathon: Tips from a First-Timer

Alexa won a prize draw to receive running coaching for her next race. Here is how she got on.

I was so incredibly excited to have won the chance to train with Shaun from Lets Get Running, I couldn't wait to get to work! I knew I wanted to run a Marathon and Shaun found me a race only 40 minutes from my house. 

A varied training plan

I found the training process really interesting and loved seeing what different runs were coming up on my schedule each week, the variety made the weeks fly by, I couldn't believe how quickly race day came around! Shaun set me a range of different workouts to tackle including intervals, fartleks, steady runs, fast finish long runs and aerobic long runs. Occasionally similar sessions would pop up a few weeks apart and I liked seeing how my paces had improved after I headed out the second time around. My favourite runs were my steady state runs where I saw the most obvious pace improvement of 30-40 seconds per mile on average over the course of my training. I found this really motivating and it kept me going when the speed sessions got tough and I started doubting my abilities. 

Shaun was supportive and encouraging throughout the process, always available with lots of feedback and advice. He definitely believed in me more than I believed in myself which was so helpful and important to keep me on track. The pre and post race video chats really lifted my spirits and put me at ease, it was amazing to have someone so invested in my goals, I felt like I had my own cheer squad! 

Race day

When race day dawned I was both nervous and excited and ready to see what I could do. I went out at my goal pace but after 5 or so miles of expending a lot of energy trying to get around other runners, I felt it might not be my day. I re-grouped and slowed down, mentally re-adjusting my goals and reminding myself there was a long way to go and anything could happen. I fought my way around a really tough course which included 4 large hills, lots of traffic (it was a small local race so the roads were not closed) and the onset of leg cramps at about half way, finishing in 4 hours and 20 minutes. Although I fell short of my goal I am really pleased with my effort on the day and the strength I had to adapt when things got tough, I even got a trophy for coming first in my age group! 

Overall, I feel like I learned so much from both my training and the race that I am really keen to get out there again and have another go!