For those planning to run their first marathon, it is crucial to train beforehand, keep your focus on race day and condition the body post-race

A novice can build up stamina and speed to run his first marathon by following a six-month training programme. While that may not seem like a very long time, gearing up for the race can be rather like “taking an exam”, said Mr Trevor Lee, Physiotherapist, Department of Physiotherapy, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

The 35-year-old, considered to be something of a marathon veteran, has been running an average of two to three marathons every year for about eight years now. Yet, he still adheres strictly to a “timetable” before each and every race, and a “lesson plan” that guides his daily activities.

Mr Lee also joins “group studies” to run with like-minded friends. They not only motivate him to do better, but also help him understand his own progress and how to improve. On race day, he stays focused and “manages his time”. For instance, even if he feels that he can run faster, he sticks to his goals and maintains his pace to sustain him till the end of the race.

Getting started on your marathon training plan

Almost anyone can train to run a marathon, but older people should have a full medical check-up for underlying health conditions like a heart problem or hypertension before embarking on such a rigorous training programme, said Mr Lee. Young people should also wait till they are at least 18 years old before they begin running such long distances, because of the possibility of injuring a body that isn’t yet fully grown.

For a healthy young adult running 42.195km – the official distance for a marathon, and about the length of the PIE – for the first time, the first phase of training involves getting the body used to the idea of running.

“Start by running twice a week and gradually increase the frequency. This will help your body adapt to the muscle soreness, as well as the aches and pains,” he said.

The next phase of training is for improving endurance. Most people build up their stamina by slowly increasing the distance run from about 20km a week to 40km to 55km a week. A gradual increase of about 2km per week is about right for most first-time runners. Also, contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to run the full distance before the actual race.

“The accumulative distance over the week is what counts. The maximum for any one training run should be 30km to 35km because that’s when the body starts reacting differently. So it’s good to get there once in a while to understand what it feels like,” said Mr Lee.

In the last phase, other types of activities are added into the training programme, such as lifting weights or swimming in between runs. Yoga classes can be beneficial too as the movements help stretch and loosen the muscles, keeping the body supple and flexible.

Read on for pre and post-marathon tips​​.

Ref: R14