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Marathon – Beginner’s guide

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London Marathon is almost here and with that all the questions regarding it’s preparation. How should I train? What should I eat? What to do after for recovery?

Marathon preparation

Strength training for performance and injury prevention : strength training is more then proofed that is crucial to increase sports performance and to avoid injuries. You should start going to the gym at least 16 weeks before the marathon and follow a personalised strength program. It should be written so you are at your peak performance by the time of the marathon.

Nutrition preparation: food also plays a huge role on sports performance. Making sure you eat the right amounts and the right food can win races. The weeks previous to the marathon are perfect to test which kind of food/gels and amount of water works better for you. So you should test it all pre training and during training. Make sure that a lot of your calories source are coming from carbs specially in the harder training days and on the race day. Make sure that in the day of the marathon you have breakfast at least 2.5h before the start.

Strategy: gather information about the race. This will affect your performance and health. Check the weather (for clothing and hydration), where are the food and water stations, your pace strategy and the race course.

Running preparation plan : make a plan or ask for help. Random running sessions will not prepare you for a marathon.

During Marathon

Nutrition: You should aim to have 30-60g of carbs per hour during the race.

I.e. carbs sources: 1 Banana 24-30 g; Gel 21-27 g; Energy bar 20-40 g; 4-5 Chews 16-25 g; 10 Jelly beans 11 g

– Make sure you drink just the right amount of water (not to much, not to little). You should know by now what works best if you practiced this on your preparation weeks. Don’t eat too much or drink to much as you can get an upset stomach.

– Stick to what you tested. Don’t do anything new as it can have an undesired outcome.

Warm up: some active mobility drills or light jogging.

Listen to your body: if your body tells you no it means no! Pushing through when you are in pain or when something its not right can cause you injury or sickness.

Post Marathon

Passive stretch will not help (unless you need a huge flexibility like gymnasts or dancers). I compare the passive stretch myth to Galileo regarding earth form. Everyone thinks that passive stretch helps to avoid injuries and DOM’s (muscle soreness) but there is zero scientific evidence on this. Research actually shows the opposite. It decreased your force output and doesn’t avoid injuries. If you’re training or competing the last thing you want is to be weaker. After exercising passive stretch is less problematic but its still useless (with some exceptions). See references.

Enjoy food with moderation (unless you are running another marathon soon)

Hot / cold baths don’t have much research on recovery so it’s effects are still unclear

Other options: compressing clothing, sauna, or anything that improves blood flow

Sleep, sleep, and rest.



The effect of passive stretching on delayed onset muscle soreness, and other detrimental effects following eccentric exercise – H Lund, P Vestergaard?Poulsen… – … journal of medicine …, 1998 – Wiley Online Library

Acute effects of passive muscle stretching on sprint performance- Arnold G Nelson , Nicole M Driscoll , Dennis K Landin , Michael A Young & Irving C Schexnayder

The Impact of Stretching on Sports Injury Risk: A Systematic Review of the Literature – STEPHEN B. THACKER , JULIE GILCHRIST , DONNA F. STROUP , and C. DEXTER KIMSEY, JR.

Influence of caffeine and carbohydrate feedings on endurance performance – JL Ivy, DL Costill, WJ Fink – Pulse, 1979 –