I'm New To Running, Where Should I Begin?

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Run a marathon? Sure, sounds like a great idea as you chat with your friends over a refreshing beverage sitting around a nice warm fire in the middle of winter. I do a bit of running, how hard can a marathon be? The famed “wall” that people go on about hitting – pfft! I got this. Sound familiar?

Well let’s put this all in perspective for you. If you buy into the legend that goes along with the origin of the marathon then you are literally in for the run of your life. As the story goes, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to report the recent victory over the Persians. He then promptly collapsed and died!

Today we deal with hundreds of runners coming into our clinics to seek the help of Physiotherapists or Podiatrists to overcome injury and get them to the start line. For many runners, unfortunately, we need to give them the heart-breaking news that they won’t be in a position to make the start line. This usually manifests as an injury just before race day as the mileage is hitting its peak, or an injury in the middle of the training block that strips you of much needed base miles leaving you playing catch up.

So if you are looking to sign up to the marathon and start bumping up the miles here are a few things to consider to help avoid injury when you start putting your marathon plan together.

Each of these points deserve their own posts and we’ll probably cover them in more detail as we build towards the marathon, but for now here’s a brief synopsis to get your head rolling around these different ideas.

Running too fast on your long runs

One of the biggest mistakes we commonly see is when people make the transition from running 5-10km races to longer distances, is completing the long miles too quickly relative to the target marathon pace.

  • Step 1: calculate an estimated marathon time based on a recent 5 or 10 km race you completed.
  • Step 2: calculate your pace per mile, then add about 1-minute per mile to get your easy long run pace.

Remember you are working off an estimate of your marathon pace so err on the side of caution here. What we would also observe is the gait change when you slow down from your natural running speed. Remember to focus on maintaining a consistent cadence, as we would commonly see people can start to put in big sloppy strides once they start to fatigue.

Body changes

Your body shape will more than likely change a little further as you increase your miles. You will find that with increased aerobic conditioning you will find it harder to hold onto your relative fat free muscle mass. Make sure that you have at least 2 strength sessions included in your weekly schedule to help avoid this. If your muscle mass decreases too much this can have an impact on your injury risk profile.

Shoes – you will go through them much faster

The general excepted rule-of-thumb for replacing shoes is either every 6 months or about every 300-500 miles. This has large variability and depends on how heavy you are and how fast you are running – as this will change ground reaction forces. You will find that most marathon programmes will clock up between 30-70 miles per week depending on the stage of training. So, this could be a new pair as quickly as every 8 weeks!

Tips? Keep a note in your diary of when you purchased the shoes and how many miles you have logged in them. A lot of runners usually keep two pairs of shoes on the go at the same time. I would suggest rather than running in them both at the same time, have your first set for doing 90% of your miles in, then when the shoes are getting close to their use-by-date you can easily jump into the new shoe just to see if the ‘feel’ of the shoe is still close between the two pairs or if the older shoe has lost its ability to avoid shock. Keep an eye out for any little niggles that creep up as this may be another indicator that their time is up.

Training diary

If you don’t already do this you will need to start keeping a diary of all of your runs! There are many different apps that can do this for you, but a simple written traditional diary will work just as well. On the assumption that you already write in what type of run and length as part of your training plan, you can easily leave space beside each entry for actual miles covered. I would suggest you use a RPE scale to log how you felt during the run as well. This makes life much easier for your Coach or Physiotherapist to see trends if you pick up an injury or if you are making plans for the next season on how to improve further. There are two key reasons people will get injured: high speed or high volume. You are about to engage the latter so it needs to be managed accurately.

Current volume

Depending on your current mileage you will need to adjust your how quickly you jump into a marathon plan. As a general rule you should be able to complete a long run comfortably that lasts around the hour mark and be clocking up 30-35 miles per week in overall volume. This should set you up for completing training within an 18-20 week timeframe. If you don’t have this level of base and jump straight into a marathon plan you are asking for trouble with injuries.

If this is you, work on building your base until you can tick this off. A Couch-to-5km can be completed conservatively in about 8 weeks and this will have you running for 30 mins, building up to the hour mark can be completed in a further 6-8 week slot. Remember this is a lot of change for your body in a short period of time if you are starting from scratch, and will depend greatly on your level of conditioning and overall bodyweight prior to beginning.

That’s all for this week, we hope this gets you thinking about some of the key things that are easily over looked and before you know it your injured and the marathon dream is over!

Check back in next week when we talk about which training progamme is right for you.

Until next time,


Julie FarrarComment