How to train for a marathon

Thinking of entering next year's London Marathon? We spoke to a running pro for his expert advice on how to prepare properly for race day

With marathon season in full swing, the urge to get your trainers on has never been stronger. We spoke to Shaun Dixon, a former cross country athlete for Great Britain and endurance running coach, for his tips on how to get ready for race day. From a year in advance to the week before the event, here’s how to train for running 26.2 miles.

One year to go

‘It’s never too early to start preparing for a marathon – but it’s too early to leap into specific training. With a year to go you should start laying the foundations – get into a good routine and iron out any weaknesses that could lead to injury.’

Six months to go

‘First, decide on your training approach. Will you hire a coach, download a plan or join the local running club? All can be successful. Second, focus on speed: hill sprints, Park Runs and a low key race or two. The faster you run these, the easier the marathon will feel. Finally, build up your running so you can confidently run 10 to 12 miles, 16 weeks before race day.’

One month to go

‘Your training should be at its peak, with you doing your longest runs two to three weeks before the big day. However, it’s also essential you focus on recovery, and maintaining your fitness; stretching, resting and avoiding alcohol are key, as is having a sports massage. Also, nail your nutrition strategy – what you’ll eat the evening and morning before the race. Minimise fibre, dairy and fat to avoid unwanted Portaloo stops.\

One week to go

‘The story of runner Charlie Spedding, who won a bronze at the 1984 Olympics, is an inspiring one. Every day he told himself the final would be the best day of his life – and by race day he was utterly convinced, helping him win his medal. Even if you’re dreading it, tell yourself and others you’re excited by the challenge, and visualise how smooth and easy you’ll find those 26.2 miles. Positive thinking is vital.’

With thanks to Shaun Dixon of Let’s Get Running