The London Marathon usually takes place in late April and runners usually start training in the first week of January. In 2022, the event has moved to October, so if you won a place when the results of the ballot were announced in March, it’s perfectly reasonable to think you can forget all about running until the start of June. Four full months of running is plenty of time for even complete beginners to get ready to run 42.2km, after all.
However, if you can get into a running routine earlier than the summer, it will pay huge dividends when you transition into a full marathon training plan ahead of the race.
We asked Steve Vernon, coach and manager of Team New Balance Manchester, and an ex-international cross-country and mountain runner, for his advice on what people who have a place in the London Marathon can do now.
What are the main benefits of starting your prep for the London Marathon now?
“Starting early doesn’t necessarily mean you have to begin your specific marathon training,” says Vernon, “but it does provide the opportunity for you to build some base fitness so that you are in a good position to start your marathon plan.”
What should marathon runners do now?
We asked Vernon what advice he has for different types of runners. First up – people who aren’t running currently and haven’t tackled a marathon before.
“It should be about getting used to running and if you haven’t done any before, this needs to be a really easy build-up of two to three runs a week,” says Vernon.
“It is advisable for most beginners to start with a run/walk. For example, ten one-minute jogs with one minute’s walk between each jog for a total of 20 minutes. After doing this for the first week you could progress to five two-minute jogs with a minute’s walk between them in the second week. By the end of the month you should aim to run for 20-30 minutes continuously.”
If you already run once or twice a week but haven’t ever done a marathon, the advice is to focus on increasing the length of your runs to build up to the amount of time on your feet demanded by marathon training.
“Start introducing longer runs once a week,” says Vernon. “Depending on your running background you could aim to add one mile [or 1.5km if you prefer] or ten minutes a week. This way you will start your plan with the benefit of having done some longer runs.”
If you’re a regular runner you’ll already be well conditioned to start a marathon training plan – you may even have taken on the distance in the past – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add some specific targets to your early training.
“The elite athletes I coach always start their marathon build-up in good 10K shape so I will often find a race for them to target before they start the specific marathon work,” says Vernon.
“Running a fast 10K will also boost your confidence and make marathon pace seem easy.”
Is there any particular type of running you should focus on before your training plan starts?
“Easy running is fine,” says Vernon. “The marathon is an endurance event and time on your feet is the biggest factor, so steady running and building up the duration of your runs are the most important things you can do at this stage.”
Races To Sign Up For To Prepare For The London Marathon
Another thing you can consider doing to get ready for the London Marathon is to sign up for a couple of shorter races. Running other races won’t be able to match the intense demands of a marathon, or the heightened atmosphere of the London Marathon in particular, but it will help you get used to running in a pack and the race-day experience – no-one believes how long the queues for toilets are before a running event until they witness it first-hand.
The best way to start is with a 5K run, and the best 5K runs to get involved with are parkruns. They’re free, weekly, very relaxed, and there will almost certainly be one pretty close to your home.
For a 10K it’s best to enter an event that takes place in early July. Our top pick for people who live in or around London is the Asics London 10K (opens in new tab), which takes place on Sunday 10th July. You get to run on closed roads in the centre of London – always a treat – and it will get you well acquainted with travelling to and enjoying a well-supported race in the capital.
The crucial preparatory race is a half marathon, which gives you the chance to practise your race-day routine and pacing, as well as getting a great idea of how your training is going and what time you might be able to target in the full marathon.
Coach’s 14-week training plans ask you to run a half on 21st August. Finding a race on that specific date might not be easy, though there is the Leeds Running Festival (opens in new tab) and Clacton Half Marathon (opens in new tab) in Essex, but there are a few great options in early September that can work. One is the Vitality Big Half on 4th September. It’s organised by London Marathon Events and follows some of the London Marathon route. Sign up for info on the event website to be notified when general entry opens.
A more low-key option would be to check out RunThrough’s extensive event list (opens in new tab). There are several half marathons available in August and September around the country that will help you prepare for the London Marathon.
Run Britain’s race listings (opens in new tab) are another great way to survey your options – but it’s worth deciding on your plan and booking your half marathon this week, or you may find your preferred race is sold out by the time you get around to entering.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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