How to prepare for a marathon

We spoke with elite triathlete, Scott Cadby, about his preparation for his first ever marathon. He’s given us some tips about staying motivated, preparing for a race, and recovering well. After reading, you might just be inspired to set your own running goals for 2022 and beyond!

 

A triathlete, first and foremost

Scott competed in his first triathlon at the age of 13, blitzing the competition (despite it being an U17 event) and inspiring an enduring love of the sport. After being tapped on the shoulder as a potential Olympic cyclist, he spent years focusing solely on cycling.

“It was only about four years ago that I decided to return to the sport of triathlon and I’m so glad I did,” Scott said. Since, then, he’s completed every 2XU triathlon in Melbourne – that’s six races each summer.

Last year, he set his sights on completing his first marathon, a goal that’s been on his bucket list since the late 1990s. His preparation was made slightly more challenging by the postponement of the event from October to December – in other words, right in the middle of triathlon season! Scott has been juggling training for both, but the marathon remained his top priority.

If you also have a marathon on your bucket list, Scott has some key advice.

First, find your motivation

Scott says this year has been particularly tough to build a routine for those impacted by lockdowns. If you’re struggling to find the motivation to get active again, there are a few things that might help:

  • Build a daily routine. “Try and find time in your schedule and stick to that. Starting a daily routine is challenging but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.”
  • Think about the outcomes. “Before [a training session], if motivation is low, think about how amazing you will feel once you’re done.”
  • Find a friend: Scott suggests making a pact with a friend and keeping each other accountable. “Exercising with others is also a great way to catch up and socialise, meaning that the time passes quicker and the overall experience is more enjoyable.” 
  • Sign up for an event: “This is a great way to stay motivated because you have a ‘finish line’ to strive towards.”

How to avoid injury

We asked Scott how he avoids injury when he’s preparing for an event, and whether marathon training has been harder on his body because it’s focused on one sport only.

“Without doubt running puts a lot of strain on the body,” he says. To avoid injury, he suggests:

  • Start slow, small and steady. Start by alternating periods of jogging with walking, and don’t increase your distance or intensity by more than 10% each week.
  • Warm up, cool down, and recover. Take sufficient time to stretch and recover, using RE3 compression packs for any muscle soreness or niggles.
  • Listen to your body. Don’t train through pain or assume you can run at the pace or intensity you used to if you’ve had a break.
  • Train consistently. Scott suggests finding and sticking to a specific marathon training plan, and allowing at least 16–20 weeks to prepare. You can find a plan online or ask a friend who’s previously run a marathon.
  • Consider cross training. While it’s been difficult to find time for both triathlon and marathon preparation, Scott says his swimming and cycling training have proved helpful. “They have been great 'cross-training' options especially when my legs were too tired or sore to run.”

The best approach for first-time marathoners

“The best advice I could give those who want to train for their first marathon is to start slow, small and steady and build from there.” Scott suggests that new runners start by alternating jogging and walking, and building to a consistent jog of 2km, then 5km, then 10km and so on.

“The more physically prepared you are, the better you will do and the more fun you will have doing it.”

It will be hard when you start

“Running is hard when everyone first starts, but the more you do it, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes,” he says.

If you’ve previously run regularly, it can be tempting to try to run at your previous pace or distance straight away. Scott cautions against this approach. 

“When I returned to running four years ago I attempted to run just as far and fast as I did previously,” he says. But he ended up injuring himself, developing tendonitis in both Achilles for 6-9 months. “I foolishly trained through this pain even though I struggled to walk at times, especially first thing in the morning. The best thing to do is listen to your body and back off if you have any pain or discomfort.”

Take time to recover

This brings us to Scott’s next point. “On top of this it's then important to do a good warm-up beforehand and cool down afterwards, along with stretching. Throughout this current marathon preparation, I have had some minor knee and Achilles pain from time to time and have used the RE3 Compression packs to manage that.”

What you put in is what you get out

Scott admits that despite being an elite triathlete, the marathon distance has previously intimidated him. “This will be my first marathon and to make it as easy as possible I have been really committed to training properly for it. I have gradually built up the distance both for single and weekly run distances and made good recovery a priority. My motto in life is 'what you put in is what you get out' – as such I feel ready!


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