If you're new to running, read on to find out how you can make your training for the Virgin Money London Marathon go as smoothly as possible.
Before you begin your training for the big day, we recommend you pay your doctor a visit for a once over. They will be able to offer advice tailored to you, taking your medical history into account. Although we'd advise all runners to get a medical check, if you're a smoker, ex-smoker, are overweight or have a history of heart disease in your family, it's particularly important.
Once your doctor's given you the go ahead, it's important not to overdo things and train too hard, too fast in the first few days. Jumping straight into a rigorous routine is a common cause of injuries and sore muscles – it's far better to go for a few walks and gentle jogs first.
If you do feel any twinges, find out more about common injuries and how to beat them.
A great starting point is to spend 30 minutes walking or jogging, four times a week. When you feel comfortable with this, start setting yourself distances or times as goals to work towards – for example, running for a mile without stopping, or running at the same pace for 20 minutes. Once you've done four to eight weeks of steady running, you're ready to start our beginner's training plan.
From a gentle start, your training routine will begin to develop at a natural, healthy pace. If you're finding it hard to train alone, consider teaming up with other runners in your area, you'll also benefit from added support and motivation to keep your training on track – even on cold mornings and dark winter evenings!
Set a Goal
One of the most effective ways to ensure you improve as a runner is to set goals and targets to work towards. Goals will get you up in the morning, keep you motivated and help you to succeed by giving purpose and meaning to your training programme.
Keep it real
Your goals need to be challenging but they should also be achievable. Setting unattainable goals means you're more likely to fall at the first hurdle, leaving you feeling thoroughly fed up. Take it step by step and, with a little time and patience, you'll start to make noticeable progress.
Setting detailed goals means you'll know how much you need to do to reach them, and you'll get a great sense of achievement when you do. If you're running the Virgin Money London Marathon in aid of a good cause, for example, decide the minimum amount of money you want to raise. If you're doing it to get in shape, decide how much weight you'd like to lose. If you're trying to better a past performance, set yourself a time goal for the race.
If your main goal is a long way off, try setting smaller, short-term goals along the way. If completing the Virgin Money London Marathon is your ultimate dream, don't make it the first race you run. Compete in shorter, local running events every few months to keep your training on track and monitor your progress.
Write home about it
Write your goals down and post them up all over the house. Putting them on paper will set them in stone – they'll always be in the back of your mind, keeping you focused on why it's so important to stick to your programme.
Don't be too strict with yourself if you don't see immediate results. It's healthy to take days off here and there from your training and allow yourself the odd treat. Why not use a day's rest as a reward for meeting your targets, building it into your programme from the start? Remember, the Virgin Money London Marathon can be as much about having fun as about working hard to achieve your goals.