You’ve got your training plan all mapped out. You know how far your runs should be in the build up to the marathon. You know that with a month to go you should be running up to 22 miles. Building up the hours in your legs is crucial to completing, and enjoying, the marathon, but what else can you add to your training to give it some variety?
Go somewhere new
Know all the local roads and parks? Seen them all a thousand times? Then change it up! Hop on the train or bus a few stops and find a new park or new roads to visit.
There are also several apps and websites which show routes other runners have taken. Map My Run is a popular one but there are others too:
Plot a route
Good run guide
Walk Jog Run
What else are you doing outsite of running? Are you going to the gym and doing squats, lunges, and planks?
Have you considered adding yoga or pilates to your training? Adding just one session a week will help your flexibility and core.
Yoga is good for building strength and flexibility in your hip flexors, core, quads and hamstrings. Just don’t expect to complete all the poses first time. It can take years to build up to that. Enjoy it for what it brings to your body and mind. Yoga poses intentionally use several muscle groups at a time so you’ll be working your whole body in a different way from during your training runs.
Tackle the hills
Running on a level is fun for a while, especially if you’re just starting out, but your body will soon adapt and you’ll plateau. Find some hills to vary your training. Greenwich Park has a good hill and don’t forget Shooters Hill.
Add sprints (aka fartlek runs or interval training)
Building your endurance isn’t just about running for long distances, adding sprints to your training will also help. A fartlek run (Swedish for “speed play”) is when you add fast sprints to a run. For example, after your warm up, choose an object in the distance, like a tree or lamp post, sprint to it, and then slow down to an easy jog until you’ve recovered. Then choose another object and repeat. You don’t have to choose objects or set distances, you could choose to sprint for a certain time, like 30 seconds.
Fartlek sprints can be as short or as long as you like. The main goal is to ensure you get your breath back and your heart has slowed down before you do the next sprint.
Including fartlek runs helps build your speed and strength, as it helps the body to adapt to a higher workload. Adding these to your training once or twice a week will change things up for your body and mind.
(By the way fartlek runs were invented by Swedish trainer Gosta Holmer in the 1930s.)