How to train safely for your first marathon

The London Marathon has the greatest effect on people- during the build up and after the event people are inspired to take up running, whether this be an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill at the gym or attempt a run outside.
This also means that I see a lot more people with simple running injuries where people are not prepared for their first run in 10 years or are not stretching effectively after their first run in 10 years!
Like any exercise we need to prepare the body for what it is going to do. We should be warming up properly. I suggest a minimum of 10minutes; start with walking and then into a very light jog. Then stop and mobilise everything from the neck, shoulders down to the hips, knees and ankles. The big muscles used in running are the glutes (bum muscles) quadriceps (front of thigh) hamstrings (back of thigh) and calfs (bottom of leg) so stretching these out for 10-15 seconds will help. Then back up to walk, light jog, jog and then up to your running pace.
Lets not get demoralised if after ten minutes you need to walk- it will take time for the body to adapt to breathing and running at the same time so break down your run into smaller intervals. For the complete starter a run for 4-5minutes then walk for 1 minutes repeated is excellent way of building up your running stamina. For the intermediates longer run phases with a walk. As your fitness increases so do your run periods- up to 8-15minutes per run with a walk. Eventually you can remove the walk phase and run.
The interval system is a great way for already established runners to increase their minute per mile pace. Set yourself targets per mile for instance
Mile 1 9 minute mile
Mile 2 7 minute mile repeated.
Just for the record to match the World Record Time you will need to average 4.8minute miles for 26 miles!
The important part of running is the cooldown and stretch at the end- I suggest this should take around 15minutes. From your run pace drop the speed down to a jog pace and hold that pace for 4 minutes, then drop down to a brisk walk and again hold. Keep lowering your speed until you are at a slow walk. Now start the stretches- the same as you did at the beginning during your warm up but this time you will be taking the stretch deeper and holding for longer. Even repeating the set of stretches to really feel the benefits. Release the lower and upper back along with the chest too. These have all been working during your run.
By following these simple rules you should not only stop the aches and pains the next days but enjoy the running you are doing. It takes 20.8 days for the body to take a new activity and turn it into a habit so the beginning will be the toughest part but stick with it and enjoy!

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