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By Louise Drysdale, Physiotherapist

It is that time of the year again. That time when “Are you doing Gold Coast?” is frequently heard at Brisbane café tables between 6.30 and 7.30am.

As of this week, you have up to 16 weeks to prepare. Race day is July 7. So that means starting training, well, pretty much now!

Footwear is important but a new pair of shoes the week before won’t get you a PB. This is one area where ballet and running overlap. It’s always best to have two to three pairs of shoes on the go at any one time if you’re covering marathon training distances. Work out how “new- feeling” you like your shoes to race in so you have a pair worn in just the right amount for race day.

Use the tech: Garmin, Apple, Strava, Map My Run and a piece of paper… whatever! Track your weekly kms. If you increase your weekly kms by more than 15%, your chances of injury are higher. So if you do 5km, 10km and 18km this week, that’s 32km. Next week, you can spread another 4km over those runs pretty safely, but if you add more (and keep pushing the limit for a few weeks) then you will likely get hurt.

Training will depend largely on previous running experience and your goal for the race. Here is what I suggest: at least 4 sessions, one long run (this will be up to 35km as you build up to it so choose a day you have the most time for this run to schedule in). Then a moderate run (somewhere between 14 and 20km) mid- week between the long runs. Add a speed session (30 to 45 mins) and a shorter recovery run (the distance of this run will vary depending on your total volume for the week). Most importantly, you NEED A REST DAY to stretch, walk, do yoga or easy Pilates. The other two days can be cross training of some description (strength, swimming, badminton, whatever). Please have a good look at the training plans on the Gold Coast Marathon Website. They are devised by a very experienced running coach and progress in a sensible manner. Don’t be misled into thinking adding extra kms here and there earlier will get you further. It will just hurt you.

Can’t run for training 4 days a week? Leave out the short recovery run and go for extra cross training. This might include deep water running or swimming, cycling, rowing etc. Honestly, though, if running 4 days a week is a struggle, perhaps you should be looking at the 21.1km or 10km events. Once you complete those, you will be sufficiently addicted and nothing else will come before running.

It will hurt. It’s not an extremely natural thing to do, run 42.2km. Think about booking regular massages or physio sessions to keep you moving well. If you are trying to get through training taking pain medication because something is persistently sore, then you need to see a health professional. Chances are you aren’t going for the prize money (if you are going for the prize money, I suggest you stop reading now and get yourself a personal coach), so it isn’t worth causing your body extreme pain.

Do I need to do weights and strength training? It won’t hurt you to add 1-2 short sessions of strength training to your routine, but when your volume of running gets high (you know, those weeks you clock 70km in June), tone it back. Same with the speed work. When you are doing really long runs, tone these back so you can recover. Recovery is important. Strength work should have happened in the air- conditioned gym in Summer or in these first two months of training.

Hydration is important. The weather gets cooler the further you get towards the race day (thankfully), but you still need to be hydrating during and outside of training. You WILL need electrolyte/ energy supplements during your race and maybe after training on some days, so try a few options during training. Plain water does still go a long way. Start working on hydrating well when you aren’t training …  you know – sitting at your desk at work and the evening before your running training – so you are hydrated before you train.

Nutrition. Any dietitian will tell you to rehearse your nutrition strategies before race day. If you aren’t sure how to tame the hungry marathon beast and end up with hot chips and aioli with a beer at the pub on Sunday after every long run, you need to see one. No musculature tissue will work to peak capacity if you don’t fuel it well.

Sleep. This might seem obvious, but it’s one of the hardest things to manage well as an aspiring marathon runner juggling full time work, family, musical rehearsal, social life etc. You need 8 hours each night. This is consistent for athletes across the spectrum. Even if you need to get up at 4am to fit in a 28km run before work one day.

Decide when to pull out. If you do sustain an injury, it’s ok to pull-out. It happens a lot (even to physiotherapists!). You might still be able to run the half marathon or the 10km Gold Coast. Allow for this. They also let you transfer your entry to another person (but please transfer to someone who is race-ready!). The Brisbane Marathon Festival and Sunshine Coast Marathon are two other events that happen after Gold Coast Marathon, so consider these as back- ups. Melbourne Marathon is later in the year again. Chat to your physio about setting a new goal as they will have the best understanding as to how long something will take to “heal” and for you to get back on track.

**Disclaimer: Louise has raced in 11 half marathons from Melbourne to Penang. She has fully trained for a marathon with her run squad on several occasions. She has never competed in an official marathon race though, due to musical theater performance/ audition clashes with race day. Her favorite gels are raspberry flavor.

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