Marathon preparation: basics & pro tricks for effective training
Training & nutrition for a marathon - these are the tricks you should know
Important preliminary considerations for successful marathon training
Hardly any other running discipline is as popular as the marathon. In the New York City Marathon alone, about 50,000 people start each year to complete the magical 42.195km. This shows the high regard in which the marathon is held around the globe.
Little wonder, then, that so many are toying with the idea of signing up for a marathon. Once you are enrolled, you should also prepare for it.
We want to help you optimize your preparation and adapt your nutrition to marathon training with tips from marathon record runner Peter Herzog and nutrition expert Robert Gorgos.
But before you start training, you need to think about a few things.
It is important to be aware of how much time you can/want to invest in training and what your current physical condition is. Are you already an experienced (hobby) runner and want to beat your best time, or do you have rather little running experience and want to reach the finish line with a smile?
If you belong to the first group, it most likely makes sense to work with a trainer. This way you can really get the best out of yourself.
If, on the other hand, the second scenario applies to you, you can achieve your big goal without a trainer. Of course, professional support from a trainer is also absolutely helpful here, just not absolutely necessary.
Preparation tips: This is how Peter Herzog plans his marathon training
Peter Herzog is with 2.10.06h the fastest man in Austria over the marathon distance. He has qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and uses for his preparation since 2021 our Ministry of Nutrition products.
Insights into his daily training routine he gave us in a webinar given us. And here you can read some of his approaches:
Optimize your foundation
Peter starts his targeted marathon preparation around 6 months before the starting gun in order to really create a stable foundation.
Basic training mainly consists of a lot of quiet endurance runs. Even if endurance runs do not feel particularly stressful, the impact load from running is still very high. As a result, the risk of injury is relatively high during this phase. Especially novice runners should keep this in mind.
For this reason, Peter Herzog gave us the tip to use alternative training methods more often in the first phase of marathon preparation. For example, a long bike or ski tour can be done instead of an endurance run.
If this is only partially feasible due to time constraints, the endurance runs can alternatively be completed on soft ground. Even if this pushes the pace down a bit, a soft surface is gentler on your joints. Besides, the unevenness of the ground strengthens the muscles.
In addition to endurance runs, intensive loads are also repeatedly incorporated into the basic training. Overall, then, training in the first phase can be described as polarized.
Polarized training means trying to train on both sides of the power spectrum. I.e. you train either very quietly or very intensively.
It has been shown several times that this form of training is especially beneficial at the beginning of a training cycle. You can also read more about basic endurance training HERE .
The right nutrition for marathon basic training
The diet should always be adapted to the training stimulus. The nutrition for an endurance run is different from that for an interval workout in order to achieve the best possible results.
Before the endurance run
…it is important to supply easily digestible and well-tolerated foods. For this purpose, not too many fats, fibers or proteins should be consumed.
A typical example of an appropriate breakfast before an endurance run is, for example: 100g of fine oatmeal with 300ml of warm almond milk, a handful of berries and a soft egg. This meal can be consumed about 2-2.5h before the run.
This breakfast provides a good mix of nutrient-rich and slowly available carbohydrates, as well as some protein.
If the training takes place in the afternoon, for example, 100g of basmati rice with steamed carrots and 40g of parmesan, or 100g of steamed fish with potatoes can be chosen as lunch.
During a casual endurance run
…in which the fat metabolism is to be trained, 30-40g of slowly available carbohydrates per hour should be supplied. If an endurance run of 90 minutes is completed, 60g of carbohydrates are thus optimally consumed.
You can find slowly available carbohydrates for example in our SLOW CARB.
The carbohydrate SLOW CARB contained carbohydrate source ISOMALTULOSIS passes slowly into the blood. So provides you SLOW CARB with long-lasting energy, which can favor the fat metabolism especially in the first half of training.
…it is important to refill the glycogen stores. You should also pay attention to a balanced macro- and micronutrient intake. Micronutrients are important because they contain abundant antioxidants. Antioxidants are, among other things, so-called protective substances from natural foods that help the body neutralize free radicals. Learn more about micronutrients HERE.
Free radicals are produced when the body enters a stressful situation (such as strenuous physical exertion). However, these substances are harmful, so they should be neutralized by natural protective substances.
A post endurance lunch might look like this: a carrot and apple salad with walnut oil (or other high quality oil), 2 sweet potatoes with vegetable curry, and a protein source (fish, poultry, egg, dairy, legumes).
Marathon specific training sessions
The penultimate, very strenuous phase starts for Peter Herzog in the three months before the marathon. This period builds on the work of basic optimization.
The focus is now on improving efficiency. So this training phase is used to work on the speed to be run on race day.
In this phase of marathon preparation, the carbohydrate requirement is somewhat higher than in the first phase. About 50-60g of carbohydrates should now be supplied per hour of training. A combination of fast- and slow-available carbohydrates is a good choice.
FAST CARB is our training drink that is ideal for intense workouts. The carbohydrates contained go quickly into the blood and are thus available to your organism after a short time. Due to the added, real RIMBERRY POWDER the FAST CARB also provides you with plenty of antioxidants.
An additional advantage of the natural ingredients in our products is that they are well tolerated by the stomach. This way you can consume high amounts of carbohydrates without getting problems.
How to put the finishing touches
The last part of the marathon preparation. If the desired speed was fine-tuned in the second training phase, it must now be consolidated. Training sessions at competition speed are suitable for this purpose.
Competition-specific training sessions usually involve long and intense sessions. It can happen with such loads that 20-25km are completed at competition pace.
It must be emphasized again that such high loads can only be handled if a proper training foundation is in place.
For special preparations at the desired pace, aim for a carbohydrate intake of 70-90g per hour. Here we use only fast available carbohydrates, such as those found in the POWER CARB can be found.
POWER CARB is our competition drink that allows you to easily consume up to 80g of carbohydrates per hour. The carbohydrates contained are quickly available and optimally tolerated. Even if POWER CARB is a competition drink, it makes sense that you use it for high-intensity workouts – also to be used to it during the competition.
Testing the competition food should not be underestimated in any case. No matter how well you’ve trained, if you never test your race nutrition, there can be nasty surprises in the marathon.
For this reason, Peter Herzog also advises everyone to include “training with the bottle” as a fixed point in the training plan, especially in the final preparation phase.
Even before drinking itself, walking with the bottle must also be trained. With the high level of exhaustion during the marathon, just grabbing and carrying the bottle can become a challenge.
The second step is to practice drinking. Drinking during a run is much harder than it sounds, so it should not be underestimated. It would be a shame to give away valuable time or energy because drinking was not practiced abundantly during training.
Train better thanks to optimized regeneration
The training stimuli in the final phase are very intense and drain physical and mental strength. For this reason, optimal regeneration is even more important than it already should be in your daily training routine.
In order to be able to process the training stimulus optimally and to regenerate as quickly as possible, it is especially important to use the so-called “open window” after intensive units.
The open window is the immediate phase (max. 1h) after training, in which the body is particularly receptive to the nutrients supplied.
With the regeneration meal it is important to pay attention to a good combination between carbohydrates and proteins. A shake is a practical solution.
Our RECOVERY SHAKE for example offers an optimal mixture of carbohydrates, proteins as well as further added amino acids. Through the combination of these nutrients and the added organic KAKAO, the shake helps you to optimize your regeneration.
For particularly intense sessions, after which you feel really “done”, we also recommend our RECOVERY 8 . This premium recovery shake contains, among other things, all eight essential amino acids that are necessary for growth, development and maintenance of healthy muscle cells.
Especially with high impact loads and high repair needs of the muscle cells works R8 again more specifically on a fast recovery. Both products can also be combined: in the first 5-10min after the run R8, 25-30min later then the Recovery Shake.
The right diet during the marathon
Now that you’ve trained diligently, it’s time to plan the catering for the big day.
The most important rule is not to let the glycogen stores run dry under any circumstances. If your glycogen stores become empty, every step becomes a torture.
There are three simple tips to avoid this.
Even before the starting gun, you can counteract a complete depletion of glycogen stores.
Emptying half-full glycogen stores is of course faster than bringing bulging stores to their knees. For this reason, it makes sense to fill the memories before starting.
How you do that best, we explain to you HERE.
2. use all the refreshment stations
The second basic rule is to really use all 8 aid stations for energy. (There is usually one station per 5km).
One mistake that is often observed is ignoring the first two aid stations. This is because the pace feels easy at the beginning of a marathon, so runners feel they don’t need energy.
This mistake does not go unpunished, however, because Peter Herzog speaks from experience here when he says: “In such a case, the man with the hammer comes from kilometer 30.”
If you reach for the bottle only after km 15 or km 20, this is no longer sufficient to fill the glycogen stores again. After all, you continue to consume high amounts of energy. You can’t make up the energy deficit now.
3. pay attention to the right amount of energy
In addition, attention must be paid to which and how many carbohydrates are supplied.
Optimally, 80g of carbohydrates per hour are consumed in the course of a marathon. These carbohydrates must be quickly available and immediately ready for the body.
Try not to change the carbohydrate mixture, stick to one drink.
Different beverages have different mixtures of carbohydrates with different rates of absorption. With a targeted intake of 80-90g per hour, you should not experiment in this regard, otherwise it can easily cause digestive problems.
As we have already in the webinar using the example of Peter Herzog have seen, however, these 80-90g/h are necessary to create best performances. So plan your energy intake well – and test it already in training.
We wish you much success!
 A. Jeukendrup, M. Gleeson; Sport Nutrition,Third Edition.