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Marathon and Half Marathon: A Training Guide - Second Edition

Marathon and Half Marathon: A Training Guide - Second Edition

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Marathon and Half Marathon: A Training Guide - Second Edition

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Oct 31, 2014


The popularity of the marathon and half marathon continues unabated. Up and down the country people are signing up in their thousands, many to raise money for their favourite charity, others simply as a means of getting fit. Whatever the motive, these are testing endurance events requiring serious preparation. Now in its second edition, Marathon and Half Marathon - A Training Guide is essential reading for anyone intending to enter a half or full marathon. Written by a highly experienced personal trainer who has helped hundreds of runners achieve their own personal goal, this acclaimed and best-selling book has everything you need, from advice on what to wear to staying fit during those long training sessions. This fully updated and revised edition features: New 'pre-hab' and core stability exercises to help prevent injury; the latest science on how, when and why to stretch; expert advice on how to use your time to train most effectively; a series of programmes aimed at beginner, intermediate and advanced runners and finally, inspirational real-life stories from runners. A fully updated second edition of this best-selling and highly acclaimed book, aimed at novices entering a full or half marathon for the first time in aid of their favourite charity and also aimed at the more experienced runners looking to improve their times. Fully illustrated with 126 colour images and diagrams.
Oct 31, 2014

Sobre el autor

Graeme Hilditch has been a personal trainer for over 12 years. He has written over 30 race-training guides for leading UK charities and is the author of the bestselling Marathon and Half Marathon, published by Crowood.

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Marathon and Half Marathon - Graeme Hilditch



When I first wrote the introduction to this book back in 2005, never in my wildest dreams did I think that eight years later I’d be given the opportunity to write it again for the second edition.

In the seven years since its publication, The Marathon and Half Marathon: A Training Guide has sold over 16,000 copies, received more than sixty five-star reviews on Amazon and become one of the bestselling marathon training books in the UK.

For most runners, it’s all about enjoyment.

Runners of all abilities and backgrounds, from TV celebrities to first-time charity runners, have used the first edition of this book to help them achieve what I believe is one of the greatest challenges a runner can undertake. In this second edition, I hope to continue to help any runner who wishes to take on a half or full marathon and make what may initially seem like an insurmountable challenge become a realistic and unforgettable achievement.

A typically poignant scene at the end of a marathon.

As an author of six titles, it’s never easy to know what makes a book of this kind so attractive to the reader, but after dozens of emails and even handwritten letters of praise for the book, it seems that it was the simplicity and realistic advice which the overwhelming majority of readers enjoyed about the first edition.

As a Personal Trainer who has spent over a decade helping to train people for endurance events, my focus for every client has always been the same – maximize the enjoyment of training by keeping its structure simple and realistic.

It’s the interpretation of the word ‘enjoyment’, however, that often gets lost with some runners whose life revolves around running. Not that there’s anything wrong with dedicating your entire life to running and taking it extremely seriously – long distance running after all is a serious undertaking which requires a great deal of dedication and discipline. However, extolling the virtues and personal values of your running onto other less naturally gifted runners who are training for very different reasons than yourself, I think is often unwelcomed and largely unnecessary.

To many people reading this book, the ‘enjoyment’ of running can be achieved by heading out on a scenic run on a sunny day with a spine-tingling playlist on their iPod. To others, ‘enjoyment’ comes from a punishing interval training session which leaves their lungs on fire and legs like jelly. Whichever camp you fall into doesn’t matter; the fact that you enjoy your training, however, most certainly does.

Running is very individual and very personal and you should stick to the values and training methods which you find effective – but above all enjoyable. We all have different reasons for choosing to train for marathons and half marathons – everyone has different goals in mind – and it’s vital that you never lose sight of why you decided to undertake this challenge and you are not swayed to train in a way which you don’t find enjoyable.

So, with simplicity and realistic practical advice remaining the fundamental premise of the book, what will this second edition tell you that the first edition didn’t?

As science and training methodology have evolved, I felt this second edition needed to be brought up to date with the latest research and progress in the areas of injury prevention, conditioning and of course technological running gadgetry. Perhaps the most significant addition is a new chapter called ‘Pre-Hab – Prevention is Better than Cure’. If you are concerned about picking up injuries and want to know how to avoid doing so, this chapter is definitely for you. An updated and revised chapter on stretching and core conditioning will also be of interest to help you prepare for the rigours of long distance running.

I hope you enjoy this new and improved edition of The Marathon and Half Marathon: A Training Guide and I wish you the very best of luck with your training and your upcoming race.

Remember, enjoyment of training is the most important part of your preparations. Enjoy your training and the race will take care of itself.




Get a Check-Up

In the 2005 Flora London Marathon a fit man of twenty-eight crossed the finishing line in just over four hours. He tragically died three hours later after suffering a brain haemorrhage. He was taken ill after the race and passed away while on the way to hospital. For weeks he had been complaining of headaches after his training sessions, but had shrugged off the symptoms as tiredness and dehydration. It is possible that, had he had a medical check-up, his symptoms would have been picked up by his GP and treatment could have saved his life.

Events like this are of course rare, but they do happen every year. Although it may be an obvious statement to include in any training guide, it is advisable to visit your GP and have a check-up before you begin training. It may seem like an unnecessary precaution, especially if you are not new to running, but the death of this fit young athlete illustrates that problems can occur during endurance events. Even the most minor of symptoms is worth getting checked out. Although a check-up by your GP may not uncover all underlying health problems, it will certainly put your mind at rest that he/she is happy for you to begin a training regime. It is also worth mentioning to your doctor if any of your family members have died or suffered ill health from any form of cardiac illness.

Get a check-up before you start training.

We Are Unique

During my career as a personal trainer, I have trained many people for both the marathon and half marathon, all with varied running ability and experience. Along with blisters, muscle niggles and the occasional expletive, all the runners have one thing in common. Every person I have trained for an endurance event has, at one time or another, posed a question like: ‘My friend who has runloads of marathons told me that there was no need for this type of training’, or ‘I read in a magazine that what you are telling me is wrong’.

Although every question is different, often I have very little room for argument; not through lack of knowledge but simply because endurance training is not an exact science. Certain physiological principles are the same for all of us, such as that running too fast too soon will lead to premature fatigue, and a low supply of carbohydrate will greatly hinder performance, but when it comes to training everyone is different. Due to our individuality, it is nearly impossible to apply a ‘one rule fits all’ philosophy to running practices, nutrition or even injury.

Every year runners are bombarded with statements like: ‘You only need to do one long run before the race’ and ‘These are the best trainers for marathons’. This causes some to completely change their training schedules halfway through, all because a friend suggested doing it differently. The importance of training and eating to meet your own individual requirements is a point that will be reiterated throughout this book, and used as a constant reminder that just because someone else is running 100 miles a week or eating 4lb of pasta a day, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should too. You can read all the running and nutrition guides in the world, but to run well you need to listen to your body and do what suits you!

Throughout the book, all the major nutritional and training processes that your body will encounter throughout your preparation will be explained. In the following chapters you will learn how your body is able to adapt to withstanding over three hours of running, how energy is supplied to fuel your training and what may cause your performance to deteriorate. So, even if you decide to seek additional advice, this book will provide you with the knowledge to decide if it is advice worth following.

You need to listen to your body.

Which Event?

Every year there are over 800 organized marathons run all over the world, with nearly 400 in the USA alone. The number of half marathons is far greater. Wherever you live, there will be a number of half and full marathons nearby that you can enter, but most people have their eye on the major events. Almost without question, the two greatest marathons run annually are the London Marathon, usually held towards the end of April, and the New York Marathon held at the beginning of November. As for half marathons, in the UK by far the most popular is the Great North run held in Gateshead in September/October, and in America the ‘Rock and Roll’ half marathon in Virginia regularly attracts 20,000 runners to run the 13.1-mile (21km) course.

At this stage, you may or may not know which race you want to train for. For some people, the idea of training for the full 26.2 miles is too daunting; for others it offers the ultimate challenge. Many people new to running first decide (sensibly) to see how they get on with the half marathon and then make the decision whether to go for the full distance. Whichever race or event you decide to compete in, big or small, it is vital that you apply for the race as soon as possible, know when the race is run, what the weather is like at that time of the year, and most importantly allow plenty of time for your training.

It is important that you enjoy the training and, above all, enjoy the experience. For example, the London Marathon is always in April, and therefore the majority of the training will need to be done in the British winter.


This may be ideal for some runners as it is extremely unlikely that any long training runs will take place in oppressive heat. However, on the other side of the coin the prospect of training in snow blizzards, 50mph gales and in light that vanishes at 4pm can be a little difficult to come to terms with. These factors should not put you off, but it is important that you think about which conditions and therefore which event is going to suit you the best.

The author with BBC newsreader, Sophie Raworth, at the Royal Parks Half Marathon.

There are plenty of opportunities to compete in other races, so do not feel pressured to push yourself unnecessarily. A number of websites listed at the back of this book offer great advice and details of events in and around your locality. Information such as course profile, quality of organization and facilities as well as the number of runners is given, so you can make your own mind up as to which race you’d like to run in.

Choose a Charity

Depending on the event you decide to enter, securing a place can be very difficult. The London Marathon, New York Marathon and the Great North Run are just some examples where the demand for places is so great that many people are disappointed. In these cases, the only way to guarantee admission is through one of the many charities that purchase places through the event organizers.

The number of places each charity has to offer generally depends on the size of the individual charity, but they vary from half a dozen to several hundred. Most people have a charity that they feel strongly about, so to make the hard work more worthwhile it is best if you approach your favourite and enquire about a place for the event you are interested in. In return for guaranteed entry, you effectively commit yourself to raising a certain amount of money set by the charity. This amount is usually in the region of £1,500 for marathons and slightly less for half marathons. All charities give you a generous amount of time to raise the funds, so there is no need to panic about letting your charity down.

For the lucky few, the larger events such as London and New York offer a number of places via a ballot. You can apply for these ballot places by registering with the organizers, and then all you can do is hope for the best. If you are lucky enough to be selected, you are guaranteed entry and are not required to raise any money for charity – an option most ballot runners do not opt for.

Running in an endurance event provides you with the perfect opportunity to raise valuable funds for charity. You will be pleasantly surprised at the generosity of family, friends and strangers when you ask for sponsorship. Everyone is aware of the commitment and effort you are putting into your training, so most people are happy to donate money to the cause.

For the smaller, less popular events entry is easier. Generally, the format is that you pay an admission fee and are offered a place. As with ballot places, there is no specific requirement for you to raise any money for charity but it is certainly worthwhile asking friends and family for a contribution.

Although a large proportion of media coverage is given to the élite runners, it is the charity runners who make the marathon what it is. Millions of pounds are raised at every major event for a range of charities all over the world, helping to raise awareness of the plight of others suffering from terminal or incurable diseases. All charity runners have a story to tell about the reasons behind their quest to finish a race, which they never imagined possible.

Most people choose a charity that’s close to their hearts.


The marathon and half marathon inspire people to overcome adversity and help to commemorate the lives of friends and family afflicted with illness. The following stories were kindly donated by the people telling them, in the hope that their experience will help to inspire others to take up running and raise money for a worthwhile cause.

Felicity and Mark, London Marathon

In the closing stages of the 2006 London Marathon, Mark and Felicity joined hands and crossed the line together in memory of their brother James, who lost his battle against leukaemia on the same day as the 2002 London Marathon. He was just thirty-seven. This is Felicity’s account of her motivation for running a distance she never imagined possible.

‘Mark and I wanted to run the marathon together and chose Children with Leukaemia as our charity, as James loved children (his little girl Seren was only 14 months old when he died).

The support I got from my family during the whole training programme and on the day of the run itself was incredible. When James was ill we were a remarkably strong family unit – his death devastated us all, but I feel I was able to cope with my grief through the huge depth of love we all felt for him and for each other. That love also kept me going during all the very hard training. I was also able to focus my thoughts on James while I was running and I found that both comforting and inspiring.

I spent a lot of time wondering what he would have thought of his brother and

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