Sunday 19th May 2024

Five marathon training tricks for the over-40s



I will run my first marathon this October in Budapest, rather than London, which is where I work, or Brighton, my hometown.

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I opted for an October race because it means you get to train when it’s relatively warm, light and sunny. Even in Britain.

Those other marathons are in April, meaning you have to yomp repeatedly through Siberian drizzle on bleak evenings and gloomy mornings as the dreary fag end of January collapses into the dispiriting slump of February.

Ask my Mouthy Money colleague, Amy Rowe, whose battles with the weather in the weeks leading to this year’s Brighton Marathon I regarded with pure admiration.

I’m 40 and I’m riddled with injuries.

It would be fair to say that I, myself, am closer to the amber-hued October of life than its youthful, green April. So it’s crucial for me to be warm and for my ageing muscles to be toasty (although, as I think my video attests, you can never guarantee dryness in Britain).

I’m 40 and I’m riddled with injuries. Shall we go through them really quickly?

The worst one, the one that could stop me finishing the marathon even if I’m well-primed, is Iliotibial Band (ITB) syndrome – mostly in the left leg but sometimes in both. When I start to feel it tighten, it’s Game Over whether I’m two miles or 22 miles in.

I recently kicked a chair for NO REASON AT ALL.

I also have some kind of calf and Achilles issue in the right leg, which can cause pain throughout runs but has never actually stopped me. Both calves are also prone to middle-of-the night cramping (there are are few worse ways to be woken up), which often means I can’t run again for five or six days.

Finally, I have a propensity for inflicting injuries to myself utterly unnecessarily. I recently kicked a chair for NO REASON AT ALL. I wasn’t even angry. My right ankle is still swollen two months later.

Oh, and – let’s face it – someone who’s training for a marathon probably shouldn’t drink as much wine as I do.

All of this has meant I’ve had to be really disciplined about ensuring a routine of preparations when I run. Maybe you are near or past 40 or injury-prone so I hope, for you, this is more than just a listicle:

  1. Alcohol

Look, no-one’s going to get me to give up booze completely – the words “cold”, “dead” and “hands” are appropriate. Sometimes a drink is the best thing for the prevailing conditions. The alternative is sometimes far worse. But I am now MUCH more sensible about when and the amount. I have no problem running six miles, having seen off three or four glasses of wine the night before. But I will never drink before I intend to do a run over 10 miles. Alcohol dehydrates you and so does running. Doing both will seriously reduce the water available to your muscles, probably increasing the chance of injury. A hangover is also going to seriously hit your motivation levels. It affects everything from your digestion to your mental health in small but evil ways.

  1. Foam-rolling and other rolling things

I pretty much use these on my legs, particularly my ITBs, every day now. I also always make sure to do the connective tissues in my hamstrings, quads and glutes too.

  1. Massage

I’m lucky enough to be married to a qualified sports massage therapist and she’s kind enough to find the time to work on my legs two or three times a week. Like foam-rolling, it loosens the muscles and connective tissues and promotes blood flow. I appreciate that you’d have to pay for this (it’s about £30 per 30-minute session in most towns) but, if you can afford it, know a massage therapist or can persuade your partner to have a go, it’s definitely worth it.

  1. Weight training

That’s right, there’s more to running than, well, running. My days of meandering aimlessly around gyms once a month wondering what machine is going to turn me into Tom Daley are over. I now do a lot of leg work. Muscle mass falls by about 8% a decade once you’re 40 and mixing strengthening exercises into your running will help counteract that loss and prevent injuries.

  1. Stretching

This is a quick one. You need to obsess about stretching. But the golden piece of advice is: don’t stretch cold. Run for half a mile, then stretch, then run. And stretch when you get back from your run. There’s no harm in stretching a little bit when you’re cold, as long as you’re not going to run. So stretch at your desk at work. And on the stairs on the way up there. And in the shower in the morning. And on the train. And when you’re washing up. You get the idea.

My JustGiving page

Okay, this has nothing to do with being over 40 or injuries but I’m told my JustGiving page is moderately amusing. So you should read it! You could even sponsor me!

If you’ve found this useful, it’s also worth reading two other Mouthy Money posts that I will need to re-read:



Michael Taggart

Mouthy Blogger

Ex journo turned media agency founder and now managing director of MDTea. As likely to be found ranting about trains or his misspent youth as doing anything useful.

  1. Thanks Mikey, I enjoyed reading your article. I will consider adding weight training part of my running regime. Well done for your efforts in running for the marathon in October. Have you also added some uphill running?

    1. Hi Nandini. Good to hear from you. Yes, I’m doing all sorts of weird and wonderful variations of using my legs to get from one place to another.

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