Marathon Warm Up Advice

Written by Lee Murrin

A Marathon is one of the biggest physical tests you can give yourself.
When thinking about the challenge of finishing, obviously you want to conserve as much energy as possible for the big 26.2 miles, but dedicating just a little time warming up is vital for a great race and injury prevention.

Many runners may still think that running and increasing your speed as the race goes on is the best warm-up strategy, but take yourself through these moves and you will feel a big difference right from the start.

All the exercises below are easy to do with your own body weight, in less than 10 minutes.
The result will be a more comfortable running experience, fewer injuries and greater performance, really maximising all the miles of training.
It may even leave you with a new PB, running through the wall rather than struggling on those last few miles.

Pre – race day

The real preparation starts before race day.
What you do in the lead up to the race is key, you must consistently do pre/post run mobility and flexibility, add in recovery runs and contrasting activity to avoid repetitive wear and tear.

Foam rolling and the occasional sports massage will help massively with your
regeneration and recovery between runs and gym work.

If you don’t include these already, I highly recommend you start adding this into the training routine.

If you haven’t and you’re reading this on race day, don’t worry my tips will still be very useful.

The day of the big race

There are many methods for the marathon warm up, some runners are very particular about the routine they do before a race.
Here are a few of my favourites that have made a difference for me and clients I have worked with.

Foot release
You may have heard the term self – myofascial release (SMR).
Using your own body weight to roll on a foam roll or ball you can self-create the massage effect, massaging away restrictions impacting normal soft-tissue movement.
In the hotel or at home add the foot release into the race day preparation.

Neglected by many experienced runners, yet a hugely beneficial pre-run movement it’s a release of the plantar fascia tissue on the sole of the foot which in turn releases fascia and muscle through the knee and into the hips and lower back.

Roll a hard trigger point, hockey, or golf ball along the sole of your foot.
2 minutes each foot

Start with a brisk walk to the course or around the start area, opening out your stride, warming the legs and focussing the mind on the challenge.

I could have chosen many dynamic mobility warm-up exercises, but I have chosen these considering you may not have much space.

Find yourself an area near the start and power through them.

Ankle Circles – those ankles are in for a pounding so get the fluid moving in the joints and loosen them up, don’t worry about set reps just make plenty of circles with the ankle in both directions, seated or standing.
This can also save you injury if you land on a discarded water bottle during the race, it may sound silly but twisted ankles from this are very common, be careful where you step.

Get Dynamic
Dynamic stretching involves a controlled, swinging motion or replicating movements you are about to do in your sport or training.
The moves will take a body part, joint and muscle past its usual range of movement preparing you for the physical exertion ahead.
The force of the movement or swing is gradually increased, keeping control.

Many runners will be taking themselves through static stretches which is fine, short isolated static stretches can also be very helpful for loosening before you start, find what works for you.

Keep the goal of the warm-up clear; it is to help you improve running performance and reduce the risk of injury during the long distance race. It is not the time to develop flexibility.

It’s not just the legs that need preparation, the hips and spine bear a massive load as you are gliding along at 5:30-mile pace.
The additional bodyweight and force going through the skeleton is huge, give your spine a little love and attention pre and post race with these moves.

Take yourself through this dynamic warm-up drill, alternate legs, build on the movements gradually.

10 reps of each exercise and move through the whole set for 3-5 minutes.

This is also an excellent drill to get the heart rate up and get the blood moving.

Hip opener
A Very straight forward move, stand tall and one leg at a time, lift the leg and take out and away.

Lunge stride and reach.
Feel a stretch through the hip of the back leg and torso.
Fantastic dynamic stretch for the hips.

Plank position knee drives.
Brace the core and drive your knees towards the chest.

Cross body knee drives.
Brace the core and drive your knees towards the opposite elbow.

Dynamic leg tucks/pigeon stretch.
Alternate legs, tucking underneath the body stretching through the hips glutes, and lower back.

Plank position, long leg taps to side.
Hold a strong core keep the leg long and draw away tapping to your side.

Dynamic Hamstring stretch. Use something to support then build up gradual leg swings, a super hamstring stretch!

Hold your body in a strong position, as if to begin press ups.
Knee to elbow, warming up and releasing hips.

The moves in this short warm up are also ideal if you don’t have much space, or at home before running on a cold winter’s day, it’s an excellent leg warming, pulse-raising drill.

It’s all connected
Because of the origins and insertions of the muscles and connective tissue, it’s important to take a whole body approach to your marathon warm up.
Dynamic mobility is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving a runner’s performance and avoiding annoying running injuries.

Run it out
To get the engines fired up I would recommend a steady pace half mile to a mile jogging warm up, not necessarily A to B but accumulative in shuttles.

The pace to do this needs to be fairly slow, about 2 minutes slower than marathon pace, something to get the legs moving and the blood flowing.
After this stride out with some short accelerations to get the heart rate elevated and give the legs a feel for what “race pace” will feel like.

At this point, your physical body is prepared for the marathon, but mindset is another important part of today’s preparation.
Take a moment, take some deep breaths and prepare, visualise your success, collect your thoughts on the great occasion you are experiencing, be calm and focused.

You’re prepared and warmed up, you will feel great from the start, you didn’t neglect the warm up so you won’t be starting like a slug.

Raring to go
Once the marathon starts unless you’re in the elite group a relatively slow opening pace will provide more opportunity to ease into things, do your best not to let the adrenaline and excitement take over.
With the marathon distance, there will be plenty of time to build up to your race pace.

Good luck, I admire your efforts and the challenge you have set yourself, do yourself a favour spend a little time to go through these, your body will thank you for it.
Long distance running and the training involved is incredibly gruelling for the body.
Enjoy the atmosphere, be proud of your achievements.

About the author
Lee Murrin
The Personal Trainer and Worldwide Traveller behind Fitness World Explorer.
He has worked in his passion as a Personal Trainer and coach for 16 years.

His travels have taken him worldwide to 78 different countries on many adventures.

He loves running, but only in the great outdoors!
[email protected]