How to Run More Efficiently and Prepare for a Marathon

Jun 22 '18 | By RunaMuck

How to Run More Efficiently and Prepare for a Marathon

In the day and age of comfort and ‘instant everything’, it’s fair to say runners stand out from

the norm. Runners will lace up there shoes unperturbed by the rain or after a long day at

work and patiently put in months of training for their upcoming marathon. Runners often get

labeled as ‘crazy’ by non-runners, but that’s a compliment! Runners are a little different, but

in the best way possible as they choose to go out and push their boundaries.

When you begin running it might feel like the most unnatural thing ever, but after a while, you

forget all about it, things get easier, you get better and somehow you're suddenly looking up

marathons entries online. If you have a race coming up, or just want to get the most from

your running, then improving your running technique will help you remain injury free and

increase your efficiency. There are various schools of thought about correct running

technique such as Chi Running, Pose Method, Barefoot Running or whether you should

push off or pull your feet up to propel yourself. The best running technique is ultimately the

one that comes most naturally to you and keeps you injury free, but there are some

principles of good running technique you should aim to apply to your running.

Working on your running technique and stride takes time, but everyone has their own style -

so don’t worry about not looking exactly like an elite runner cruising through the final miles of

a marathon.

3 Core Principles of Good Running Technique

Run Tall

Imagine your head is being pulled up by a piece of string that’s keeping you tall. Doing this

stops you from hunching over, enables you to breathe better and helps you to open up your

stride more. When you’re running tall it’s easier to get your knees higher, increases your

cadence and helps you run faster which derives from having a more rangy stride. Once

you’ve mastered running tall and it feels natural, aim to incorporate a very slight forward lean

from the ankles (not the hips!) if you’re not already as this will lend itself to helping you run


Run Smooth

Imagine you’re balancing some books on your head as you run. This mental trick will help

you reduce your vertical oscillation and create a more efficient running style. Running with a

bouncy style wastes a lot of energy and is very hard on your knees. Imagine you’re gliding

over the ground or running on eggshells, this will help you to have a lighter landing (less

impact) and reduce ground contact time.

Foot Placement

Landing with your foot too far out in front of you and striking the ground with your heel as you

land is very hard on the body and will lead to injury at some point, it also acts as a braking

force and reduces your efficiency. It’s more efficient to have your foot land under your center

of mass. There’s a lot to be said about landing on the mid-foot for efficiency, but not

everyone is naturally a perfect mid-foot runner. Aiming to keep your foot under your center of

mass, just in front of your hips, as you land will naturally help reduce a heel strike and bring

you more onto your mid-foot.

Apply these 3 core principles to improve your running technique, make running feel easier

and to help you run quicker!

Training Tips

If you have a marathon coming up and have set yourself an ambitious time goal, then the

key to reaching it is by adding speed work once or twice a week into your training in the form

of a tempo run or interval training. These sessions will have you working hard, but there are

big benefits to be had from both!

Tempo Runs

A tempo run is where you run at a relatively hard pace consistently for 20 to 40 minutes at

around 88% to 90% of max heart rate, it’s all too easy to go out too fast though and need to

ease off the pace with this type of run! This will help you increase your lactate threshold, this

is the point where lactic acid accumulates in the muscles faster than it can be cleared. This

is when fatigue begins to set in, running becomes hard and is often accompanied by a

burning sensation if you’re really pushing it. Once you increase your lactate threshold you

will be able to run at harder paces for longer.

Interval Training

Interval Training is a demanding workout that will increase the amount of oxygen your body

can use during exercise. Intervals training usually consists of short distances up to 1

kilometer or 1 mile, these are run at close to max heart rate with a small break in between.

The exercise to break ratio should be done in a way that you don’t completely recover

between intervals, keep the recovery equal to or less than the duration of the interval. It’s

important to maintain intensity during the intervals to get the most benefit from the workout.

Long Runs

A marathon is a long way, so you’re going to need to increase the distance of how far you

can run in your training. This should be a gradual build up, pick one run per week that’s your

designated long run. As your training progresses it should be up to 30% of your total weekly

mileage, but build up to longer distances gradually and don’t shoot for 30% straight away.

For higher mileage runners the long run should be 25% of total weekly mileage or a

maximum duration of 2.5 hours, whichever comes first. This should be an easy effort where

you focus is on completing the distance at first - speed follows endurance. If you’re

competitive then this should be a slightly faster effort than your easy pace runs, but not run

at your race pace. This is also the time to practice your hydration and nutrition strategy for

the marathon, everyone is different so see what works for you. A good place to start is

drinking every 20 minutes and take a gel every 40 minutes.


The final piece of your training to focus in on is your nutrition, fast food doesn’t make a fast

runner! You don’t need to start prepping all your meals for the week, but you will need to

focus on a clean diet (80% of the time) with quality carbs, protein and fats. With marathon

training, you should aim to increase your carb intake as your training load increases so you

can recover well and have the energy to complete your runs feeling strong. This doesn’t

mean you need to eat huge bowls of pasta every night, but be mindful of your carbs intake

and overall calories as your training load increases. You don’t need to start counting calories

or measuring carbs, protein and fats in proportion to your body weight, simply listen to your

body as it will tell you everything you need to know. Feeling tired or sluggish? Eat a little

more. Gaining a little weight? Eat a little less. Marathon training is hungry work though and

as the miles increase you’ll always be ready to eat!

We hope you found these tips useful and begin to incorporate them into your running to help

you improve as a runner. Let us know how your training is going and which race your

training for in the comments below!

Written by Jonathan



Average_Jbob Original
Jun 22 '18
Good article. . .but I'm curious about why a maximum of 2.5 hours for your long run? I typically do 1 long run a week and I'm currently working to both increase my endurance AND build up my slow-twitch muscle fibers by keeping my heart rate in Zone 2 (while doing my long run). . .as I get out to 12+ miles I'm easily into 2.5 hours and I plan on extending out to 16 and 18+ in the next 4 - 6 months, but that will easily put me 3+ hours. What's the reasoning for saying your shouldn't exceed 2.5 hours?Good article. . .but I'm curious about why a maximum of 2.5 hours for your long run? I typically do 1 long run a week and I'm currently working to both increase my endurance AND build up my slow-twitc...See more
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