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Training Tips

The heat, the route, the kit, the hydration

Get Marathon ready: the training plans.

It might feel like a big leap of faith putting yourself forward for a 26.2 mile run in an unknown country but we'll be with you every step of the way. To help you prepare for your challenge, elite athlete and personal trainer Kerry Sutton has prepared 12 and 20 week plans and a 6 month plan, for you to ensure you're marathon ready in time for race day.

If you would like further advice, visit www.kerrysutton.co.uk to contact Kerry directly. 

How to train for the heat.

One of the biggest factors that makes the Sierra Leone Marathon such a challenge is the heat. With Sierra Leone easily reaching 30 degrees celsius in May  with humidity of 90%, this can be difficult to imagine and prepare for on your grey and rainy morning run in the UK. However, we’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help you get ready for the tropical climate.

Layer up

You can trick your body into thinking you’re running in warmer conditions by wearing layers of clothes during your runs. This gets you used to running while being warmer and sweating more than usual. If you want to go the extra mile- add a bin bag on top!

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Should you be lucky enough to have access to a sauna- quite a few gyms have them- there are studies that show that spending time in a Sauna after a workout can help with heat acclimatization. This tricks your body into thinking you exercised in the heat because it keeps your body heat raised for longer after your workout ends.

Hot Yoga

This has a similar premise to Sauna training- spending an hour three times a week in a hot and humid yoga studio, for 1-2 weeks before the marathon, can help your body adapt and prepare for exercise in those conditions


Make sure that the week before the race you remain hydrated and especially when you arrive in Sierra Leone. The hot damp air will mean the body can't sweat efficiently and so you'll need to pay a lot of attention to drinking water before, after and during the race and preparing as best you can.

Important kit information for race day

  • Running shorts are definitely best for race day. This is also for women as well, despite Sierra Leone being a predominantly Muslim country, shorts are totally acceptable for the race.

  • You will be given your official Sierra Leone Marathon 2019 running vest when you arrive in country!

  • Normal road running shoes are completely fine for this route. Although the terrain is varied you don’t need to have trail shoes, but if you would like to wear them you can. If your shoes are normally very snug, consider shoes half a size bigger, as there is a possibility of feet swelling either during the race or the days before if walking distances in the heat.

  • A lightweight running hat is advisable, it should be loose and not constricting and even better if it has neck protection. A significant portion of the route is exposed so this will keep your neck safe from the intense African sun.

  • Sun cream! This is essential on race day to protect yourself from the sun. It will feel weird putting it on before the race starts while it’s still dark before dawn, but trust us you’ll need it later.

  • We strongly suggest you carry your own water supply. There will be plentiful water supplies around the course, but we advise you take a camelback in order to have a regulated intake of water to keep you hydrated regularly and as 'required'. Water stops will have mineral water bottles and possibly electrolyte sachets of powder or ready mixed sports drinks. Mixing this in the camelback every few drink stops could work well. Alternatively, or in addition, you could take a water bottle every few stops and sip on the go. Again, you should incorporate carrying this backpack into your training runs so you get used to having it there as you go. Also we’d advise that on race day you don’t need to take valuables with you in your backpack, there are secure bag drop areas available at the start of the race and the accommodation is also all secure. You’ll be far too busy enjoying the race and meeting all the smiling local children along the way to need them!

How to train for the route

 The Marathon route is very varied, from small tracks...

The Marathon route is very varied, from small tracks...

 … to hilly jungle roads...

… to hilly jungle roads...

 … to the tarmacked streets of Makeni.

… to the tarmacked streets of Makeni.

The marathon route is very varied and while there’s lots of nice flat terrain, there’s also some undulation and hilly parts which it’s important to train for before the race. To get you prepped we’ve put together some of our best advice on training for hill running. 

Race Pace Training: If you are doing a long run, work on including some miles at or near your race pace goal. Start with one or two miles at first, and then gradually build the number of goal pace miles as your training progresses.

Fartlek Hills: You can also structure your run where you “attack” the hill climbs at a faster pace and use the downhills and flat sections to recover and settle in to your long run pace. Essentially, you are doing a fartlek style hilly run.

Progressive Pace: Another strategy for a long hill run is to create a progressive pace and gradually get faster throughout the run. It’s imperative to start slow and avoid the temptation to attack every hill at the beginning so that you can conserve the energy for hills at the end of your run. Try to end your hilly run at or near your race goal pace.

Downhill: In addition to uphill form, it’s equally vital to practice running downhill with proper form, relaxed with a forward lean. Try not to let your legs get too far out front as it can be jarring and “put on the brakes” instead of acceleration.

Make sure you’ve built up a solid mileage base before adding in too many hill workouts. Also, do not stack too many hill repeat workouts in a row. More than likely, your muscles will be sore when you begin these workouts on a regular basis and you will need several days of recovery.

Training for race Nutrition/ Hydration

  • It’s important to begin to integrate your nutrition and hydration plan and products into your training when you start doing longer runs, so that your body is used to this by race day. This includes energy gels and nutrition bars. You don’t want to spring new products on your body on the big day as it might not thank you!

  • There are regular water stations along the route, every 3 to 4 miles.

  • It’s a good idea to run with a water bottle or hydration pack, in case you get thirsty between water stations. If you’re planning on this you should also start taking these on your training runs to get used to them.

  • It's important not to over-eat before or during the marathon. We encourage you to take some electrolyte gels or energy bars, jelly babies or other easily digestible food on the go. You will need to bring these to Sierra Leone with you as this type of products are not available in Makeni. Whatever you do, make sure you have small amounts and chew slowly. Essentially do nothing very different to normal. This is basically just a run; you want to drink more than normal and have access to energy foods given the conditions; that's all.

For more information about nutrition in the run up to your marathon, check out this website for some ideas: https://www.verywellfit.com/running-nutrition-and-hydration-4157123

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