Elite athletes give their top tips for tackling the 26.2-mile event
Taking on a marathon in 2019? Here some elite athletes share their advice.
“Marathon training is not about smashing sessions out of the park but ticking the work off consistently,” says 2:12:57 marathon runner Jonny Mellor.
“I’ve been guilty of pushing too hard in build-ups previously and being over-cooked come race day.”
“Make sure you get enough rest. Improvement comes from the body’s adaptation in response to the stimulus of training, so rest is vital,” says Mara Yamauchi, the second-fastest British female marathon runner ever.
“Marathon runners tend to over-do things but more is not always better.”
Practice race pace
“Practice race pace on your own sometimes – during tempo runs or within long runs – so that you get used to the rhythm of your stride,” says elite marathon runner Emma Stepto.
“Listening to your footfall and breathing can help you can relax into the correct pace and get familiar with how it feels.
“Concentrating on maintaining pace, with just your own thoughts as company, is often what you will have to face in the race, so it’s a great way to be prepared and confident for when the real thing takes place.”
GB international Tracy Barlow adds: “Make sure you include blocks of your targeted marathon pace into your long runs. This will help you experience what it will feel like to run at that pace when tired, as you will be in the latter stages of the marathon.”
Remember your goal
“Remember why you’re doing it, as that makes all the training worthwhile, whatever happens on race day. It also means that you hopefully ignore everyone else’s race and plans and stick to your goals,” says international marathon runner Joasia Zakrzewski.
“Enjoyment,” says eight-time London Marathon champion David Weir. “Enjoy the training. Don’t take it personally, just enjoy it.”
Get good at sleeping
“I looked back at my diary from my first marathon build-up and noted/remembered I had a lot of sleep issues,” says British international marathon runner and 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist Chris Thompson.
“You’d think sleep would be easy after hard sessions but it can be quite the opposite.
“The body can become restless and you struggle for deep sleep. When time is precious and you can’t give yourself extra time in bed that puts more pressure to get to sleep, creating a vicious circle.
“Good sleeping habits are key. It only takes a couple of poor nights sleep and training needs to be altered.
“Pressing on through tiredness is a fine line. When the big sessions come don’t be surprised or stressed by the body fighting against a good night’s sleep. It’s in overdrive and needs to calm down. It will if you let it.”
Thompson’s guide to a good night’s sleep
1. Try to eat an hour earlier than usual at dinner. It will hopefully bring on an earlier night.
2. Start the process to settle down early with less TV/phone use, so you can switch the mind off.
3. A short podcast in bed with the lights off can offer some mind relaxation to drop off.
4. Don’t over nap. Yes they help and are essential for some, but napping for too long can throw off the important evening sleep.
5. Be organised. the stress of training and the upcoming event can send your mind racing before it’s even started. By being organised you can park it all up and switch off you mind easier at night.
6. If you’re not getting the sleep quality you want, I would suggest getting to bed earlier rather than staying in bed longer to get back into your rhythm. It will help you get into good habits and keep a routine.
British champion Lily Partridge’s top five pointers
1. Don’t focus on the race. It’s counter-intuitive because you won’t be able to forget about it but try and focus on one week at a time and making sure that you are being as consistent as you can every week. If that means taking a few easier days or cross training to be able to do those long runs properly, then do it.
2. Don’t get caught up on distance. If you miss a long run or can’t go as far as often as you’d like then take confidence from what you have done and just enjoy the process of getting fit and the rest will come to you.
3. Eat. Don’t diet. Fuel your training and make sure you’re eating good quality meals, especially in the 24 hours before you have a harder or longer effort during training – it helps massively!
4. Buy two pairs of good quality running shoes (one of which you’ll run the race in) and stick to them; don’t be distracted by marketing!
5. Run on a range of surfaces and at different speeds. Use the opportunity of needing to up your running to experiment with terrain and pace. It’ll keep you from getting stagnated and will help build all-round strength and fitness.
» These top tips were first published in our 2019 events guide, included with the October 25 edition of AW magazine