Marathon Q+A: GB Endurance Coach Nick Anderson

Hi everyone

British Endurance coach - and Lucozade Sport Super Six mentor - Nick Anderson will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer any queries you might have about the first few weeks of your marathon training.

Nick has been coaching since 1994 and is the current GB Endurance and Cross-Country Coach and a UKA Level 4 Coach. A junior international with a string of County titles to his name, he has coached more than 20 women to sub-3:00 level and many more men inside 2:45 and 2:30, including Olympic marathon hopeful, Toby Lambert. Despite this top-level track record, his real passion is helping runners of all abilities discover how to train correctly and reap the rewards of their efforts. Nick is also a Contributing Editor to Runner's World magazine.

We're starting this thread now so you have a chance to post your questions beforehand - that way, Nick will be able to hit the ground running rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once.

Time to get posting!

Catherine RW



  • Nick ,

    Following the Full Potential training last weekend ... I am trying to get my pace right and constant.

    Marathon PACE ....image image!!!

    I am trying to throw marathon pace into a few of my runs, just to get a feel of things BUT I dont have a Garmin and my efforts this week have proved way to fast ..

    8.00 / 8.10 min miles should be feasible but on a 9 mile run I was over 4 mins too quick .. Any ideas , training ideas on how to get a constant marathon pace ... ?? 

  • Nick - I came on a training weekend three years ago almost to the day with you and Keith in the Brecon beacons to prepare for my first and only marathon - I am now training for my sixth - Paris in April - just wanted to thank you for all the advice. You also know my brother Simon I think - (Sheard) who was quite a good runner way back when and trained with you - also Louise Foord who I was at school with.  Keep up the good work and inspire more runners.  Susan
  • MinniMinni ✭✭✭

    Hi Nick, training for my 5th marathon but have just started road cycling too.  I've done 21m today on the bike and doing a 15m run in the morning.  I want to continue a long bike ride each week and I see this as cross training.  Do you think there is a max or min amount of cycling that can be safely incorporated in to marathon training?  I also do:  Monday easy run 4miles; Tuesday speed/interval sessions; Thursday tempo running; Saturday or Sunday long run with an easier run on the other day of around 5 miles.

  • Sometimes, because of work commitments I just don't have time to fit a run in during the day. What's the best way to work round thi s- increase the length of my runs on other days or is it ok just to swap rest sessions about (e.g. do a bit of speed training on the friday instead of havign a rest?)?
  • Hi Nick

    I have recently started training for the FLM 2009 and whilst I have a fairly decent level of fitness I find the long run's slightly daunting and dare I say it - Boring. Can you give any tips to stay motivated and focused. I do pretty much all my training on my own and am not looking forward to the long run's over the next 4 months!


  • Hello Nick, In South Yorkshire our 5 mile road league (of which there are 4 races) has the 1st 3 races on consecutive Wednesdays leading right up to FLM. What would your suggestions be as to racing them?

    My normal "Final race" would be a 10K 2-3 weeks before the marathon.

  • Re Steve Hilliard

    It could be you are much fitter than you think! Therefore your marathon pace needs to be reviewed. However, there is a chance that you are pushing too hard. Remember, this pace needs to be realistic and maintained for 26.2 miles.

    Could you have maintained the pace ran this week for 26 miles or close to this? If not, then you are pushing too much.

    Re pace without a garmin, learn to feel the pace and effort. marathon pace, if fit, could be easier than threshold but perhaps a touch quicker than your easy/steady runs. Rate of perceived exertion might be 7.5/10.

    Hope that hlps

  • Re tonythetiger

    Hi, it can be good to race a few 5 milers or 10ks in a marathon build to either get a faster workout or make training interesting.

    I would run the last one hard to sharpen pre London if it is 2-3 weeks before the big day. The others could be good training prep and could be run as below:

     10-15 mins easy + 5 miles @ threshold + 10-15 mins easy

    Or 5 miles easy then race but do 5 miles threshold. A clever way to run a midweek longer run and specific to marathon prep.

    or use as your long run - 5 miles easy/5 miles steady/ then 5 miles at marathon pace

    Just some ideas

  • Thanks for input  

    I think 8 mins / 8.10 would be feasible over the FLM but definately  the pace of my 9 miles run would not be achievable over 26.2 miles or it would be foolish of me to try - Half Marathon possibly for a PB but no more than that ... 

    A you say Less is more !!  

  •  Hi,

     I having been training for my marathon (FLM) this year, after taking up running last October.  I have an issue with all my runs, that after warming up (1M jog for example) my knees and ankle seems to get locked up, and can hurt pretty much for a bit that I want to stop, I have to phyiscally carry on, and after another mile then it is plain sailing then to run 4+ miles.   I heard of shim split etc, but it doesnt hurt after the 2nd mile.

    Is this a physical or phycological issue?

     I do 2 easy and 1 medium and 1 long runs per week at moment LR is currently 6 miles.  I try and do speed work, but I cant retain the speed over a full mile.  My LR average running at the moment is 11.5mins/mile, fast - I can do 9:30 mins per mile, but only for a mile, after that I am exhausted.  I am trying to follow the sub 4:30 Garmin plan on Runnersworld, which is going well on the easy and long runs, but not the brisk/steady/fast.

    What do you recommended, about the speed session, are they importants and whether they can be replaced by non speed exercise?

    Many regards


  • Re JimmyF

    Yep long runs can be really boring for some people. There are lots of ways to make it a little easier, but you do need to do them.............!

    Listen to music on the MP3 etc

    Run with other people from a club or group that meets. Many groups/clubs do long runs on Saturdays/Sundays and this can be a good social experience

    Vary your route and take in interesting locations or scenic areas

    Vary the terrain if possible using the countyside, paths, trails and rd

    Enter races but run them as long runs or part o the log run. eg - a half marathon can be run easy pace if you dont allow yourself to get sucked into racing! Even a 10k can help, you just run for a period of time before, thn include the 10k at easy or marathon pace, then maybe add more easy running on after if you need to. Using races as training runs teaches you to run in a race environment, practice drinks nd getting used to standing on a start line. RUN YOUR PACE THOUGH!

  • Fiona CFiona C ✭✭✭

    Hi Nick

    I ran New York (Nov 08) my first marathon in 3:34. For the FLM in April I was aiming for 3:30 & am following the RW training plan, as I did for NYC - would it be overly ambitious to aim for a bit less than this or should I stick to 3:30?


  • Re Susan Slim

     Hi, great to hear from you and well done with those marathons! Thanks for the kind words. Yes I do remember the guys. Keep in touch with us............Nick

  • Nick, most of the literature I've read recommends marathon pace +10-20% for the general aerobic component of marathon training. A lot of my general mileage runs are done straight out of bed in the morning as my commute to work and usu fall in mara pace+25-35% range as I run by how my body feels.

    So, I would like to know if these morning runs are wasted mileage and are just extra muscle damage and delaying recovery for very little aerobic benefit.


  • Hi Nick,

    I am following your sub 3:45 schedule on the Super Six thread (for Dan) and targeting Edinburgh Marathon 31/May/09. I am one week behind Dan, so have just completed week one and its all good far.

    This will leave me with 20 weeks to fill instead of 16.

    How would you advise extending the programme, e.g. repeat certain early weeks or repeat later weeks or sessions to fill the gaps? Would more long runs be better or more shorter interval type sessions?

    Also, in which weeks of this 20 week schedule would you Ideally place a Half Marathon or 10k race? At present my options look like Edinburgh 1/2M at week  13 and Edinburgh 10k at week 17.

    Keep up the good work. Its great to read your advice to Dan on the forum.



  • Re Fiona C

    Hi Fiona, for now I would train for 3.25-3.30 re your marathon pace. Choose a couple of half marathon in March and run one hard as a pb effort and the other at MP. If you get a big half pb and also find 3.25 pace for the training half easy, then I suggest your race plan in April could be quicker.

    Dont put yoursel under pressure now though. Just do the training an evaluate where you are at the end of March. Sounds as though you are doing a fab job, well done

  • Nick, when are you coming over to the darkside (
  • Nick,

    What sort of age do you feel is appropriate for a marathon debut? Particularly considering the Olympic marathon champ was only 21 and that lots of the Americans are now making their debuts much earlier?

    How would you adapt a typical distance runner's program doing say 70-80 miles a week with the standard VO2 max, LT threshold, strides and Long run of 90-120 minutes for a first marathon? What do you think is important to add in on top of that - e.g. would the long run be increased in length, another semi-long run run or just a general mileage increase?

    Incidentally do you view the long run as a "session" or main workout of a week itself and related to this should it be done just as time on feet, progressively working down to MP or faster or all at a reasonably quick steady state?

    Finally - what sort of weighting would you give to all the activities outside of running that can comprise a running program. e.g. weights/circuits/plyometrics/drills etc. and which of these activities or the like do you feel gives the best "bang for the buck"

  • Re Muppetlegs

    Hi, no not wasted miles as you have to run when is best for you. This is reality! The key is that the focused sessions at marathon pace need to feel like 7-8 out 10 re rate of perceived exertion or 75% ish re heart rate. The easy and long training runs can be much slower - thse are often just time on your feet. Dont worry too much re pace - the effort levels are the key.

    Choose some races at weekends when you have more time and breakfast inside you to practice real pace marathon runs though.

    best, Nick

  • Re JohnLowe3

    I suggest racing your pb effort half about 6 weeks out from race day. Your choice is therefore close and ideal. The 10k could be 2-3 weeks before so again you are spot on.

    Re extra weeks, if things continue to go well include some rec weeks. These are weeks of easy runs and less volume on your long run. The body takes stock, recovers and then is ready for the next phase. I woulnt add extra hard weeks.

    Therefore to 2-3 weeks progression always folowed by 1 weeks easy running then ono the next cycle. Good luck!

  • Nick,

    thank you however the races are part of a league and are to be held 2 weeks, 1 week and the Wednesday before FLM. I agree with you about the one 2 weeks out but I do have concerns about the other 2 races being too close to FLM, My gut feeling is that it could be too easy to get caught up in the racing and blow the taper. There are about 15 from our club at FLM this year and most would normally run in the league. I am starting to think that it may be better to not do any.

  • Who's this Louise Foord woman, then, Susan?? image

    Another idea for JimmyF to stop his long runs being as boring:  audio books on MP3 player.  You can get really wrapped up in a good story and the miles whizz by.

    Sorry Nick - butting in on your thread...

  • Hi,

     Sorry to bother, but you seems to be answering people in order, and may have missed mine on page 1?

  • Re Russelsaliburybasey

    I suggest a trip to a good physio for an mot and advice on footwear also at the local running shop. The physio should check ankle mobility and strength around the pain site. Carry on running but only if the pain always goes, never run through pain that gets worse.

    Re the faster sessions - run to effort and feel, dont worry if you are not hitting target times. You have plnty of time and should hit these times as fitness builds.

    See the physio though and well done

  • Artful Hen - are you stalking me Louise?? Hope you are well x
  • Thanks Nick
  • Hi Nick,

    Wits' end - a few years ago I started training for a marathon and in hindsight probably just went into it too hard, too early. I got shin splints several weeks in and have battled with them ever since. I found out that I am an over-pronater so since then I have changed shoes (now Brooks Adrenalin), been fitted with orthotics (and later had them adjusted). At peak periods of pain I've had months of physio and applied ice after playing sport or running. I now stretch before and after I run. Over the past 4-5 months the shins have felt recovered so I set myself the goal of training for a marathon again in 2009. I've now commenced the RW 16 week schedule and am following the sub-4.30 training plan, with the aim of running a marathon around the time of London. I'm now into week 3 and have a sinking feeling there's a little bit of tenderness to the front of my shins. Is there anything you can suggest to help me keep these at bay long enough to achieve my goal?!?!?

    Any advice appreciated.
    Michelle (aka crayongirl)

  • tonythetiger

    You raise a good point about being caught up in the racing. Up to you but as a grown up I am sure you can control that testosterone really! Let them go and save it for race day I say. Run with a smile and dont feel you have to race, use it as training. You dont have to justify or prove yourself to anybody. Train for yourself.

  • Nick, thanks for the kind words, "grown up" image, I will have to show this to my wife!!!
  • Crayongirl/Michelle

    Sorry to hear that. Well done re shoes and orthotics. I assume thse were fitted and tested for you properly. Several othr major things you can do to help shin splints :

    Strengthen Glutes massively to reduce knee medial movement and overpronation. Also stengthen hamstrings and quads. Suggest walking lunges, one knee squats etc but under the guidance of a trainer/physio.

    Run on softer srfaces such as trails, grass regularly

    get massage deep into th ecalf and connective tissue area every week. Find sombody good and get them to blitz the calf area to prevnt tightness and tissue damag build up etc.

    The other things you are doing are great but also increase all mileage gradually and include easier weeks.

    Also consider X training and aqua jogging to replace some easy runs thu reducing vol/impact each week. The aqua jogging will keep you cardio fit and strengthen. A great tool

    Best Nick

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