Ask the Experts: Marathon Training Q+A with Steve Smythe

Hi everyone

ASICS Super Six coach Steve Smythe will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer queries about marathon - and half-marathon - training.

Steve has run more than 60 marathons, holds a PB of 2:29, and has also won a British marathon title in his age group. Whether you're targeting a spring marathon, half-marathon or just planning to make the leap, pop your questions right here on this thread.

We're opening the discussion now so Steve will be able to get stuck in straight away at 1pm (rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once). That's enough from me - time to get posting!



  • I've got one!

    Hi Steve - what's the single biggest thing you wish you'd known about running a marathon before you ever did one?

    I was asked yesterday and I didn't know how to answer it!image

  • Hi

    Best strategry for keeping a steady pace throught the 2nd split

    thanks, Suez

  • Hi Steve,

    Do you think if someone's run a half marathon they could probably run a full one? Or is it a completely different kettle of fish!

    Thanks, Angela

  • Steve,

    I'm desperate to break 3.30 at london and don't want to fall behind with my long runs.

    However I really want to keep up with the cross country races and 10ks that are coming up (typically on long run days - Saturdays and Sundays) and want to keep doing our speed sessions on club nights (Tuesdays/Thursdays.

    Any advice for how to fit in or merge my long run with these?


  • what would be your recomendation be  for the last week prior to the marathon in terms of running and cross training to get to the startline raring to go...............

    I'm talking about a 4:15- 4:30 runner which i appreciate might be different to a faster runnerimage

  • At what pace should I do an easy/long run during the week if my aim is a sub 1.30 half marathon in March? I'm currently doing 13 miles in about 1.32 comfortably but I don't know whether I should be pushing it in training or just rely on the speedwork that I do twice a week?

  • Hi - i'm doing VLM and supposed to be doing a 16m run tomorrow but i currently have a niggle in my leg which has meant that I haven't run since Monday.  Am a little concerned about missing this week's schedule and am thinking of getting on my bike tomorrow instead of doing the 16m run.  How long should i be cycling for to replace this run? If the run would take me 2h15, would cycling for 2h15 be sufficient or would I need to cycle for longer?
  • Hi Steve,

    I'm training for Brighton this spring - my first marathon. My training schedule include four runs, and one long run. Currently I'm incorporating two days light cross training (30 mins on the gym bike one day, swimming for 40 mins the other) and light resistance training three times a week.

     I feel fine as it is, but will I struggle with this schedule as the runs get longer/shall I look on cutting back as I go further into my training?

  • I'm currently training for a half marathon in March and I think I've developed, or am starting to develop, shin splints.

    There is a lot of conflicting advice online as to the best way to tackle this. What would you recommend?

  • On an undulating course is it better to slow down up hill and speed up down hill, or to maintain a constant pace?

  • I'm doing my first marathon in April but I have been unable to run for almost a month due to a chest infection, I managed 6.5 miles last night on my second slow run this week.

    I had hoped to do it in 3.30 but having missed a month's training is this now unrealistic (I'm a 47 year old newcomer to running)?

    3.30 would have been slightly ambitious but my pre illness training runs of 15 miles or so were on target

  • I'd really appreciate some advise on pacing for my first marathon.

    Timewise I'm working towards 3hrs 45mins (based on recent 10K races and marathon Long Run training). Should I be looking at doing a steady minute mile pace for the full distance, 8:35mm?? Below are a few options I've thought about:-

    1)  26.2 miles at constant 8:35mm

    2) 2 miles at 9:00mm (to allow for congestion at start of race), then 13 miles at 8:15mm then 11 miles at 9:00mm

    3) 13.1miles at 8:00mm then 13.1miles at 9:00mm

    Seems inevitable that I will slow down in the second half of the race. Getting myself confused but would really like to have a clear plan for the day.



  • Hi

    Do you have any tips on how you mentally focus yourself in the race to keep going through the discomfort <pain>?


  • What base should i be starting from before starting a marathon training plan?

     I have a 1/2 on Sunday im undertrained for, but determined to finish it as a long run/walk training run, and use it to my advantage.

    I was running 3-4 times a week 4-5 miles at a time, 3 on road and maybe a 4th off.. When im consistant, i tend to do 4 weeks training then life gets in the way for a week or 2.. 

    Im pretty slow 11min/mile, but also 6 stone overweight. Hoping with running ill shift abit of that, but my appetite goes through the roof with running.. Any tips for controlling the 2am munchies. Where do i need to be at before upping my mileage/adding intervals etc. I have a marathon in may and another in Oct.

    image' /> 

  • Other than underestimating the challenge of a marathon what do you think is the biggest single mistake people make.


  • KeirKeir ✭✭✭

    Hi Steve,

    I have a recovery nutrition question:

    I am a vegetarian running 55 mpw aiming at a sub 3 marathon. I am conscious of the need of getting in protein after hard sessions, especially LSRs. I have been downing a recovery (whey protein, no carb)shake and eating a banana straight away (within 20 mins) after a particularly long session (usually once per week). I follow this up with water and food later.

    I have been reading that the protein 'window' is open longer than the carb 'window'. Also that Whey protein can only be absorbed by the body at 10g per hour.

    Would I be better off focusing on carb repletion straight after the run (so maybe energy drink +banana) and have the protein shake later, sipping slowly over time, or should I continue with my current strategy of downing the recovery shake asap?

    Sorry that this question might be a bit specific and scientific!

  •  I am 4 weeks in to the RW sub 3.00 schedule and everything is going fine. It is suggested that I run part of runs at race pace 6.52 m/m ( eg 3 of 5 miles or  5 of 7 miles or 7 of 15 miles). I have run 10 miles in 63 and a half in 1.25 off little training last year. What will I actually achieve by doing this race pace training over short distances? Is it a mental rehearsal? Or is this junk mileage?

    Surely we'll expect a drop of pace in the second half. Maybe 6.40 pace is a better training pace than 6.52 for these shorter runs so that 6.52 is comfortable?



  • Hi Steve

    I've missed a few sessions over last 2 weeks with a cold virus.  Last LSD of 12miles last Sunday and only done a couple of hill rep sessions and no other speedwork over last 4 weeks.  What should I do when I resume training which hopefully will be Monday  I would have missed 4 sessions in total by then including this weeks LSD? 

    I'm confused and lost all my confidence.  I'm looking to break 4.30 my pb is 4.31 if I can achieve this it would be a good for age too! 

     Any advice at all would be really appreciated.

    Thanks so much

  • Hi Steve

     I'm running the VLM in April, hoping for a sub 3:30. My training plan suggests I do a long run on a Sunday, rest on Monday and intervals on Tuesday. I sometimes find it's easier for me to do my long run on a Monday after work, but I'm worried about how this will impact on the rest of the week's training.

     If I switch my long run from Sunday to Monday, should I always have a day's rest before beginning the next week's training plan? And if this means I need to miss a day's training, which one is the best one to miss?

     Thanks, Rob

  • Hi Steve

    I run 40-45 miles per week. My long run is between 12-14.5 miles, as I'm a happy half marathoner at the moment. I always drink gatorade first on my long run before moving on to water. However, for some reason on this run I always just slow down somewhere between miles 9 & 10.

    I've not hit the wall, it just seems to be like a lull in the middle, and then I'm back in the swing again.

     i thought it was due to me being in open countryside, in the middle of nowhere, when it happens, but I did 2 x 10 mile races in Autumn last year, and exactly the same thing happened (so others passed me!).

    I've only been running a couple of years - is it something that will just go eventually, or does it happen to all runners sometimes, and if so, is there anything training wise I can do to get over it.

     Thank you.

  • Liverbird:Single thing: Don’t do a marathon too early. Only run a marathon when you have got years of endurance running behind you and enjoy the other events on offer – 5k, 10k and half-marathon and multi terrains  before you even think about doing a marathon. 
  • Hi Steve - like the input you are giving Pete on his sub 3 thread - very informative.

    Quick question on nutriton - I do a lot of my running at night, is there anything you would suggest to eat after a session to help aid recovery? I've been having a bowl of cereal. Is there anything you swear by foodwise that you make part of your training post running?

  • Icclesuez

    The best strategy for a steady pace through the second half is to run it right in the first half – evenly and at a pace that your training and shorter race indicate is feasible. It’s not easy maintaining pace when you are tired and you can only do it if you have good endurance and have lots of long runs behind you. You can also only maintain pace if you keep well hydrated and you may need your energy levels topped with gels etc.

  • Angela S

    There’s more than the 13 miles in difference between the half and marathon ie it’s three times as hard not twice!

    If you can run a half, then it is possible to get around a marathon but not necessarily run it to the same potential or even run the whole way so it depends on whether you want to get round or do it justice. Once you’ve run a half-marathon the next step should be a 20 mile run or race and not the 26 miles.

  • Pljesq

    Logically it seems that running a cross-country the day before a long run isn’t ideal but it’s pretty much what all good distance runners have been doing in Britain for the last 50 years and that includes the era of the 80s when we had masses of sub 2:20 marathoners.

    If you want to race Sunday then you have straight choice of race or long run and the long run should win two times out of 3 but a cross-country race is doable the day before a long run as long as you watch your hydration and energy levels and it can build up endurance through January and February. However from March onwards the long run needs more respect.

  • Seren Nos

    The last week should be about saving energy. A hour to 90 minutes not too fast a week before, some short brisk running on the Tuesday then just a few looseners in last few days – ie 4 Wednesday, two or three Thursday or Friday. A bit of cross training earlier in week is fine but the key is to do enough to tick over but nothing that’s going to wear you out. You’ll need every last bit of energy on the day and together with a good hydration and fuelling strategy and there's a need to stay off your feet as much as possible.

  • Katie Good

    You need to be preparing your body to run 6:50 miling for some length somewhere. The long run each week should be slow and building up eventually be more than 13 and around 8 minute miling is fine and the midweek run could be 7:30s and between 6 and 8 but your speedwork should have sub 6 minute miling in and you need a few tempo runs at 6:50 pace for 5 or 6 miles every other week and a few 10k races would be useful too.

  • Hi Steve i have returned to the sport at of 42! after retiring in 2000. my half marathon pb was 72 minutes way back in the early 1990s.

    since my return in 2008 i have lost nearly 4 stone in weight and my race times are starting to get a lot faster,recently i ran a v40 pb for 5 miles in 30.20.  my question is....i am looking to run a half marathon in the spring what sort of time can i expect to run at the age of 45?

  • Tigger 11

    No cycling should probably be at least 1.5 times as long ie a 2 hour run should be replaced by a 3 hour ride (some would say even 4 hours) – Cycling is harder to get heart rate raised but at least it doesn’t give the same wear and tear on the body

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