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



  • Sam

    Undoubtedly the best training for running is running but while the other stuff may not be as good as getting you run fit, it is keeping some extra fitness there without the same injury risks – As long as your long runs go far enough, you are doing some tempo and speedwork in there then I would say you should be ok as presumably you aren’t trying to break three hours 30 in your first marathon, where if you were, you may need more running sessions in there.

  • Roey

    Getting treatment and advice from an expert, ice, staying off the road wherever possible and reducing the training and having more rest days and perhaps adjusting your targets are what immediately spring to mind. Good luck with it - many runners have done marathons with shin splints - it's painful but workable and not as bad as having achilles and knee problems etc.

  • Ian Goudie

    I would usually go for equal effort, so the pace eases back up the hill and then you let the hill take you down at a quicker pace. Any additional effort up a hill has a consequence. Those who usually attack a hill can be overtaken later. Economy of effort is vital.

  • Glitsy

    You now you need a clear run of training. It has probably not helped your overall fitness but there is plenty of time to get back on track – just ease back into training sensibly. Missing a month now is far far better than missing it in March. See how fit you are at the end of March and make your target then.

  • Ps to last message its London marathon I'm doing
  • Brian Gray 7

    1 is much better than 2 and 3 for pacing strategy. There will be congestion at start so you will lose time but if you run at a pace quicker than ideal say 8 minute miles for 13, come 15 you may find even 9 minute miling hard and by 18, you will be doing 10s and by 22 walking and end up with 4 hours 15 let alone 3:45.

    If you train properly, stay hydrated and top energy levels up and pace it right, you may slow slightly but it should be minimal.

    I would suggest once congestion allows a steady pace, running around 8:25-8:30, then from 20 miles hope the training and gels enables you to maintain a good pace. Then if you miss the target, you will only miss the target because you weren’t capable of it on the day, not that you went too fast for your own good.

  • Kittencat

    I’m sure various websites and books will give varying recommendations but I think it simply is plentiful amounts that is right for the individual. Everyone is different and it’s up to you to see what works for you in training. You need to very slightly up hydration levels in the last few days – more so if it is warm and sunny – but too much liquid is dangerous and you don’t want to spend half of the last few days getting rid of excess fluid. Personally I prefer things like Lucozade sport or SIS drinks so I am getting energy into the system as well as liquid, and ideally the beer and alcohol should be saved for post race though I know lots of marathoners who say they sleep better the night before with a beer, but unless you are sure it works, I would suggest staying clear of alcohol, especially on warm days.

    In the race itself I like to sip water every other mile but less than half the bottle with other half poured on head and I take on Lucozade and have 4 gels.

  • I was just wondering if you can touch type, or have you got someone doing the answers for you image
  • -claran

    Before the race you need to think of all the things that made you want ro run a marathon and then when it gets tough remind yourself of your starting reasons, how much training you have done, how proud friends and family will be if you run a good time, prove any doubters wrong. Some find it helps to take each mile at a time and then maybe count 1-300 or 500 to take your mind off the discomfort and then start again at the next mile. I find it helps say when I get to 19 miles to say. Now it’s just a 7 mile, I’ve done 7 so many times it’s easy and then the same for 6 and 5 miles to go – almost trying to forget the previous miles already in the bag.

  • Sarah Wynne

    If you are at  stage you are ready to complete a half-marathon, then you are ready to start a 13 or 16 week marathon plan.

    Re 2am munchies – go to bed earlier and don’t get up! Yes running increases the appetite but the lighter you get, the eaier the running will be and you will move faster and while you must still ensure you get sufficient nutrition, you have to control the appetite to make the most of your running. Keep up the good work.

  • Squeakz

    The biggest mistake other than underestimating the distance is in their pacing. Ie I’ve run 1:55 for a half-marathon so I am going to run sub-4 in the marathon. The vast majority of runners aim too highly, especially in their early marathons, which results in starting too fast, slowing badly and having a horrible walk/shuffe in the last 6-9 miles. The key to early marathons is to be sensible, not aim too high and try and enjoy as much of it as you can. Running in events like the Virgin London Marathon should be one of the greatest highlights of your life, not a nightmare and hours of agony and disappointment.

  • Kei

    I’m a vegetarian too. After a quick drink of water, I would go for the protein replacement straight away as most have carbs in there too followed by carb drinks. Personally I find it hard too take on food straight away but protein replacement drinks don’t seem to be a problem for me.

  • Richard Bruce

    I think it is better psychologically to break down the marathon pace into small chunks so you feel it is doable but it doesn’t fatigue you. You should be getting 6:40 pace or faster in your schedule from the half-marathon pace runs and the speedwork and shorter races. However, if you feel you can run 6:40 comfortably at marathon pace then do so.

    It is partly a mental rehearsal but physical too. You want your body to be comfortable and used to running marathon pace so it’s natural and not a strain on race day. I have never heard 6:52 miling referred to as junk mileage before! I think there is a danger if you extend the distance you run marathon pace in training, you increase the risk of tiredness and injury and it would affect future training. Remember most people don’t return to normal after 26.2 miles of marathon pace for months.

    If you expect to drop pace in the second half and then go too quick on the first half then you can guarantee you will slow down. You have to be confident in your training and levels of endurance and conserve energy on the first half.

  • Runbird

    2 weeks missed training in January isn’t too much to worry about. Ease back into it gradually (I would suggest you resume week where you missed off) and then do alternate weeks to get you back. Most runners will miss a few weeks in 16 week schedule and if you do the other 14 weeks, then the effect should be minimal. London is a long way off

  • Rob

    I would avoid long run and speedwork on successive days and some prefer an extra day ie long run Saturday and speed Tuesday. If you do a long run Monday, I would move everything up and if you are to miss a session, miss the Saturday one.

  • Bol Sauce

    How about taking a  gel or energy beans around 6 miles to see if it energy related. It may just be a mental thing which will pass and you may need to work on it training. How about slowing down slightly in the first 8 on a 10 mile run and then really working the last two miles so you get used to accelerating at that point instead of slowing?

  • Thank you Steve

    3rd marathon for me and have been running 5 years now inc xcountry too

  • Nightrider

    Ideally you do need a post run meal but if you’ve already eaten your supper/dinner then I would go for a banana and cereal bar/ cereals plus possibly toast and raisins or grapes.

  • Hi Steve,

    I've run one half marathon (2.10) , really enjoyed it and plan to do more.

    My plan is to continue to build up my long runs in terms of mileage, how long should they be with half marathons in mind?

    Also I thought about starting to introduce progressive run, so that my last 2/3 miles are at a slightly faster pace. Beyond that, starting to increase the pace a bit earlier in the run. Currently my long runs are 10 minute miles on average. 

    What do you think to the above as a plan?

    I run 4 times a week, speed work/hill/club run on training nights and 2 5/6 miles and long run on the weekends.


  • Andy

    Your potential reduces with age but because you had 8 years rest your body is probably fresher than those who have been running non stop. I would think you would be hard pressed to come within a few minutes of your PB but if you stay healthy and train almost as hard as in your peak, I don’t see why you can’t run well under 80 minutes which very few M45s ever manage. An exact time is difficult to predict but if you get the 5 mile below 28, then a 76 should be possible.

  • Steve

    London will be my 3rd marathon, the two before were run on a 12 week program with a 3 week taper period. I plan to do the same again, but...

    Would you recommend a two or three week taper? A two week taper would allow me to have an additional drop back week between two 20 milers
  • Thanks Steve. i am training really hard,ie 7 days a week 1 speed session and 5 races already this year. i aim to break 30 minutes for 5 miles this year and hopefully run a successful half marathon..

    a sub 80 minutes is my target. thanks again for your advice..image

  • DM 1974

    Luckily my typing speed is better than my current running speed but also have pools of secretary’s ready to dictate my every word. Alternatively the answer is questions came in before 1pm and I started working on answers early!

  • Dibbers

    My best marathon came with an excessive 2 weeks taper but I do think 3 weeks is best and safer but I think it may be better having a week between the 20s and going for the 2 weeks in this instance.

  • Debs B

    For half marathons I like to have a 15 mile in the bag at a slow pace and a 10 mile at a quick pace but you need to build up both gradually. Your training looks well balanced and sensible and it is a good plan to run a quicker last 2 or 3 miles.

  • Andy

    Lots of runners in my training group, who have either started late or changed their training around have set PBs between the ages of 46 and 55 so it's never too late but you should continue to get faster from your current rate over the next 3 years

  • Thanks Steve, your feedback is really appreciated.
  • DebsB

    One additional thing I note you ran your half marathon at 10 minute miling and you do your long runs at the same pace. I would go for a bit more contrast - do some of your runs at 11 minute miling so you can relax more and go further without strain - do shorter medium runs of 5 miles at 10 minute miles and try and do some faster work at 9 minute miles

  • Thanks Steve. fingers crossed then i can keep improving with weight is now down to just over 10 stone. i will give it 100% in fact i find myself training now then  then when i was in my 20s! i think its because i find myself competing with all the young guys and so thats what drives me on plus i have 8 years to pull back!  lol
  • Thanks Steve, when you said althernate weeks do you mean start with week I left off then skip to present week then go back etc?
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