Webchat with coach Steve Smythe



  • slowkoala

    Question 1 – if you are up to 20 now then you are well ahead of where you need to be. A 20 once every three weeks is probably sufficient but I don’t see a problem in one of those being a 22 or 23. On other weeks I would suggest a 18 and a brisker 15 – or at least some at marathon pace within it ie last 4 or 5 miles.


    Question 2- if you are running 8:24s in training now then 8:30 should be a doddle come the marathon. I agree 7:55 may be a bit too fast for your first marathon but 8:15s should be very doable and agree a half-marathon time may give you a better idea.


    Question 3: Four weeks before is too close to race it. You may recover but many don’t and it’s not worth the risk. You could probably just about get away with the first half at slower than marathon pace and the second half at goal marathon pace based on your HM time,

  • Bob

    Your marathon time is obviously way below your capabilities based on your other times. Gym work may help in building leg strength but fundamentally if you have a weakness it appears to be your endurance though you say you are still doing the necessary SLR’s and I presume you are doing plenty of two to three hour runs.

    I wouldn’t totally reduce the hills and speed work too much and maybe one area of running that may assist you is the sustained faster longer run so you get used to running fast while tired. Ie 13 miles slow then run marathon pace for five miles

  • CE messenger

    Certainly most of your long runs should be reasonably relaxed at a good minute a mile slower than race pace. Some of my recent ones have been nearer two! However you need to do some faster long runs which is why regular races are good and your method of putting a fast 4 or 5 while tired towards the end of run is a good one. To do much more than that is very hard without the stimulus of a race. it can then take an awful lot out of you and then you are really struggling for a week or so and your training sessions in the following week suffer and ultimately you can lose more than you gain.

    Weights won’t make as much difference as long runs but they will make you stronger overall and if you have the time, then it can only do you good.


  • Helen

    yes you need long slow runs whatever the distance – even the world’s best 1500m runners do long slow runs during the winter to build endurance and even half marathon competitors should be doing runs of 12 miles plus.

    Personally I don’t take too much with me for long slow runs of less than 15 miles just make sure I have some fuel inside me from a sensible breakfast (cereals/toast) and am well hydrated beforehand. In hot weather you need to make contingency plans re getting extra drink. Sometimes I carry some money and buy one if I am feeling extra thirsty rather than carry it, though they may not be practical if out in the country. I occasionally takes gels on training runs but prefer to keep the affect for races and key long runs rather than all the time though things like jelly beans are worth carrying with you if you run out of energy.

    It is though best to rely on good training to get you through the harder runs and races rather than sweets and gels but I have found them esseniial in marathon races over the second half in ecent years and wish they had been around when i was first marathoning 35 years ago!


  • Mike

    schedules are useful but you always need to adapt them to your own needs and requirements while sticking vaguely to the principles of the baics of the schedule and so why not tinker with it and add the odd faster section at marathon pace or a few extra miles.

  • Home Brew

    Hopefully if you were training hard, it should be coming down gradually anyway if you are unnaturally overweight but as long as you are sensible, it probably wouldn’t do you any harm at this stage to lose a few pounds

    Re sessions the key one is the long run followed by tempo and speedwork.

    Certainly you could do a bike ride on recovery days. I quite like to add endurance by finding somewhere different to run and cycle there and back. Ie last Sunday I did 2 hours plus running but also did 2 hours on bike getting to and from. Though later in schedule I would focus more on running as I sadly can’t use my bike in the marathon! I agree cycling is a good way to get extra endurance though without the same injury risks.

  • Pie Lover

    I love running in fresh snow but ice is more difficult and  if it is too rutted, then it would be really bad for the knee and probably not worth the risk. I would maybe try a short  run tomorrow and see if you can run safely and efficiently outside, and if not, remove the brain and go on a treadmill!

  • Thanks Steve, happy running image

  • I'm 60 and have a best of 3.23 for VLM, 1.31 Wilmslow half and 42.11 for 10K, approx. 2 years ago, but since struggled with injuries and just about got fit and healthy again.Can your schedules get me a sub 3.15 or is that asking too much, also the Hanson way, recommends no longer than 16 miles for the long run, what are your thoughts?

  • Brian B - re your food question.they key is just be sensible. If you come onto the Asics thread then Ruth could answer more specific questions re what is best to eat and when. In the 36 years of marathoning I have behind me, I have tried diets but now just focus on eating sensiblyfundamentally you just need to eat sensibly with a high carbohydrate diet and eat lots of good food, and especially lots of fruit. But the good thing about doing marathon training is that it is possible to eat some treats and convince yourself that you are either carbo loading or replacing energy lost!

  • The Broker

    Re your target yes it’s possible based on your shorter distance times if you can train close to you what you were doing two years ago and stay fit and healthy and avoid injury.

    It may be possible to run a long run of just 16 miles and survive but personally I don’t think it’s worth the risk and the majority of schedules suggest you need to do a few 20s. I would be wary with a maximum of 16 about worrying what would happen when I get to 17 miles in a race and running faster than I normally do in training! I’m sure it may work for some though, but I suspect for most it wouldn’t.

  • Hi Steve,

    I'm going for my 4th LM in a row in April and the last 3 times have gradualy improved from 3:51 to 3:36 to 3:23 last year.  I have joined a club in the last year and my PB's on shorter distances have significantly reduced (38 mins 10k & 1:25 HM).  I want to convert these times into a sub 3hr mara but I appreciate this is nearly 1min/m quicker than my PB set last April.  My key concern is cramp that I got at mile 24 last year and this prevented me from going sub 3:15. Any tips on how to prevent cramp?

  • This is my second marathon the first one I did 18 mornths ago in 3 54, my average half marathon time is around 1.40-1.42 (1.40 in novmenber last year). What realistically should I be aiming for as a time for VLM - 3.40? or lower?

    I aimiing to run 40-50 miles per week with 4-5 LSR of between 20-23/

  • Thanks for the advice Steve - all makes sense. I will try adapting & even try some long slow running (sounds pleasant! image as well as the 15 seconds slower than target race stuff.

    The advice about 3:45 target is obviously sensible & seeing Bob's PB of 4:20 off the back of running 10ks at 40mins makes me think I am being hopeful with a 3:30 figure. I'm doing the Silverstone half in March as a fast(ish) training run & practice of big race atmosphere. If that goes miraculously well & I come in around 1:35-1:37 do you think it is still too much to set off in April at 8min per mile & see if I can keep it up (I suspect I know the answer)? I'm just thinking at my age I may never have a chance again of sub 3:30 & if I set off too slow I'll never make up the lost time.



  • Hi Steve, I've been running just over two years but only really increased the distance to half marathon distance just over a year ago.  I'm trying to increase distance and managed a couple of 15-16 mile runs before Christmas but have been having problems with foot pain since November and the doctor couldn't find anything wrong with it (did an x-ray and it's not a a stress fracture) but it hurts most of the time when i walk although eases off mid run, starting to hurt again after about 8 miles.  I don't want to make it worse so haven't run more than about 8-9 miles since Christmas apart from a 12 mile run last weekend which REALLY hurt (especially afterwards- couldn't walk properly for the rest of the day), but am hoping to do a marathon in April so need to increase mileage!  I'm alternating running and gym days (used to run every day) which is helping a bit...  Is it too much to hope to do the marathon?  It's my first one so am very nervous already, and not sure I'll even be able to run that far!  Any advice would be great...  Thanks!

  • Hi Steve, I'm running VLM for charity and it is my first marathon, I've done a couple of halfs and the longest run I've done previously was 15 miles. I'm a bit concerned about the training plan I'm following, it is a 16 week plan I am on week 3 (13mile LSR) and has 20 milers at weeks 7, 9 & 11 and a 21 mile at week 13. Is this too much for a first time marathon or about right? I know friends have followed plans that have incresed gradually with the longest run at 20 miles but just the one 20 mile....This may just be a confidence issue so looking for reassurance from the expert image As the plan falls I am due to do the following LSRs over the next few weeks 13M, 15M, 13M, 17M should I go out and do what I can given the conditions and then contiunue with next weeks 15 or rearrange the plan to be 13M, 15M, 17M, 20M, 13M - Am unsure if the continuous build before a fall back distance will do more damage than good...Thanks

  • Chris

    you are definitely capable of a s-3 it may take a re marathons yet and you may have to chip away at it.

    Cramps are more prevalent when you aren't as fit and less likely if you are running relaxed and so may be less of a problem now you are running quicker. physio, massage, stretching, the right clothing ie compression socks and good diet and electrolytes should help

  • Iain

    3:40 is a realistic target and 3:35 may be doable if you can get that HM time to nearer 1:36 to 1:39

  • Cheers for the advice Steve - top man! Think I'll be taking the foot of the gas a little more this year, will do Edinburgh mara in May as it's my home town race, but use it as a training run and aim for an Autumn mara as the biggie for this year.

    All best, and thanks again.

  • F I C2

    the marathon is possible and hopefully it's not serious and it's possible that a physio, chiro or osteo could solve the problem with just some manipulation.

  • Carley

    For your first marathon, it may be best to be cautious and take some of those long runs out and replace with a shorter one. I would suggest going down in distance two of those weeks. The trouble is some schedules can be for first timers or experienced runners and if they are both aiming for the same time, then the schedule prescribed may be the same but the beginner may be better doing less until they are stronger and have more miles in the bank.

  • Hopefully i can answer any other questions or answer follow -ups on the  Asics threads for RRR and AW

  • Steve, I am running the Brighton Marathon this April. Only done one 20 miles and Brighton Marathon (both 2011) prior to this. Been training for a month now , doing 20 miles per week. Trying to break the sub 4, last time my time was 4:32. Is it doable? I am running 10min/ mile comfortabley at the moment. Ur yes is all the motivation I need image

  • Thanks Steve, I shall rearrange to as of next week ( week 4) to be 13,15,13,17,13,20,17,21,15,10, Marathon...Am I right in thinking a shorter LSR every other week would be more beneficial to me rather than continuous building? My only goal is to complete the marathon and hopefully with a smile on my face (or grimace as the case may be) so time is not of the essence, am concerned that I will either over or under train...

  • Dan ADan A ✭✭✭
    Hi Steve,

    What are your thoughts on 20 mile races in the marathon build up.

    I've always underperforformed in the mara after a decent 20 mile race even though it's been 6-8 weeks out. Eg, 2.04, 2.05 & 2.07 then couldn't get near that in the mara and never broke 3.10

    Last year I had a very comfortable 2.02 at Bramley, but the mara 6 weeks later I struggled through 20 in 2.04 and finished in a disappointing 2.48.

    Should I just bin the 20 mile races, run them slower, or do something different between them and marathon day?

  • It's doable but will be more doable if you increase the 20 miles per week! You need to gradually build up the mileage to at least 40 and a sub 4 requires nine minute miles so you will need to gradually up the pace too and probably best to try and get a half marathon in the buiild up where you run at least sub 1:50

  • Thanks Steve - some great Q&As there.

    As Steve mentions, he's the coach for Sarah and Alex, two or our Target 26.2 runners, and you can get involved in their forums - RunnyRunRun and A.W - for more marathon training advice.

    Thanks everyone - enjoy the snow!


  • ROGER that. I am also following steve's (super six) forum and pick up the hints and tips. I will try to do a half marathon before april and also include speedworks and increase the weekly milage on the run up to the big one. Thank you.

  • Dan A

    yes a hard 20 takes more out and often means a worse marathon. I don't see a problem at slower than marathon pace or maybe just on marathon pace if you are experienced and very fit but I too went through a period of running very good 20 mile races and four to six weeks later some very underwhelming marathons.

    I think they are useful training exercises for pacing and race simulation but maybe it's best for you to run around 2:10 and just target marathon pace for second half or last five 

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