Marathon training with Mike Gratton

Great news - 1983 London Marathon winner Mike Gratton will be available on this thread to give free advice about the RW London Marathon buildup schedules that are in your free RW marathon email each week.

You need to sign up to this email if you haven't already - with schedules, advice and tips.

If you're an RW subscriber, you can also see the schedules, with extra tips, all at once here.

And if you're a Garmin user, you can download them all in one batch onto your Forerunner.

Be gentle with Mike - he's running this thread voluntarily, as he also has a day job running a company that organises training camps, overseas race trips and UK races (2:09 Events). He'll aim to give comments on the schedule's week ahead, so please ask your questions in advance if you can.

Many thanks, Mike. Happy training, all.

Daniel, RW


  • MinniMinni ✭✭✭
    I have often dropped in on Mike's other thread and received some great advice from all the super runners there. No doublt I'll have a hundred questions to ask as the weeks go on...
  • Thanks for the intro Daniel.

    Hi all, I'll be popping back regularly to answer your questions on the RW FLM schedules. I'll be away in Cuba in the middle of Jan and away for a couple of weeks in March on the RW Algarve Training Camps - so please give some allowance if there are a few gaps when I can't get on line....but I hope to be as diligent as possible.

    Good luck with your training.

    Mike Gratton
  • Hi Mike, great news for us all that you're giving advice on this thread - thanks.

    Quick question: The 3:30 RW schedule suggests a 10k race on the Sunday of week 4, when you should aim for sub-43min. However, I'm doing a 10 mile on that day instead (the local 10k race dates don't work for me). So I wondered what time I should aim for in the 10M?

    I know it's early on in the plan, but I like the way the RW plans have targets which enable you to assess whether you're being wildly optimistic or not! (My 10M PB is 74 mins, mara PB 3:40.)

  • Hi Nick, It would be fine to do the 10 miler instead of a 10km, time to go for is difficult to judge since the object is to see where you are, but if you have a 74 pb and training is going well then anything around 75 would be a good indicator.
  • Thanks Mike, I'll set out at 75 min pace then and see how it goes. I'm looking forward to the Algarve trip, it will be my first time, and sounds like I'll have a fab time!
  • looking at the 3.15 and 3.30 schedules the wed run increases up to 12 miles. I find wed running long distances difficult with family, animals and living in a village with little lighting. It is possible to get away with less or split the wed session to 30 mins in morning, 30 mins at lunch and possibly 30 at night? What to you suggest?
  • Hi Mike,
    I was wondering if there was a typo on the RW 3.45 thread. On the first 18M run at the end of weeks nine the schedule suggests doing it in 2 h 35, which seems a little fast to me, especially as the 18M for the 3 h 30 runners suggests doing it in 2 h 40! The 2006 3.45 schedule had the 18 miler at 2 h 45min. Could you check if I'm right...we took the pace guidelines very seriously last year and wouldn't want to knacker ourselves by doing faster runs cos of a typo!
  • oops I meant 3.45 plan, not thread!
  • I'm trying to follow the 3:45 plan but I find it very difficult to run as slowly as 10mins/mile as required by the plan; I always run faster that that even when I'm really trying to be slow! When trying for example, 4 miles/40 mins, I'm taking about 35-36mins max;should I try to achieve the distance or the duration for the Slow runs?
  • Mike
    I am doing FLM (my last marathon was NY in 05 which you helped me loads with)
    I'm following the Garmin 4:30 schedule (when my Garmin actually arrives). I was wondering if its ok to run the miles in the program but also do extra cardio 3/4 times a week suck as cycling/ cross trainer. I'm trying to lose a bit of weight while doing my marathon schedule and last time I didn't lose any weight even though I was running 30+ miles a week. Also how often do you recommend doing strength training in a week.

    Thanks for any help you can give me

  • Hi Mike - I hope you are well.

    I'd be grateful for some advice before I embark on a training programme for FLM 07.

    I have done London twice now (2003/2005) - both times with a target time of 3:00. Unfortunately I have missed out both times in spite of training really hard and having decent 10k/half PBs that predicted a sub 3:00 Marathon - 34:26 and 1:18 respectively.

    Looking back retrospectively I think that lack of mileage/stamina probably cost me as I got calf cramps both times at around 21miles (ouch!!).

    I have looked at a couple of your schedules and was leaning towards the 7day a week progressing to 14 sessions per week in order to really bump up the mileage!

    ....My only concern is injury. I'm more than willing to put the time in but in the past I have suffered from shin splints, tight calves and, more recently a stress fracture in the foot (though this was down to a stupid choice of footwear at tis years GNR)

    I would welcome your thoughts... is my best option a mixture of both schedules??

    One final question... I have planned races (including county/northern and national X-country races over the next month) do you suggest resting before/after these or carrying on with sessions in addition to these.

    Thanks for putting the time and effort into the forum and I look forward to your response.

  • Just signed to this. Thought I'd give it a go :-)
  • Nope!

    And I don't normally land on my feet either :-(
  • Hi Mike

    good to see you continuing to give your advice. As you know I improved greatly with your guidence and I'm sure there will be many more on here who will do the same.

    Btw can you answer a few questions for me please:-)) At present I am training with BR so most of my runs are slightly quicker than I used to do, but most of his are slightly slower. In the past you must have trained with people who were not 2.09 marathon runners:-)) How did you and your training partners match up your slightly different training levels? Most of my runs are matathon pace plus 1 min. Any slower and I don't feel BR is getting a workout, but he is happy to run at my pace. He has progressed nicely back from his injury, but I'm sometimes feeling sluggish. Do you think I might be training too hard?

    We've been doing our strides at our own level and will run tempo runs, hills and fartlek at our own paces within a run together. Is it of that great an importance that the easy and steady runs are just so?

    Btw a little info on life at the moment - change of area, job and lifestyle. Am I expecting too much of myself?
  • Hi Sue, It would be possible to do the longer mid-week run in two or three parts, it has less of an effect on your endurance base but is still miles in the bank. Alernatively make a couple of the other runs slightly longer if time permits...what we are trying to achieve is a build up of endurance from medium length steady runs, preferably over 1hr in duration.
  • VicnVin, I'll check that time for you - don't have it at hand - but it does sound like a typo.
  • Ray, Too thoughts, a) maybe you should be following a faster plan, b) maybe you have a good speed base that issn't translating to a fast marathon yet. I would go for the faster target plan, there's not a huge difference in milage and it may help you to redefine your targets.
  • Hayley, I have no problem with the extra work if it is non-weight or low impact bearing like cycling, cross trainer and swimming. If you have the time, then weight training is also valueable. What you must do is monitor it as you go along so that your running, which is the important bit, isn't compromised by excessive other activity.
  • GG, You need to go from where you are now. It is possible to run up to and more than 14 sessions a week if there has been a gradual build up to that over a number of years. But if you make a big jump in training level you will increase the chances of injury.

    In general I would say increase the mileage gradually but keep the pace slow. Initially you will feel like you have lost speed, but after a while the pace will return you will then ba able to increase the mileage again. Once you have established a good base and feel relatively comfortable running the mileage you achive by the end of Feb you can then start to increase the pace of some of the runs and progressively increase the speed of interval sessions to faster than 10km pace by mid-March. This will bring you from base fitness to a peak for mid-April and FLM.

    The other races you have planned do cause you a problem. If your aim is to do the best marathon possible you can't afford to ease down for everyh race. It may be worth planning your recovery weeks leading up to a major race like the Nat XC, a half marathon in March and a 10km in April. All the other races just train through - sometimes you'll run bettwer than expected, other times you will be below your best....but you will know you trained through and you can just count those races as high quality speed work.

    I raced most weekends before winning LM in 83, most were Kent XC races, local road races, etc., and just used them to help the club and pep up the training. But come March I was racing for the specific aim of peaking for LM. As an example in Jan 83, I won the flat Sittingbourne 10miles in 48.45, in March I won the hillier Tonbridge 10 mile race in 47.01...the difference was tappering and coming to a peak from the base mileage of Jan.
  • Hilly, You always expect a lot from yourself - that's why you have progressed so much.

    I always think there is only one person in a training group who is getting the best out of it and you have to make sure it is you. We had a training group that stretched from my 2:09 marathon to others at around 2:40. If I was doing a steady run, then those at 2:40 ability were definitely running close to marathon pace. This is OK if you are not running together all the time, otherwise you, as the slower runner will be overstretching yourself. The thing to do is between you identify which are to be hard and which steady sessions. So if BR is on a steady, you kight plan it as a fast run. But then you must take your steady or recovery runs on your own while BR does his hard sessions.

    For interval work it's not such a problem, except you need to sort out the recoveries so you are getting the full recovery for you otherwise you will end up getting progressively shorter recoveries as you drop further behind and agttept to catch up to start the next effort together.
  • Many thanks Mike - I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I ventured out on my first long, steady run today (95mins at 145bpm - 75% max. I felt reasonably ok all the way around and I reckon that I averaged about 8:30min miling...

    I guess that over time my min mile pace will improve at the same HR...?

    Thanks again for your detiled response.

    GG AKA Michael
  • Mike

    Thanks so much for doing your thread again this year. I found "hard training" to be a goldmine of insight and inspiration (thank you Hilly also!) in the run up to Berlin last year.

    Your advice to GG struck a chord with me. As a relative newcomer to running I've been improving progressively off the back of steady mileage increase: 3.27 for FLM06 (peak mileage 40mpw), 3.13 at Berlin and 1.27 HM in September (off 55mpw), and then 39.04 10k at Brighton in November.

    I started my build-up for FLM07 in December, and have just completed three 70 mile weeks. So far so good - except, I am feeling sluggish and the pace of my longer and speed runs has definitely dropped. I was considering cutting back slightly (to 60-65mpw?) in order to maintain the speed of my quality and long runs.

    Would this be beneficial? Or should I keep the faith and let my body adjust to the 70mpw load - as I think your advice to GG suggests? If so, how soon should I be focusing again on speed?

    Also - sorry another question - currently, I'm doing all my runs as singles: no 2-run days. Do you think a few doubles might help?


  • Mike, I posted the following message a while ago on the forum before signing up to this. Can you give me your thoughts on how suitable it is.


    After the shock of getting into the FLM I'm looking at training plans. Did it last year & felt hugely under prepared on the day, mainly in terms of long runs.

    For next year I'm going at an adapted version of Hal Higdons intermediate plan.
    Made changes for some races I want to do & holidays etc. Plan starts tomorrow!!

    Does this look like a sensible number of long runs?

    Wk1 10m
    Wk2 12m
    Wk3 14m
    Wk4 10m
    Wk5 14m
    Wk6 10m St Albans
    Wk7 14m
    Wk8 17m
    Wk9 17m
    Wk10 19m
    Wk11 20m Bury St Edmunds
    Wk12 13.1m Berkhamsted
    Wk13 13.1m Milton Keynes
    Wk14 20m Finchley
    Wk15 18m
    Wk16 20m Oakley
    Wk17 10m
    Wk18 8m

    I think I'm a week ahead so my final week will be total rest.

  • Hi wizlyn, I think you should keep faith with the mileage, the pace will recover in Feb and you will then gain the benifit from having a good base. If there is too much emphasis on pace now you will find that you will improve quickly and will then plateau off at a lower level than you would otherwiser have achieved.

    Once you get to 70 mile weeks then you do need to start to build in a second run on some days, usually the best time to do this is in the morning before your quality sessions. You will find your body is more warmed up for the later session ans gets around the fact that speed sessions tend to be less mileage.
  • mitten, looks sensible to me with a couple of points consider. I notice you have three 20 mile races - be cautiuous that you don't find these become hard races as you will run the danger of not recovering and compromising your performance at FLM rather than improve your chances. Particularly as you have two half marathons in there as well. I would thin this out a bit and maybe drop one of the half marathons and one of ther 20 milers. From a plan point of view I would drop Berkhampstead and Finchley...unless you have a particular reason to do them or you are very sure you can run them at training pace.
  • Mike Gratton 2

    Hi Mike, just wondering... I don't do any speed work whatsoever, haven't in the last year or so... and my 2nd Marathon in New York ( I was in the bar you was drinking actually on the night of the marathon with a few fellow Runners World People)...- and I did 2:55:05. Now, that was doing an average of 49.5 mile per week for 16 weeks...

    Now I have that base, obviously, I'm not wanting to lose it, and am doing a plan that was loosly based on your plan...

    Now my questions is, I'm setting a really tough target of 2:36:50 at Edinburgh Marathon in May, and I'm wondering, do you think this is possible with no speed work?

    I recently did the Ribble Valley 10k in 35:58... so I know I have decent speed... just wondering what you opinion is, and what mileage you think I should be doing etc.

    I'm currently doing 70-75 this month, upping to 85-90 during February then hopefully around the 100 mark duing March... do I need this high a mileage?

    Any help on any of the above would be appreciated... as I know your'e a busy man!

  • Thanks Mike

    I plan to keep Berko as it's my local race & is also in my club's schedule of training runs.

    As for Finchley, my club has 21 down for that day so it does fit in that sense. However, my club training runs are much more relaxed than a race (chap follows round in his van & stops every 3/4 miles with drinks etc) and also good socially so I might might be encouraged to drop the race.

    There's only one of the race's which I plan to do at 'best pace' and that's MK. Bury 20 I did 2005 & finished in 3:20, aiming for around the same this year.

    I've got the RW training schedule in my 305 now so I'm going to see how it fits in with my normal runs & try and use it.

    Thanks again,
    Mitts :-)
  • Pughaven, Drinking in the bar with me won't help your training:-)

    Seriously, the biggest improvements will come from increased steady mileage - to a point, and then it is a diminishing return. Finding that point is the secret to a successful build up. It may be that getting up to 100 miles is too much for this training block and maybe a target for your next period of training. Only you will know and you have to learn the skill of carefully monitoring your progress.

    Once you have the aerobic base the next impovement will come from speed work. The most valueable initially will be tempo work - 20 to 30 mins at marathon pace, 10mins at 10km speed, 1 mile repeats at 5km pace.

    After that, you can squeez a little more fitness from anaerobic work, typically 400m interval sessions. This is the icing on the cake and can make the difference of a minute or two...but is the most risky in terms of injury. It also the last training you do in the final 4-6 weeks of the build up.

    Initially, work on getting to the maximum from your mileage, worry about speed work when you think you have reached the limit to your capacity for miles.
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