Martin Yelling’s February update

Martin & Liz Yelling
@myelling twitter, @martinyelling instagram

Martin Yelling (PhD) is the official Virgin Money London Marathon coach and has helped thousands of marathon runners make the finish line every year. His wife, Liz Yelling is a two time Olympic marathoner and Commonwealth medalist. Together they know their way to a successful London Marathon finish!

Let’s talk going long.

As we move into February training is all about building up, practicing more, staying on track and progressing the hard work you have done so far. One of the most important aspects of your marathon preparation is the long run.

Don’t be fearful of running longer. The marathon is a very long run, in fact it’s more likely for many to be a very long run with some walking, and for some a very long walk with some running! Instead of being anxious about upping the distance of your longest runs over the next couple of months embrace the benefits that go hand in hand with going long.

What is a long run?
For some marathoners in training right now in mid-February a long run may well be in the region of 10miles. An experienced PB hunting marathon campaigner may be racking up regular miles in excess of double that. The key to long is “what is long for you” and what to you need to do to build your physical confidence and competence you can run 26.2miles. You certainly don’t need to run 26.2miles in training, nor do you need to bang out week after week of painfully long miles. But you do need to look to progress you long runs so you can manage between 18 and 22miles at around 3 weeks before race day.

The best foundations are laid slowly over a long period of time. Be gentle, consistent, build up appropriately and progressively for you, just a few miles or minutes a week and stick with it. If you’re up to 10miles, you’ve got plenty of time to realistically build to 20 over the next 6 to 8 weeks.

The pace of a long run depends on the fitness, experience, aspirations and motivation of the person running it. The simple rule is that the longer you are running for the slower you should be running. In order to keep going for longer, and for the pace and effort to sustainable, it’s essential to learn how to be efficient, controlled and economical. A good guide here is your degree of breathlessness. Where your breathing rate is controlled, you can hold a conversation, the pace feels manageable and you can keep going. That’s the pace you’re seeking.

It’s the duration that causes the stress and discomfort when going long. The trick of mastering the long run is to start off at a predetermined effort or pace, keep going and minimize (or remove) your rate of slow down. Successful distance runners (and I’m going to include your successful future marathon-self in this!) have an ability to tolerate discomfort for an incredibly long time. Blisters, chaffing, deep muscle ache, thirst, hunger, energy levels and strength and motivation to keep the shuffle going are all factors in long run success.

Long runs in training are the perfect learning ground for understanding and perfecting pace control. Knowing your pace is about understanding what effort you can sustain for the duration of a marathon. It’s about having patience at the start, feeling in control, feeling confident (ish!) and being ready to face the demands of the final stages of your race fresher, stronger, more focused and bang on target. You might not be totally sure of this right now, but with pace experience gained in long runs this will become more apparent.

Good luck going long!