Expert running tips from our marathon Q&A


By Martin Yelling | Friday 17 April 2015

With the Virgin Money London Marathon 2015 just over a week away, we asked top running coach and expert Martin Yelling to host a Facebook Marathon Q&A with our #TeamARUK runners. We’ve summarised them in this blog from Martin to answer all your burning questions:

martin yelling

Q: Would you recommend buying a new pair of trainers for the race? Is it too late?

A: Yes, it really is too late. Unless your trainers are completely falling apart, giving you blisters or problems then stick to the shoes you know and trust for another 26.2 miles! Save your new shoes for a reward!

Q: I did the Paris Marathon at the weekend and with London next weekend, should I be resting or still running?

A: It really depends how you feel after Paris and what the goal in London is. It would help to stay active this week and get back running but I wouldn’t do any big sessions or long runs. Be as fresh as you can for London.

Q: I’m doing the Great Manchester Run in 4 weeks, my first big run. I can run 10K but have a real problem getting my pace right. I just know I’m going to set off too fast and be carried with the tide and have nothing left after 5K – any advice?

A: You’ve hit the nail on the head when you say you ‘get carried away’. I’m afraid the answer is to pull back on the enthusiasm and don’t start so fast! There is plenty of chance to finish fast if you’re feeling strong in the second half!

jade-300Q: I’d appreciate some advice on half marathon pacing and targets, having run a comfortable 1’47 in the last Great North Run. I’ve got some solid middle distance training in already and know I can do much better this year, but I’m not sure how much. How would you go about deciding on a target pace in the build up to do my best on the day?

A: If 1’47 was comfortable and you feel like your training is showing that you can go faster then put a couple of really good training indicators in place and give yourself a test. For example, a solo 10mile effort – how fast can you can do it? What is your minute/mile pace? Could you sustain this for another 3 miles in a race? Taken together all your training gives you an indication of your form and targets.

Q: What should I eat the night before the Marathon?

A: That’s a great question and a common one. The answer is whatever they are used to! They don’t need to eat a pasta mountain and should avoid foods that that are unfamiliar. Allow plenty of time for the meal to digest (avoid late night eating!). The food should fuel you for the race the following day, so include some carbohydrates, like rice or potatoes.

Q: I’ve been given conflicting advice about taking ibuprofen before the marathon. I’ve had some runner’s knee problems, which are on the mend but will inevitably start to hurt as I progress through the marathon. I’ve heard from some to take it to make the pain more bearable and others who says it causes stomach problems.

A: The answer is both! I wouldn’t advise taking pain killers before or during the race as, you are right, they can cause stomach distress, particularly in larger doses, but importantly they also mask the feeling and this isn’t great for your body. If possible, only use as a last resort!

Q: When should I do my last run before the marathon?

A: In the week before the marathon it helps to keep running just a little bit. If you run 3 times a week already then stick to 3 times a week just run less each time. Your last run should be 20-30min tops and either Thursday, Friday or Saturday before the big day on Sunday.

Q: What are the best warmup drills to do at the start line before running a marathon? I’m aiming for a time of under 3 hours at the Great Manchester Run, if that makes any difference.

A: I think that a marathon allows you to warm up once you get going. There’s certainly no need to do a long warm up. A little bit of light jogging to get the blood flow moving and the muscles warm followed by some gentle dynamic mobility exercises like hip circling, lunging, would be good.

runner-300Q: An age old question: what can I do to help avoid blisters?

A: Different things work for different people. A lot of vaseline on the toes, or talcum power. Correctly fitting trainers, socks with carefully positioned seams! Tough feet from pounding the training miles!

Q: Do I play it safe and try to scrape a personal best, or roll the dice and try to smash it?

A: Are you in good shape? If so, roll the dice and go for it every time. Once your mind is made up, stick to it.

Q: What if I hit the wall and can’t go on? What advice would you have for me?

A: My advice would be to not hit the wall in the first place! It’s really not there you know. It can be avoided with correct pacing, appropriate training and the right nutrition on the day. Everyone struggles at the end of the marathon and it will almost certainly get tough. Tick off the miles and never give up!

Q: Any tips for post-race recovery?

A: Chips, a beer or a glass of wine and feet up! Seriously though, you’ll deserve it after your marathon so relax, enjoy and be proud. A little light exercise, walking or a swim can actually help super tight and tired legs post marathon. Sleep and healthy food and hydration are also important.

Good luck everyone running for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Relax as race day draws closer. Be calm on race morning. Don’t start too fast! Be confident and smile at the finish!

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About the author

Martin Yelling

Martin is a regular writer and coach for health, fitness and running media. He is the current coaching advisor to Men's Running magazine and has written for many different titles including The Guardian, Evening Standard, Metro, Running Fitness, Triathlon Plus, Outdoor Fitness, Trail Magazine and London Marathon News.