Beginner-based marathon advice with Mike Gratton

Former FLM winner has the answers for all your training and racing questions

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25/03/2008 at 13:59

Hi Mike

 I guess like a lot of people on here I have developed a rather frustrating injury after months of solid training and am worried about how much I can do up to and on the day. I was aiming for sub 3.45 and have done four 20s in training. The last one was two weeks ago and I did that in 2.45. However, a week before that 20 I injured my calf so didn't run until the 20 and have only done one 4 miler since.

My calf injury is, I believe, a small tear that makes the muscle feel tight and uncomfortably stiff but not that painful. It feels more like a "gammy" leg that feels weak under my weight and throws my general posture out resulting in sore hip/knee if try to run on it. As such I'm really not sure what to do in the next two weeks up to Paris - I can feel such a loss of fitness over the four weeks that I now don't know whether 3.45 is possible or if I should run at all up til then for fear of making things worse! Particularly upset about not having done speedwork for a month when I was regularly doing this before.

Many thanks.

25/03/2008 at 15:16


I think at this late stage there is little more to be gained and you should go on the side of caution all the time. If you have done all of the other training you have all the work in the bag and now it is just finishing off the last 1% of performance.

Lots of runners mess up the big day by trining to cram more training or to catch up on lost training - this just results in the runner being tired right up to the race rather than rested and fully fuelled.

25/03/2008 at 15:21


The first thing is to get some physio on the torn calf muscle - ultra sound may speed up the healing process and maybe sports massage so that you don't have that worry on the day.

Train lightly so as not to aggrevate the injury and start cautiously and see what happens - it's better to speed up if everything is OK rather than to go out at your target pace and struggle late on.

25/03/2008 at 16:30

Hi Mike,

I am feeling a little low this week on I have my own blog and was reading few today bored at work.  Everyone more or less seems to have done their major last long run 20 or more.  My plans didn't go to plan this weekend (Easter Weekend.)  Couldn't go for run on Friday as travelling up north then was unable to do it Saturday as had no Dad as I am Diabetic safer with someone on longer runs.  Then Sunday cam along all happy couldn't wait to get out and go, but opened curtains and it had snowed very deeply and icy.  It did eventually melt about 2pm, but then it was time to go visit my Nan who's ill so couldn't go for the long run.  Ended up in the gym for 3 hours 30 mins on treadmill/track about 6 miles then bike for 12 miles. 

Now I feel down and as though I have let myself down as no long run.  I have got a planned half marathon this weekend and would like to get out for another long run say on Saturday maybe 16. 

Would this be stupid thing to so close and also with tapering under way?  Any help would be wonderful thanks.  Sarah

25/03/2008 at 17:14

Hi Sarah,

Does sound like a disasterous weekend as far as running was concerned.

Don't panic about the missed run - in the scheme of things it will not have a major effect at this late stage as the gains now compared to at the beginning of the training block are marginal - it really is icing on the cake time and any fitness gains from your training from now to FLM will only count for a small amount.

I would concentrate on the half marathon then taper down - concentrate on quality rather than quantity to come to a peak. Cut down on the length of runs and do some of them at MP and some a bit quicker - making sure you have rest or easy days between the quality runs and you will be fine.

25/03/2008 at 17:25


Thanks for your response and the time you take to update this forum!

25/03/2008 at 17:35

Thank you Mike!

I guess I knew what your answer would be - everyone around me has been saying pretty much the same thing - but it means more, and is much more reassuring, to hear it from the expert! And I'm also more likely to listen!

Thanks so much for all the work you put in on this site. I hope you know how much it's appreciated.

Will you be there on the 13th?

26/03/2008 at 11:14

Hi Mike,

 Thanks for your help with my nightmare weekend of some running and biking!!  Just one last question I had been doing fartlek training and intervals until about 2 weeks ago as didn't want to risk anything going wrong so close to marathon.  I tried bit last night on my own, but was very tired anyway.  Would it still be ok say to go back for one or two fartlke sessions before the marathon its self?  I am worried about getting an injury more than anything as they really push us hard for an hour.  This is what I have planned below does this aslo work for tapering?

Week 24th 30th Monday – Rest

Tuesday – 3 miles planned more but sugar level to low for further, so added run for Wednesday

Wednesday – 6 miles

Thursday – 4 miles? Friday – RestSaturday – 3 mile recovery jogSunday – Half Marathon WilmlsowWeek 31st – 6th AprilMonday – RestTuesday – 4.5 miles or fartlekWednesday – RestThursday – 6 miles Friday – Rest Saturday – 3 Mile recovery jogSunday – Dunsford 10k steady runWeek 7th – 13th Monday – RestTuesday – 4.5 miles or fartlekWednesday – RestThursday – 3 milesFriday – possible slow 2 milesSaturday – RestSunday – Race Day

Thanks again for your help much appreciated

26/03/2008 at 11:24

Ooopppss plan should look like this not above sorry very sorry

Week 24th 30th


Monday – Rest


Tuesday – 3.15 miles sugar level to low to go further


Wednesday – Rest


Thursday – 5 miles


Friday – Rest


Saturday – 3 mile recovery jog


Sunday – Half Marathon Wilmlsow

Week 31st – 6th April


Monday – Rest

Tuesday – 4.5 miles or fartlek


Wednesday – Rest


Thursday – 6 miles


Friday – Rest


Saturday – 3 Mile recovery jog


Sunday – Dunsford 10k steady run

Week 7th – 13th


Monday – Rest


Tuesday – 4.5 miles or fartlek


Wednesday – Rest


Thursday – 3 miles


Friday – possible slow 2 miles


Saturday – Rest

 Sunday – Race Day    
26/03/2008 at 11:28

Hi Mike - I'm afraid I'm back again!

Tried an easy five miler yesterday - had to stop at 2 with the same knee pain. Have now seen a physio who says I've partially ruptured the hamstring tendon! She gave it ultrasound and I'm trying strapping and ice, but what do you reckon is the minimum rest time I can take, or should I just abandon the whole idea and pull out now?

I do have a hamstring problem in the other leg but with ultrasound once a week I can run through that. This is a whole different pain and whilst I'm willing to try and run through it I don't know if the leg itself will hold out.

I guess what I really want to know is how to handle the training from here. Is it possible to get by if I do nothing for a week and then just a few gentle runs? Or am I just kidding myself? (I can't bear the thought of returning all that sponsorship money. Not too mention all that wasted training.)

26/03/2008 at 12:51


This looks pretty sound to me - whether you do the artleks or not should be down to how you feel at the time - if not sure just go for a steady run at this stage and not take any risks.

26/03/2008 at 13:04


It will depend on the nature of the muscle damage but it may take a couple of weeks of treatment from your physio. If you do more running it doesn't mean you can't complete a marathon but ambitions for times will go out of the window.

Realistically you need to assess what you want from the event - if it is to satisfy your charity obligations you will get around if you take it very steady and use one of the run/walk techniques - the RW pacers do this for the get you around groups and they still do 5 1/2 to 6 hrs.

Once you have satisfied this need and then want to fulfil any ambitions to run a marathon well then choose another lower key marathon to do in the autumn so there is less mental pressure than surrounds doing London and giving you time to get over the injury niggles and train through the warmth of the summer which be will easier on the muscles than running in this constant cold wind.

On race day I'll be working for the BBC commentating on the Interactive Channel on the mens elite race. Once that finishes at 12-noon I will then shoot down from Sheperds Bush to the Embankment to take in the atmosphere and then have been invited by Dreams Come True to visit there post-race function as it is their 25th Anniversary year and we are organising the Dream Miles for them in Windsor Great Park in pretty busy

I'll also be on our stand (2:09 Events) for the duration of the Expo before the marathon if anyone wants to pop along for last minute support or just to say hello.

26/03/2008 at 13:44

Thank you once again Mike for you help throughout my training much appreciated.


26/03/2008 at 14:03


 Sorry, but I have a variation on a recurring theme that I'm sure you must be getting sick of answering, but I really need some reassurance/advice.

3 weeks ago (2nd March) I ran 18 miles, the 9th March, I ran a half marathon, then I was injured and have not been able to run since.  So I've not run for just over 2 weeks.  I now have a cold, but am planning on running today and Friday, and then attempting 20 miles on Sunday and having a 2 week taper.  On my runs and on the marathon itself I am doing run 9 mins walk 1min, with the aim of just getting round.  I'd love to get round in 5hrs, but now really just want to finish.

Am i being stupid thinking I can still do this after so much time off at such a crucial stage?



26/03/2008 at 14:40

Hi Piggyback,

I think you can do it without doing the 20 on Sunday - infact you may have a better chance of doing it if you don't do the 20!

The problem is that since you have missed training your recover capacity will not be the same as when you were on top of your training and you run the risk of not recovering from the 20 miler by FLM. I would go out and run as you feel for 2hrs - regardless of the distance - and call it a day. It will be better to do this and then tick over with some shorter runs up to the middle of the last week.

Your run/walk strategy will be helpful in achieving your goal as it will encourage you to keep the pace even throughout which is the best way of getting around without major problems.

26/03/2008 at 16:43

Thanks Mike - that makes good sense.

Do you know, it hadn't even occurred to me to enter another marathon! But as you say, that will solve both problems - sponsors and times. It's a great idea and that way I can raise money in London and satisfy my own pride somewhere else.

Many thanks for such a practical solution and for bringing me some peace of mind!

I'll look out for you at the Expo!

27/03/2008 at 09:53


I would really appreciate your advice. My training was going to plan, its my first marathon and I was hoping for sub 5 hours. I did a really strong 18 miler 7 weeks out and an excellent half marathon at Reading 6 weeks out. The following week I developed several pulls in the calves and under physio advice have not ran since. I have tried to keep my cardio fitness up with swimming and cross training but it has been diffcult and I know I have lost quite a lot. I still have a few aches and pains but am ready to start running again. My physios advice is to take it easy. I feel I need a long run as I have missed my scheduled two 18s and a 20. However I really want to finish London so I thought if I build up slowly for the end of this week, cross training and gentle running alternative days. Then Sunday try 13 miles followed by 10ks on alternative days until the Tuesday before the race. What do you think?

28/03/2008 at 15:29
Hi Mike,
I have got an injury last week. my ankle on the inside below the ankle bone is quite sore and the inside of my knee.. my physio has said something about a tendon but is saying that with rest i should be fine for the marathon. Can you suggest anythign i can try and do to speed up recovery or help stay fit? ? ?
28/03/2008 at 17:45
nik959, I think that sounds like a good plan - make the first runs very easy and after a few days if all ok run a short section of your runs at MP to see how it feels and build a bit of confidence. Keep an open mind about finish times - start with the intention of finishing and if all seems to be going well in the second half then maybe pick it up a little and try to finish strongly.
28/03/2008 at 17:48
Hi Bootsie, You can't speed up the healing process of a tendon - do the things your physio has probably told you - ice, rest, anti inflamatories and then gentle mobility work to regain the length of the muscle. You can keep fit with non-weight baring activity like cycling or cross trainer but get advice first as you don't want to agrevate the tendon.
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