Beginner-based marathon advice with Mike Gratton

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

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02/04/2008 at 16:56

Thanks Mike - I hadn't  thought about the increased strain on my legs.  

I had a go at self massage last night and have started doing reverse calf stretches on the bottom step everytime I go up the stairs!    I'll get some feedback on my running style at the weekend.

 For anyone else with similar issues there are some really good RW archive articles on warm up/stretching techniques.  If I'm honest, I probably don't warm up and stretch properly before I start  so that won't be helping!

The recent "injury" posts on this forum have convinced me to lay off my planned runs now until my new shoes arrive so I'll cross train/cycle in the meantime and hope for a good long run on Sunday when I might have improved stability and more supple (albeit bruised) calfs!

 Good luck everyone with your forthcoming marathon experiences -  I'll be watching it on TV.  .....and Gatton,  I've sent your "poem" to everyone I know that is either running a marathon soon or is just starting out and learning to run.  You're absolutely right, whatever problems we have, it's grim determination that makes the difference between success and failure!

02/04/2008 at 18:05

hey Mike,

bit of an odd one for you. what's the story with emotional upheevals? the girlfriend decided to end things which has left me in rather a mess for the last 5 days. i haven't run for since last wednesday, am struggling to eat and sleep too...  i realise tapering is only light sessions so it's not like i'm missing any major long runs or anything this close to the event. But, is this likely to create some mental issues on the day? If I can get back to eating properly, should I still be okay for the FLM?

02/04/2008 at 18:14

Hi Archibald,

The training and fitness won't be a problem but your state of mind might as you need to be very positive approaching the marathon and you definitely need to be eating well in the last 48hrs.  

I'm not really very big on emotional problems but If you can bring yourself to getting out for a short easy run you may find once you are out the door and into it you may find it helps you think more clearly - or at least it does for me.

02/04/2008 at 18:29

Hi Archibald

Hope you don't mind my butting in but it was the sudden end of my 10 year relationship that actually kickstarted me into making my marathon effort to prove that I am special and to prove to myself and everyone that I am strong. Stuff 'em I say! Anyway, giving up the booze and fags was my biggest hurdle as the 'ex' made me want to binge tons but I didn't want to let him take me down despite a number of occasions of near defeat.  So all I'd say is, if you can, be stubborn about this and prove to yourself that you won't let anyone ruin your marathon for you!

I also found that making running plans with others and running on Tuesdays with my running club meant it was more difficult for me to blow out the running and kept me out of Davies Wine Bar here in the city which I have to walk past on the way to the train!

p.s. Mike thank you for your advice the other day.  Just been to physio (Pure Sports Medicine in Threadneedle St - very impressive) and had the mother of all massages on my ltb tbl ibs or whatever that long muscle is.  Off to pool shortly to do some 'just arms' swimming!

02/04/2008 at 19:33

Hi Mike,

I haven't posted on this thread before, but have been regularly reading it for tips. I'm not really a beginner as I have completed a few marathons over the years (but not FLM).  I run every day covering 45 or so miles a week (when not marathon training). I'm a V55 but have never joined a club. Recent times have been 2hr 31 mins for the Stafford 20 mile (felt fairly comfortable) 9 March, and 1hr 34 mins 58 secs for the Wilmslow half  on 30 March. Pushed fairly hard in the 2nd half and again felt ok, even if the old pegs were a bit wobbly during me old git  'sprint' finish.

I've been following the Smart coach hard schedule, and trying to match the suggested speeds, but frankly I've tended to run the fast sessions slightly slower and the steady/easy sessions faster than suggested (I guess being a member of a club would sort that out). However I've more or less hit (exceeded) all the mileage and LSR targets ok.  

During the taper the schedule suggests  4x7 mile runs this week (including one tempo run) and a LSR of 8 miles Sunday. Then next week  Tues 3mile easy, Wed 7 mile incl 4 miles tempo, then Fri 3miles easy, with the other days rest.

My question is if,  (big if, because I've managed to run other marathons ok without doing it) I decide to carbo load, when and how during the taper should I do it ?  I've seen various ideas on this and wondered what your thoughts were on it, and if you think that for the average bloke i.e. me it would make any difference .

My sensible head say's don't bother, but what do you think ?

Thanks for all the other help and advice.

Regards, Phil D  

02/04/2008 at 19:45

Hi Mike

Further to my post this afternoon querying when I might start to feel more race-fit for the marathon, and whether it was normal to feel quite low at this stage, something hit me about an hour ago which I wonder whether may be contributing to my sudden loss of appetite for the training.

Last friday morning, I went for a run from home (LSR equivalent, slightly tapered) and, unfortunately, was followed home. After challenging the man on his first attempt to get into my house and finding that he was a few sandwiches short of a picnic, he then made further attempts over the course of the afternoon - looking through the letterbox and putting his hands through, repeatedly knocking and tring the door handle, pushing against the door etc etc until I had to call the police. Unfortunately, they just missed him and, although they have told me to call 999 as soon as he comes back, I found the experience really scary. I have since been checking out the spy hole everytime I leave the house for work, checking before I turn into my road etc etc. This evening I was just thinking about my run due this friday (unfortunately I have to do at pretty much the same time, and will have to leave and return to the house) and unexpectedly just the thought of it made me feel sick and tearful. I am supposed to be running in race gear which, even worse, will be advertising my name on the vest.  Could this be contributing to the low that I am experiencing?

Unfortunately, I don't have anyone to run with, it'll be my only opportunity for the l0 miler I need to do, and I don't have transport to start and finish the run elsewhere... Perhaps some other lady runners out there may have had similar and found some tricks to get around this problem.

Many thanks again (and apologies for the PS)


02/04/2008 at 21:15

Hi Mike

I know its a few days away yet but can you give me some first hand advice on what to take with me on the day apart from the obvious kit, number, pins etc.

I know I am probably panicking too early but sometimes it is really annoying when you are in an event and someone says oh I always have XYZ in my kit bag just in case!

 Is there anything that you found really helpful to put in your bag for before/after the marathon especially as I will probably spend ages trying to locate my family and when I have chances are the teenagers will have scoffed all the food!

Many thanks Mike


02/04/2008 at 21:52
Big thanks to Ken, Malkit and Gatton for the encouragement and inspiration - as a result I have decided today just to get on and do it...might have to be a bit of a run/walk/hobble strategy, but what the hell, will do it anyway!
03/04/2008 at 00:16

hiya mike good on yer i have been told just to turn up & experience the day is gonna be a memory for life who cares what time we do ?

just think of all those who did not get a shot at this we will be there to get this far of course you must have a go people think i am mad at my age never been athletic but if it takes me 7 hrs & it might  so what the charity will still benefit & once they get the oxygen mask off me & release me from hospital i will e mail you to find out you did just fine

hey nearly there now !! 

03/04/2008 at 00:17

of course i meant that for paul nolan 8

its an age thing ! 

03/04/2008 at 09:44

Phil D,

The old model carbo loading regime (which I followed) was to do a depletion run 7 days before the marathon and then just eat protein foods (no carbo's at all) for 3 days then switch to carbo only meals for the last four days. The idea was that there will be a reaction to the dramatic drop in blood sugar caused by the depletion stage and then the body super compensates for a while and stores extra sugar during the loading phase.

This has been refined as it has been discovered that your body adapts to depletion/loading after all your training runs so you don't have to simulate it by doing the depletion phase and your body will automatically load when you reduce your training and increase carbo intake.

The advice now is to remain as normal for the first half of the week and train at a level that keeps you active without making you tired then on Friday carbo load for 24hrs - this is the most important period as your body will take up most of the carbo in this period - then saturday keep carbo in take high but don't over eat as the benifits reduce after the first 24hrs and you don't want to feel like a podge on race day.

03/04/2008 at 10:54

Hi Mike,

       Thanks for the advice. The latest thinking seems to be more sensible that's for sure i.e. nothing too drastic. 

Just one other thing, in all the other half and full marathons I've run (including the recent 20 miler) I've never taken any top up foods i.e. gels etc. with me. All I have ever done is eat a cereal breakfast, made sure I was hydrated before, then just gone out and run it, taking water as and when. I did experiment during my LSR's by carrying a bottle of Lucozade sport with me, and taking the odd swig,which was ok. But to be honest I think the only real benefit of this is avoiding the melee at the water stations.

Any thoughts on this one ?

03/04/2008 at 11:53


This sounds really distressing - have the police offered any victim support? Although you say you don't have anyone to run with would it be possible long term for you to join a club or a running group for safety.

03/04/2008 at 11:58

Little Jules,

Obviously make sure you have your running number and timing chip - otherwise vasaline is essential so you can cover all possible chaffing points before you start and some comfort snack foods and drink - in the old days when races started in the afternoon I always had a cup of tea and a donut at a service station (top nutirition) .

I always found that changing shoes at the end the most satisfying feeling - your running ones will get wet and hot and it just feels good to have a change.

03/04/2008 at 12:07

Phil D,

I think it depends on your probable running time - someone running just over 2hrs can get away with the bodies store of glycogen if they pace it right but the longer you are on your feet the more valid gels - and in ultras - solid foods become.

I wouldn't experiment now but if you didn't have an adverse reaction to the lucozade you tried on your long run it wouldn't hurt to take some on board at each lucozade station - but this is mostly for the electrolytes rather than the sugar.

If it is a hot day it is important that you take some electrolyte drink on the course as you need the salts to rebalance the fluid in your body - water alone leaves you out of balance and in danger of collapse in extreme cases.

03/04/2008 at 14:09

Unfortunately Mike, it's that running with my thoughts that will be the issue between now and raceday. Raceday should be fine because it's both my first marathon and the whole FLM thing that goes with this one should be a big enough distraction (fingers crossed). Good to know that physically I should still be fine. Thanks.

 And Laura, thanks. you've just given me my first smile in a week.

03/04/2008 at 15:18

Hi Alex, safety is a big things for us ladies, have you thought about running with your race vest inside out, looks a bit silly but it means people can't read your name quite so easily?  When I'm out by mysef on the longer runs I run loops around where I live, did 12 miles the other day but I was never more than  1.5miles from home. the other alternative i suppose is a treadmill for this weeks run? Keep smiling don't  let him spoil your marathon.

03/04/2008 at 21:51

Hi Mike,  Just a final thank-you for all the advice you have given us - it has been really helpful and encouraging.

I am flying out to Paris tomorrow, to run on Sunday.  Dalesgirl, I think we may be in the same "pen", so look out for "Crazy Lady in the Diabetes UK vest, shivering, as the forecast is 8 degrees!  Any advice on keeping warm?choosing gear for those conditions, Mike?

Good luck to those in the FLM!

04/04/2008 at 09:30


Keep some loose fitting (so you can get them off easily) track bottoms on until the last minute and keep a t-shirt over the one you have your number on and start with it on taking it off once you have warmed up. Light weight gloves or socks over your hands also help.

Good luck in Paris - we have 100 runners and 3 staff going down by Eurostar today - the rest of us left here will be organising the Dunsfold 10km in the snow.  

04/04/2008 at 14:38

Thanks Becksr

I will probably go with a treadmill for the last couple of runs, as they're shorter - good idea.

Mike - will all the aches and pains start to go away this week before the big day? am a bit concerned that they're still so 'poignant' well into the taper and only a week to go...

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