Beginner-based marathon advice with Mike Gratton

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

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04/04/2008 at 17:07

Hi Mike,

i've been following the garnin schduels for a 3.50 marathon, and all my training has gone more or less to plan.

On my schedule this week end is a 12 mile at race pace. The problem is that other people in my club are saying it's too long a distance to do just one week before the marathon, and they are all doing a lot less this weekend.

As i've not done a marathon before, i'm confused and not sure if i should do it or just opt for a shorter run at race pace.

Thanks Mike


05/04/2008 at 16:18
Oops, I think I am being really thick here, but how do I get to read Mike's reply to these emails? I am a RW subscriber, so have a subscriber no., and I am running FLM next Sunday so this stuff would be really useful, if only I could actually see Mike's replies!! Help?
05/04/2008 at 16:28

Ah, got it, just wasn't going back far enough. sorry all, don't mean to waste your valuable reading time.

 Thanks Mike for running this post!

05/04/2008 at 16:37

Dear Alex, re problems on long run, I do a lot of my running on my own and funny enough have found I perform better when I do. Mostly people are really polite, say hello etc and get the odd heckle from the youngsters!! but appreciate the anxiety and reality of what has happened to you.

Suggest always carry a mobile phone and you could have called someone as you kept going, alternative, should you find yourself being followed again try not to head home if no one is there but head somewhere busy and/or place of safety ie. supermarket and seek out security, police station, neighbour. Safe running and all the best.

05/04/2008 at 16:37
ps meant to say BIG THANKS to Mike for this thread have found it really useful.
05/04/2008 at 17:26

Hi Mike,

First of all, thank you so much for taking time out to answer all our questions.

Here's my situation: I had to pull out of FLM07 last year with just seven weeks to go owing to a posterior tibial stress fracture. The cause appears to have been overpronation and over training. Needless to say it was an awful experience. Anyone that's been through it will know what I mean.

But I got 'back on the horse', kept my eyes on the prize, got orthotics fitted, saw a physio regularly, and now a year later here I am getting ready to run next Sunday.

The trouble is my confidence. After last year's upset, I've been constantly paranoid about the same thing happening again. The orthotics have helped, but as training has progressed I have begun to experience pain in the affected area again (3 - 5 inches above my left ankle on the inside of my shin, on the tibia). As I understand it the first stage of stress fracture is periositis (inflammation) so I've just rested and until the pain has gone each time, trouble is that's taken longer and longer as the runs got longer. As things stand I have done the following long runs (chronologically):

1 x 10 miles 

3 x 13.5 miles (including Reading Half in 1hr 58mins)

1 x 17 miles

1 x 16.5 miles (this was 2 weeks ago on 22 March) and my total training miles since August 07 are 380 with about 30 eliptical sessions (some up to 2 hours) in there as well. I am currently resting, having only run twice (2 miles and 3.5 miles) since 22 March because I still have a slight dull ache in the affected area. I have been using the eliptical as a substitute ('long run' on 30th March was 2 hours on the eliptical) since 22nd March. I would have loved to have trained harder and got up to 20 miles but alas it was not to be. I have run at about 9mins 30 sec mile pace on my really long (15 mile +) runs.


1. have I done enough to run FLM next week? I would like to do sub 4.5hrs if poss but would be happy just to enjoy the day and get round - do you think I can do either?

2. would it be OK not to run at all between now and 13th April, or would you advise SOME running, even if it's just a couple of miles to loosen off, even if it aggravates my slightly aching leg? or would the eliptical be enough? should the priority be to allow any inflamation to disappear completely?

3. if I still have a kind of dull ache on the day should I consider not running? (ie will it only get worse until it 'snaps')?

Apologies for the length of this post, as you can tell I am obsessing about this a bit. I am prepared to go all out on the day and I don't care what happens during the race, I just want to finish. My head is a bit all over the place at the moment as I so badly want to do this and it's hard to see the wood for the trees, or the route for the runners (pick your own metaphor), I have been trying for years to run FLM (won't bore you with all the set backs) and this seems my best shot.

 Any thoughts on an appropriate training strategy for the last 7 days?

05/04/2008 at 17:29

apols, I should have clarified:

it's not pain that stops me running (this usually sets in 24 - 48 hours AFTER) my long runs, it is the fear of causing another stress fracture that has stopped me going up to 20 miles.

05/04/2008 at 17:38

Hi Alex, I go for most of my runs by myself as well. I always carry my mobile with me, and i tell my husband how long roughly i will be out for. But if he is out i will ring someone and call them when i return. I have a number for a local taxi firm so if something should happen i know that i can be collected and taken home safely, if no friends and family are about. On my long runs my hubby meets me at certain points with water, but most importantly to make sure i am safe. On my evening runs i try to change the times i go out and i never go the same route at the same time.I hope this helps.

05/04/2008 at 18:30

Bill Smart

Sorry I am no Mike - but if hes not around this weekend my thoughts are. 12 is quite long for a first timer to be running especially all at marathon pace. Depending on how training has gone you have two choices. (1) do 12 miles but 6-8 at LSR pace and 4 at marathon pace at end. This will give you most of benefits of marathon pace without being so tiring. (2) drop the miles to say 8 - again I would be tempted to run 4 at LST pace and the last 4 at marathon pace as this educates the legs without too much wear and tear.

BTW this is my second marathon (did NY in November) todays run was 12 miles half at LSR pace and half at marathon goal pace

Whatever you do - good luck


05/04/2008 at 18:43

Hi Mike

This might sound a bit daft, but here goes.  For the last 5 months or so, I've been running (training/racing) in compression socks (the one's that go up to just below the knee).

Should I wear these for the marathon? or wear a more 'conventional' anklette type sock, especially if it's hot. 

05/04/2008 at 19:31


thanks for responding, great advice. All my trianing runs have gone to plan so  far

10, 13, 15, 18, 20, 20 ,22, 17 and with midweek runs of 1 to 1.5 hours at faster pace or partial race pace. along with hill work and speed training too.All long runs have been at 9.45 to 10.10 min mile so i feel confident and have recovered quickly, I hope i have done enough to get under 4 hours. I suppose i'm just panicking about it now and my running buddies have made me feel i shouldn't do the 12 tomorrow, I think i will follow your advice and do the 12 but not all at race pace and save myself for the big day.

Good luck  if you are doing it too and also to everyone else,,, it should be a great day.. ~)



06/04/2008 at 18:39


          hi archibald     no big deal get outdoors do your training fresh air the beauty of nature the birds singing the trees dancing and wel coming you my message to all of u who had bad times partners deserting at CRUCIAL TIMES TO RUIN YOUR DAY   two hoots say your prayers and on the road you will ENJOY hopefully meet others in same situations male or females BE BRAVE HAVE CONFIDENCE  POSITIVE IF STILL U FEEL LOW MEET ME I WILL B DRESSED AS  a sikh maharajah ie king u wont miss me i think nobody can as i mingle with everybody i am running for chariy call ed get kids going i had tough time getting a place but with my flatterry i managed so off u go c u on the day i will b wearing RED TURBAN OSTRICH FEATHERS  ETC ETC OK GOOD LUCK AND I WILL PRAY FOR ALL OF MY FELLOW RUNNERS FORGET ABOUT BEST TIME HELP EACH OTHER IF THEY R IN DISTRESS OK C U ALL   MALKIT SINGH 

06/04/2008 at 20:46

Hi Mike, my training has gone pretty much to plan following 3.45 schedule but I felt quite exhausted and achy this weekend so haven't ran the 12m in the schedule. Should I try and fit in a 6M tomorrow  ( feeling much better now) or just do the tuesday rep session? Concerned that I have missed an important session close to the race day.    Thanks Fiona

07/04/2008 at 09:48

Last longish run done in a few inches of snow, just two littl'uns left now, unless I'm very nervous I won't be running on Saturday.

I'm starting to get quite paranoid now so this is probably a silly question but how long before the start of the race should we aim to be there ideally? I don't want to be standing around for too long but I also don't want to get there in a panic.

Can I just say, Mike, as a first timer this thread has been invaluable to me. Not only the questions of mine that you have answered but also reading other peoples questions and answers as it makes you realise you are not the only person experiencing some of these problems. So I would just like to say a big THANK YOU!

Good luck everyone and make sure you don't get injured this week.


07/04/2008 at 10:03


Not all the aches and pains will go but you will be more rested - a lot is in the mind though

07/04/2008 at 10:14


I have no doubt that you can complete the marathon and, judging by your Reading time, in your target time even if you wrap yourself in cottonwool this week.

The problem is, as use observe, going to be afterwards and it is likely that there will be some damage done although I doubt as serious as a break.

I coach a very talented runner who is having similar recurring shin problems and we have had to be guided by her physio for the last couple of years as to the type of training to do - no long steady stuff and all fast track running as faster running has less contact time with the ground. This has meant a rethink about targets and she is going to concentrate on  5 & 10k for a while before going back to the marathon.

Your physio would probably say don't do it but if I was in your shoes I would do it and then take a long look at the reasons for the recurring problem and maybe a rethink on your running targets.  

07/04/2008 at 10:17
Nick, Don't change anything - if the compression socks have been working for you in training then continue to do use them in the race.
07/04/2008 at 10:18
Billy, Good solution - hope your last long run went OK in the snow?
07/04/2008 at 10:20


What ever you decide to do in the last week won't matter too much as long as you don't do too much - you can't get fitter now and you should just be thinking of preventing any negatives.

07/04/2008 at 10:20

Hi Mike,

my ankle is still bugging me.. i twisted it and damaged the medial ligaments a bit about 3 weeks ago.. haven't done more than a 3 mile run in the last 2 weeks.. just resting but i did 3 miles on friday and saturday morning i was limping again! clearly i'm not pulling out of FLM but are there any support bandages i could run with to give my ankle that bit more support?

I have been seeing a physio all the time and she had given me the all clear and there is no swelling so it is a wierd one!!

Is there anything i can be doing this week to strengthen my legs wtihout hurting my ankle before sunday? 

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