Training Q+A: Steve Smythe

Have your marathon questions answered by experienced coach Steve Smythe

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05/02/2010 at 13:22

Hi Steve,

What do you think was the difference in the year you ran the 2:29? What went "right" that year?

I'm making my debut this year at 22 and looking to run ~2:29/30 (dependant on weather) - what sort of HM and 10k PBs did you have around the time you ran your 2:29?

 For your weekly long run what sort of pace were you running at compared to marathon pace? Did you use gels on your long runs or were you worried those would affect the training effect causing the optimisation of lipid (fat) burning?



05/02/2010 at 13:24

Ditto Knight Rider's question

05/02/2010 at 13:25
Thanks Steve - I set a sub 4 originally for Blackpool so I have no problem moving targets etc but I just like to have an ultimate goal in mind for my big picture, little picture mind games 
05/02/2010 at 13:31

Steve, I've been following the RW schedule for the VLM (would ideally like about 4:15 tho might be ambitious for my first marathon - best HM time is 1:58).

My question is: I always seem to end up missing one of the scheduled runs each week due to being just too exhausted and achy. This generally happens after I've done the 3 mid-week runs and I have to skip the 'easy' one that comes before the weekend's long run just to allow my body to recover... It might be because I've never done this kind of mileage before that I just don't seem to be managing it, but I'm wondering how much it matters? Looking at some of the injuries and niggles people some people seem to be picking up I sort of feel like I'm doing the right thing listening to my body and avoiding injury and I come to the LSR fresh at the weekend. But I'm also worried about what impact it will have on my training and ultimate race performance if I skip this almost every week? It is only the 'easy' run I've been skipping rather than the speed sessions or LSR.


05/02/2010 at 13:33

Hi Steve, how important is it for a first timer to have a goal pace and be aware of splits etc? 

I'm doing my first marathon this April but on the back of just one race (so far) and having a hard time deciding what goal to set. I did a half marathon in September in 1.46 which gives me a predicted marathon time of 3.45ish. I feel this is very optimistic given I've been running less than a year at present and am nervous of injuring and/or disappointing myself if I set out to run this in April. But I don't want to fall flat by going out without much thought to pace etc... I'm female and 25 if that helps.

05/02/2010 at 13:33
I have 2 marathons planned in 7 weeks, the first being a training jog and the 2nd being the race. What pace should I do the 1st marathon at if I am looking for a sub 3hr in the raced marathon?
05/02/2010 at 13:34

Hi Steve

What importance do you put on 'sports massage'. I can understand high mileage elite runners regularly getting a 'sports' but would a good Swedish massage not be good enough for the rest of us. Alternatively would a good sports massage be of greater benefit for slower runners?


05/02/2010 at 13:34


I did a lab test to determine my threshold but for me I suspect my threshold now is only 20-30 seconds a mile quicker than marathon pace.

All being well I will run 6:15s at the marathon and my threshold is probably at 5:45-5:50s

Knight Rider

I'm not as fast as I used to be and my speed has detoriated ie used to be able to run 32 for 10k and now its around 36 but in terms of marathoning, my feul strategy is better my pacing is usualy good and I iknow what works in training. I take slightly longer to recover from hard sessions and do slightly less mileage but try and not compromise too much because I feel one of the reasons runners do slow is they ease off the training.

At my club we had one man and one woman setting pbs and wnning national titles at 55 because they started late and trained hard at late age. Most runners reach their peak 5-7 year after they start hard training whether they are 20 or 50.

My peak was probably at 29 and I should have run a quicker marathon then (my pb was at 23) but I didn't know as much about running as I know now.

05/02/2010 at 13:36


Yes I had a great massage yesterday - thanks Trev!

Yes apart from doing the legs and back a lot of good, they also enable you to foresee a potential problem and avet a major injury.

05/02/2010 at 13:39

Jiffleking I would suggest running marathon 1 at 3:15 pace

but if you are  feeling strong and have done sufficient training then you could try and run sub three pace for the last 3 miles.

I have been follish enough a few times to do 2 in a week. Once I did Boston on Monday and London on Sunday (2:47 and then 2:58) I think and another Sri Chinmoy one week in 2:56 and then Poly in 2:47 the following. It was definitely easier doing the first one at 90% than doing the fast one first!

05/02/2010 at 13:42

Hi there

this will be my first Marathon, am very excited ! can you recommend an ideal warm up & stretch period before my long runs

Many thanks

05/02/2010 at 13:44


as long as you do the major sessions then missing the easy ones don't matter. NB sometimes the body adapts to the training and it gets easier. sometimes you just get more tired!


the most important thing about a first marathon is to enjoy it so set your sights lower. Until you do a marathon, there is no way of knowing what you are capable - most people aim far too highbased on half marathon times and formulas and most runners struggle to hold pace after 20 miles - especially if it's hot.

So aim for four for your firs one and if you run 3:57 and feel easy go for 3:45 next time.

05/02/2010 at 13:47

Hi Steve

 Im doing the London marathon for the first time this year!! scared!!! I have been running for a while now and really enjoying, i did the great north last year.

However!! Im finding it hard to fit so much training in! Im a pig farmer so work quite long hours, i also ride horses and also play hockey and have a match every sat! So all in all i think im quite active, does any of this help me?

 Ive done my long run for this week which was 16 miles and two 8 miles which is fine but my plan says i need to do more however im playing hockey on Sat and Sunday! What would you think of doing a 3 day plan? with everything else i do will i be ok? I want to do well at London and know i need to start doing some speed work or is hockey good for this? I play midfield so i do run alot!!! I know ive asked a lot but think i will kill myself if i try run every day then on my rest days play hockey!!!


05/02/2010 at 13:51

Hobbling - for my 2:29 I ran 100 miles a week from january. was probably in 32 10k shape, 53 for 10 and 70 for a half. I went through in 73:30 in the marathon.

Breaking 2:30 so early was a bad thing for me as it took away my ambition to run faster as I thought 2:25 was unlikely and so I raced shorter races.

There were no gels back then - n race day I just had a sip of water and a cup of tea for breakfast.

I probably did my long runs at seven minute miles but raced every week.

caroline I like to have a short jog before the marathon - I live 800m away from the start so that's lucky and then I do a few stretches but for a marathon you don't need too much pre exercise, it's a case of saving energy and the chances are because of the numbers of runners, you'll be starting slowly anyway.

Curly - sub 4 is a good starting point - it's a much bigger target.

05/02/2010 at 13:56
Thanks Steve, been having issues with tight calves, I'm guessing a gentle jog prior to my runs is going to help ?
05/02/2010 at 13:57

Steve...What's the length of your long run? And is this consistent throughout the year?

Cheers for your time btw.

05/02/2010 at 14:01


If you do three big sessions a week - long run, speedwork, tempo then you could probably just about get away with it but the more you do the easier it will be and the faster you will get.

However doing alll the sessions and doing lots else means you will just get tired and probably injured

The hockey probably helps but not sure about the riding!

It's difficult when you have a busy life and lots of alternatives but it may be best if you can to put some of those activities to one aside until after the marathon. Once the marathon is over you will probably want a rest from running and will enjoy the riding etc more!


You do the speedwork because it's on the schedule and have to set an example!

The more speedwork you do, hopefully youu will get faster and apart from running quicker times at shorter distances which is great in itself, adds a pyschological boost, it also means you feel more comfortable running a slower pace at marathons.

05/02/2010 at 14:04

Gul Dar

your training looks well balanced as it is but perhaps a marathon pace run every 2-3 weeks would be a good idea.

You don't have to do a long, slow run  every week and a race every third week or a marathon pace run may get you fitter

05/02/2010 at 14:06

Hi Steve.

 training for London, my first marathon, and i was up to 14 miles on LSR. Had to miss the past 2 weeks due to knee injury (Poplitial tear), but now nearing recovery.  I'm worried about the time lost and the time left and wondered the best way to make up the miles, bearing in mind i will be taking baby-steps for the next week or so while i get back on the road....drop recovery run? drop fall back weeks? add a mile or 2 to LSR?...etc.

 Many Thanks

05/02/2010 at 14:08


I once did 5 marathons a year but now just tend to do the one so I don't do long runs all year around.

I did 30k last weekend and will do possible 3 20s before the marathon and post marathon will maybe do a 2 hour run every 3 weeks or so to keep endurance but that will depend on what distance I'm targetting. I like to do a few track races during the summer and  road relays so will try and not run too long and get some speed back in my legs. One of the advantages of having 40 years of running behind me is I retain a lot of endurance from the past years.

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