Webchat with coach Steve Smythe

Join us this Friday at 1pm (Jan 18) for a marathon training webchat

21 to 40 of 63 messages
18/01/2013 at 13:02

Welcome to today's marathon webchat - a  big thank you to coach Steve Smythe for joining us today to answer your training questions.

Over to you, Steve...

Katie RW


18/01/2013 at 13:04

Denis re your long run query

I disagree that there is little benefit of going over 2:30. It may be a case of diminishing returns, but I have found most of my best marathons have been achieved when I have done long slow runs of three hours and over. You have to be careful not to run them too fast or recovery is difficult and you potentially do lose more than you gain as training is difficult for the following week. But long slow runs built up gradually together with faster shorter runs should benefit you and best to do more than one very long one in the build up. I aim for 3 of 21-23 and maybe 2 or 3 others 20s

18/01/2013 at 13:05

Ghost of Kitten Kat

Presume you mean 3:25. I think non structure can work for distances up to half marathon but you do need to tick certain boxes for marathons to prepare properly.

If you don’t like to follow a day by day schedule then try and do certain sessions during the week as to when you feel fit. Ie do at least one long slow run of two hours or more but do it when you want and one sustained run with at least half a hour of marathon pace or faster and one structured speed session but you can decide on each run about 15 minutes into each session which one to doand as long as you don’t run hard two days running and do the basics, it doesn’t matter if you do your unstructured sessions on the other days and which day you do it.

18/01/2013 at 13:05

Seems several people in this thread are asking similar questions about the benefits of the long slow run. I'm very interested in that as my schedule doesn't currently allow for a LSR as well as a long run 15-30 seconds slower that target marathon pace (FIRST plan)?

18/01/2013 at 13:06

Is it sensible to be restricting food intake 18 weeks out from a marathon to shift a couple of kilos (if you're at what would be a "reasonably fit" weight in my life history),or should I forget about that and focus on having the energy to get the training load done.  If it's ok early in a training schedule, at what point would it be silly?

Second quick question if I may - don't have a great deal of spare time with work and a young child, and enjoy cycling as well.  Which runs in a marathon training schedule would be least detrimental to drop in favour of a pedal on the pushbike, or to put it another way, which should be absolutely kept?

Thanks for your advice!

18/01/2013 at 13:09

Nicky Vinall

Your three basic hard sessions are excellent but maybe once in 3 weeks you can do a hill session instead of a tempo session or interval session. They are good for a change and building leg strength. Increase the percentage of them if the race you are targetting has hills, but even if preparing for a flat marathon, hills have their uses

re diet

I’m not a dietician and could do with losing a few pounds myself but basically and obviously to lose weight you need to up calories burnt or reduce calories consumed! I generally find the faster I run, the more calories I burn so maybe up the percentage of faster running but be sensible with any changes in food consumption. You need to be sensible and have to be fuelled well for the important sessions.

18/01/2013 at 13:10

Furny 78

Good that you are feeling fitter but you do need to make sure you stay healthy and don’t lose too much weight too fast. The multi vitamins may help and you should make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and probably need to up your healthy snacks between the main meals. It’s probably worth visiting your GP to give you a check over and just make sure there is no underlying problem whic isn't just connected to the running

18/01/2013 at 13:12


It’s possible you have just overdone the miles. The last time I trained very high mileage a few years ago I picked up a virus and went down a level and it took me six months to get vaguely back to where I was before. I would suggest sticking to just one marathon a year in future and have a break from the mileage and focus on getting your speed back with increased shorter pace work and put some strides into some longer runs. Give your body a rest from the miles and  aim for a 10km time. Marathons are great but they take a lot of you. I used to do up to 4 or 5 but now can only cope with one a year.


18/01/2013 at 13:14


as you haven’t broken four, it would be safer to aim for 3:45 rather than 3:30 next time. Your half marathon time isn’t really fast enough to make 3:30 a definite and would mean you would be under pressure by halfway.

Cramps will be worse in hot weather and you seem to be trying out a lot of the sensible solutions. It might be worth etting massage  or seeing a physio/osteo/chiro in the build up just to ensure there is no underlying problem there. Stretching, hydrating well with some electrolytes. Salt in itself is probably not necessary.

re mileage totals, you can certainly run marathons off 35 miles a week but it gives you more chance of success if you can up that slightly - do it gradually though - first to 40 and then to 45.


18/01/2013 at 13:14

Hi Steve. I'm due to do 11 miles LSR for VLM training this weekend. I'm behind due to a knee injury so I really don't want to skip another long one. Some of my more hardy friends are saying "just get out there" but I'm really worried about the ice.

Should I carry on with 11 miles as planned? Or run on the treadmill until I either get bored to death or thrown out of the gym? Or switch the 11 miles for another treadmill interval run to get another speed session in and give my knee a bit more time to recover (90% better and physio says I'm fine to train)



18/01/2013 at 13:15


Question 1 – if you are up to 20 now then you are well ahead of where you need to be. A 20 once every three weeks is probably sufficient but I don’t see a problem in one of those being a 22 or 23. On other weeks I would suggest a 18 and a brisker 15 – or at least some at marathon pace within it ie last 4 or 5 miles.


Question 2- if you are running 8:24s in training now then 8:30 should be a doddle come the marathon. I agree 7:55 may be a bit too fast for your first marathon but 8:15s should be very doable and agree a half-marathon time may give you a better idea.


Question 3: Four weeks before is too close to race it. You may recover but many don’t and it’s not worth the risk. You could probably just about get away with the first half at slower than marathon pace and the second half at goal marathon pace based on your HM time,

18/01/2013 at 13:16


Your marathon time is obviously way below your capabilities based on your other times. Gym work may help in building leg strength but fundamentally if you have a weakness it appears to be your endurance though you say you are still doing the necessary SLR’s and I presume you are doing plenty of two to three hour runs.

I wouldn’t totally reduce the hills and speed work too much and maybe one area of running that may assist you is the sustained faster longer run so you get used to running fast while tired. Ie 13 miles slow then run marathon pace for five miles

18/01/2013 at 13:17

CE messenger

Certainly most of your long runs should be reasonably relaxed at a good minute a mile slower than race pace. Some of my recent ones have been nearer two! However you need to do some faster long runs which is why regular races are good and your method of putting a fast 4 or 5 while tired towards the end of run is a good one. To do much more than that is very hard without the stimulus of a race. it can then take an awful lot out of you and then you are really struggling for a week or so and your training sessions in the following week suffer and ultimately you can lose more than you gain.

Weights won’t make as much difference as long runs but they will make you stronger overall and if you have the time, then it can only do you good.


18/01/2013 at 13:21


yes you need long slow runs whatever the distance – even the world’s best 1500m runners do long slow runs during the winter to build endurance and even half marathon competitors should be doing runs of 12 miles plus.

Personally I don’t take too much with me for long slow runs of less than 15 miles just make sure I have some fuel inside me from a sensible breakfast (cereals/toast) and am well hydrated beforehand. In hot weather you need to make contingency plans re getting extra drink. Sometimes I carry some money and buy one if I am feeling extra thirsty rather than carry it, though they may not be practical if out in the country. I occasionally takes gels on training runs but prefer to keep the affect for races and key long runs rather than all the time though things like jelly beans are worth carrying with you if you run out of energy.

It is though best to rely on good training to get you through the harder runs and races rather than sweets and gels but I have found them esseniial in marathon races over the second half in ecent years and wish they had been around when i was first marathoning 35 years ago!


18/01/2013 at 13:23


schedules are useful but you always need to adapt them to your own needs and requirements while sticking vaguely to the principles of the baics of the schedule and so why not tinker with it and add the odd faster section at marathon pace or a few extra miles.

18/01/2013 at 13:30

Home Brew

Hopefully if you were training hard, it should be coming down gradually anyway if you are unnaturally overweight but as long as you are sensible, it probably wouldn’t do you any harm at this stage to lose a few pounds

Re sessions the key one is the long run followed by tempo and speedwork.

Certainly you could do a bike ride on recovery days. I quite like to add endurance by finding somewhere different to run and cycle there and back. Ie last Sunday I did 2 hours plus running but also did 2 hours on bike getting to and from. Though later in schedule I would focus more on running as I sadly can’t use my bike in the marathon! I agree cycling is a good way to get extra endurance though without the same injury risks.

18/01/2013 at 13:34

Pie Lover

I love running in fresh snow but ice is more difficult and  if it is too rutted, then it would be really bad for the knee and probably not worth the risk. I would maybe try a short  run tomorrow and see if you can run safely and efficiently outside, and if not, remove the brain and go on a treadmill!

18/01/2013 at 13:37

Thanks Steve, happy running

18/01/2013 at 13:38

I'm 60 and have a best of 3.23 for VLM, 1.31 Wilmslow half and 42.11 for 10K, approx. 2 years ago, but since struggled with injuries and just about got fit and healthy again.Can your schedules get me a sub 3.15 or is that asking too much, also the Hanson way, recommends no longer than 16 miles for the long run, what are your thoughts?

18/01/2013 at 13:39

Brian B - re your food question.they key is just be sensible. If you come onto the Asics thread then Ruth could answer more specific questions re what is best to eat and when. In the 36 years of marathoning I have behind me, I have tried diets but now just focus on eating sensiblyfundamentally you just need to eat sensibly with a high carbohydrate diet and eat lots of good food, and especially lots of fruit. But the good thing about doing marathon training is that it is possible to eat some treats and convince yourself that you are either carbo loading or replacing energy lost!

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