Ask the Experts: Marathon Training Q+A with Steve Smythe

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21/01/2011 at 12:44

Hi Steve

I run 40-45 miles per week. My long run is between 12-14.5 miles, as I'm a happy half marathoner at the moment. I always drink gatorade first on my long run before moving on to water. However, for some reason on this run I always just slow down somewhere between miles 9 & 10.

I've not hit the wall, it just seems to be like a lull in the middle, and then I'm back in the swing again.

 i thought it was due to me being in open countryside, in the middle of nowhere, when it happens, but I did 2 x 10 mile races in Autumn last year, and exactly the same thing happened (so others passed me!).

I've only been running a couple of years - is it something that will just go eventually, or does it happen to all runners sometimes, and if so, is there anything training wise I can do to get over it.

 Thank you.

21/01/2011 at 13:00
Liverbird:Single thing: Don’t do a marathon too early. Only run a marathon when you have got years of endurance running behind you and enjoy the other events on offer – 5k, 10k and half-marathon and multi terrains  before you even think about doing a marathon. 
21/01/2011 at 13:01

Hi Steve - like the input you are giving Pete on his sub 3 thread - very informative.

Quick question on nutriton - I do a lot of my running at night, is there anything you would suggest to eat after a session to help aid recovery? I've been having a bowl of cereal. Is there anything you swear by foodwise that you make part of your training post running?

21/01/2011 at 13:01


The best strategy for a steady pace through the second half is to run it right in the first half – evenly and at a pace that your training and shorter race indicate is feasible. It’s not easy maintaining pace when you are tired and you can only do it if you have good endurance and have lots of long runs behind you. You can also only maintain pace if you keep well hydrated and you may need your energy levels topped with gels etc.

21/01/2011 at 13:02

Angela S

There’s more than the 13 miles in difference between the half and marathon ie it’s three times as hard not twice!

If you can run a half, then it is possible to get around a marathon but not necessarily run it to the same potential or even run the whole way so it depends on whether you want to get round or do it justice. Once you’ve run a half-marathon the next step should be a 20 mile run or race and not the 26 miles.

21/01/2011 at 13:03


Logically it seems that running a cross-country the day before a long run isn’t ideal but it’s pretty much what all good distance runners have been doing in Britain for the last 50 years and that includes the era of the 80s when we had masses of sub 2:20 marathoners.

If you want to race Sunday then you have straight choice of race or long run and the long run should win two times out of 3 but a cross-country race is doable the day before a long run as long as you watch your hydration and energy levels and it can build up endurance through January and February. However from March onwards the long run needs more respect.

21/01/2011 at 13:05

Seren Nos

The last week should be about saving energy. A hour to 90 minutes not too fast a week before, some short brisk running on the Tuesday then just a few looseners in last few days – ie 4 Wednesday, two or three Thursday or Friday. A bit of cross training earlier in week is fine but the key is to do enough to tick over but nothing that’s going to wear you out. You’ll need every last bit of energy on the day and together with a good hydration and fuelling strategy and there's a need to stay off your feet as much as possible.

21/01/2011 at 13:06

Katie Good

You need to be preparing your body to run 6:50 miling for some length somewhere. The long run each week should be slow and building up eventually be more than 13 and around 8 minute miling is fine and the midweek run could be 7:30s and between 6 and 8 but your speedwork should have sub 6 minute miling in and you need a few tempo runs at 6:50 pace for 5 or 6 miles every other week and a few 10k races would be useful too.

21/01/2011 at 13:06

Hi Steve i have returned to the sport at of 42! after retiring in 2000. my half marathon pb was 72 minutes way back in the early 1990s.

since my return in 2008 i have lost nearly 4 stone in weight and my race times are starting to get a lot faster,recently i ran a v40 pb for 5 miles in 30.20.  my question is....i am looking to run a half marathon in the spring what sort of time can i expect to run at the age of 45?

21/01/2011 at 13:06

Tigger 11

No cycling should probably be at least 1.5 times as long ie a 2 hour run should be replaced by a 3 hour ride (some would say even 4 hours) – Cycling is harder to get heart rate raised but at least it doesn’t give the same wear and tear on the body

21/01/2011 at 13:07


Undoubtedly the best training for running is running but while the other stuff may not be as good as getting you run fit, it is keeping some extra fitness there without the same injury risks – As long as your long runs go far enough, you are doing some tempo and speedwork in there then I would say you should be ok as presumably you aren’t trying to break three hours 30 in your first marathon, where if you were, you may need more running sessions in there.

21/01/2011 at 13:08


Getting treatment and advice from an expert, ice, staying off the road wherever possible and reducing the training and having more rest days and perhaps adjusting your targets are what immediately spring to mind. Good luck with it - many runners have done marathons with shin splints - it's painful but workable and not as bad as having achilles and knee problems etc.

21/01/2011 at 13:09

Ian Goudie

I would usually go for equal effort, so the pace eases back up the hill and then you let the hill take you down at a quicker pace. Any additional effort up a hill has a consequence. Those who usually attack a hill can be overtaken later. Economy of effort is vital.

21/01/2011 at 13:09


You now you need a clear run of training. It has probably not helped your overall fitness but there is plenty of time to get back on track – just ease back into training sensibly. Missing a month now is far far better than missing it in March. See how fit you are at the end of March and make your target then.

21/01/2011 at 13:09
Ps to last message its London marathon I'm doing
21/01/2011 at 13:10

Brian Gray 7

1 is much better than 2 and 3 for pacing strategy. There will be congestion at start so you will lose time but if you run at a pace quicker than ideal say 8 minute miles for 13, come 15 you may find even 9 minute miling hard and by 18, you will be doing 10s and by 22 walking and end up with 4 hours 15 let alone 3:45.

If you train properly, stay hydrated and top energy levels up and pace it right, you may slow slightly but it should be minimal.

I would suggest once congestion allows a steady pace, running around 8:25-8:30, then from 20 miles hope the training and gels enables you to maintain a good pace. Then if you miss the target, you will only miss the target because you weren’t capable of it on the day, not that you went too fast for your own good.

21/01/2011 at 13:11


I’m sure various websites and books will give varying recommendations but I think it simply is plentiful amounts that is right for the individual. Everyone is different and it’s up to you to see what works for you in training. You need to very slightly up hydration levels in the last few days – more so if it is warm and sunny – but too much liquid is dangerous and you don’t want to spend half of the last few days getting rid of excess fluid. Personally I prefer things like Lucozade sport or SIS drinks so I am getting energy into the system as well as liquid, and ideally the beer and alcohol should be saved for post race though I know lots of marathoners who say they sleep better the night before with a beer, but unless you are sure it works, I would suggest staying clear of alcohol, especially on warm days.

In the race itself I like to sip water every other mile but less than half the bottle with other half poured on head and I take on Lucozade and have 4 gels.

21/01/2011 at 13:11
I was just wondering if you can touch type, or have you got someone doing the answers for you
21/01/2011 at 13:13


Before the race you need to think of all the things that made you want ro run a marathon and then when it gets tough remind yourself of your starting reasons, how much training you have done, how proud friends and family will be if you run a good time, prove any doubters wrong. Some find it helps to take each mile at a time and then maybe count 1-300 or 500 to take your mind off the discomfort and then start again at the next mile. I find it helps say when I get to 19 miles to say. Now it’s just a 7 mile, I’ve done 7 so many times it’s easy and then the same for 6 and 5 miles to go – almost trying to forget the previous miles already in the bag.

21/01/2011 at 13:13

Sarah Wynne

If you are at  stage you are ready to complete a half-marathon, then you are ready to start a 13 or 16 week marathon plan.

Re 2am munchies – go to bed earlier and don’t get up! Yes running increases the appetite but the lighter you get, the eaier the running will be and you will move faster and while you must still ensure you get sufficient nutrition, you have to control the appetite to make the most of your running. Keep up the good work.

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