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

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21/01/2011 at 13:14


The biggest mistake other than underestimating the distance is in their pacing. Ie I’ve run 1:55 for a half-marathon so I am going to run sub-4 in the marathon. The vast majority of runners aim too highly, especially in their early marathons, which results in starting too fast, slowing badly and having a horrible walk/shuffe in the last 6-9 miles. The key to early marathons is to be sensible, not aim too high and try and enjoy as much of it as you can. Running in events like the Virgin London Marathon should be one of the greatest highlights of your life, not a nightmare and hours of agony and disappointment.

21/01/2011 at 13:15


I’m a vegetarian too. After a quick drink of water, I would go for the protein replacement straight away as most have carbs in there too followed by carb drinks. Personally I find it hard too take on food straight away but protein replacement drinks don’t seem to be a problem for me.

21/01/2011 at 13:16

Richard Bruce

I think it is better psychologically to break down the marathon pace into small chunks so you feel it is doable but it doesn’t fatigue you. You should be getting 6:40 pace or faster in your schedule from the half-marathon pace runs and the speedwork and shorter races. However, if you feel you can run 6:40 comfortably at marathon pace then do so.

It is partly a mental rehearsal but physical too. You want your body to be comfortable and used to running marathon pace so it’s natural and not a strain on race day. I have never heard 6:52 miling referred to as junk mileage before! I think there is a danger if you extend the distance you run marathon pace in training, you increase the risk of tiredness and injury and it would affect future training. Remember most people don’t return to normal after 26.2 miles of marathon pace for months.

If you expect to drop pace in the second half and then go too quick on the first half then you can guarantee you will slow down. You have to be confident in your training and levels of endurance and conserve energy on the first half.

21/01/2011 at 13:16


2 weeks missed training in January isn’t too much to worry about. Ease back into it gradually (I would suggest you resume week where you missed off) and then do alternate weeks to get you back. Most runners will miss a few weeks in 16 week schedule and if you do the other 14 weeks, then the effect should be minimal. London is a long way off

21/01/2011 at 13:17


I would avoid long run and speedwork on successive days and some prefer an extra day ie long run Saturday and speed Tuesday. If you do a long run Monday, I would move everything up and if you are to miss a session, miss the Saturday one.

21/01/2011 at 13:18

Bol Sauce

How about taking a  gel or energy beans around 6 miles to see if it energy related. It may just be a mental thing which will pass and you may need to work on it training. How about slowing down slightly in the first 8 on a 10 mile run and then really working the last two miles so you get used to accelerating at that point instead of slowing?

21/01/2011 at 13:19

Thank you Steve

3rd marathon for me and have been running 5 years now inc xcountry too

21/01/2011 at 13:20


Ideally you do need a post run meal but if you’ve already eaten your supper/dinner then I would go for a banana and cereal bar/ cereals plus possibly toast and raisins or grapes.

21/01/2011 at 13:23

Hi Steve,

I've run one half marathon (2.10) , really enjoyed it and plan to do more.

My plan is to continue to build up my long runs in terms of mileage, how long should they be with half marathons in mind?

Also I thought about starting to introduce progressive run, so that my last 2/3 miles are at a slightly faster pace. Beyond that, starting to increase the pace a bit earlier in the run. Currently my long runs are 10 minute miles on average. 

What do you think to the above as a plan?

I run 4 times a week, speed work/hill/club run on training nights and 2 5/6 miles and long run on the weekends.


21/01/2011 at 13:25


Your potential reduces with age but because you had 8 years rest your body is probably fresher than those who have been running non stop. I would think you would be hard pressed to come within a few minutes of your PB but if you stay healthy and train almost as hard as in your peak, I don’t see why you can’t run well under 80 minutes which very few M45s ever manage. An exact time is difficult to predict but if you get the 5 mile below 28, then a 76 should be possible.

21/01/2011 at 13:26

London will be my 3rd marathon, the two before were run on a 12 week program with a 3 week taper period. I plan to do the same again, but...

Would you recommend a two or three week taper? A two week taper would allow me to have an additional drop back week between two 20 milers
21/01/2011 at 13:31

Thanks Steve. i am training really hard,ie 7 days a week 1 speed session and 5 races already this year. i aim to break 30 minutes for 5 miles this year and hopefully run a successful half marathon..

a sub 80 minutes is my target. thanks again for your advice..

21/01/2011 at 13:31

DM 1974

Luckily my typing speed is better than my current running speed but also have pools of secretary’s ready to dictate my every word. Alternatively the answer is questions came in before 1pm and I started working on answers early!

21/01/2011 at 13:32


My best marathon came with an excessive 2 weeks taper but I do think 3 weeks is best and safer but I think it may be better having a week between the 20s and going for the 2 weeks in this instance.

21/01/2011 at 13:34

Debs B

For half marathons I like to have a 15 mile in the bag at a slow pace and a 10 mile at a quick pace but you need to build up both gradually. Your training looks well balanced and sensible and it is a good plan to run a quicker last 2 or 3 miles.

21/01/2011 at 13:36


Lots of runners in my training group, who have either started late or changed their training around have set PBs between the ages of 46 and 55 so it's never too late but you should continue to get faster from your current rate over the next 3 years

Edited: 21/01/2011 at 13:40
21/01/2011 at 13:42
Thanks Steve, your feedback is really appreciated.
21/01/2011 at 13:42


One additional thing I note you ran your half marathon at 10 minute miling and you do your long runs at the same pace. I would go for a bit more contrast - do some of your runs at 11 minute miling so you can relax more and go further without strain - do shorter medium runs of 5 miles at 10 minute miles and try and do some faster work at 9 minute miles

21/01/2011 at 13:43
Thanks Steve. fingers crossed then i can keep improving with weight is now down to just over 10 stone. i will give it 100% in fact i find myself training now then  then when i was in my 20s! i think its because i find myself competing with all the young guys and so thats what drives me on plus i have 8 years to pull back!  lol
21/01/2011 at 13:44
Thanks Steve, when you said althernate weeks do you mean start with week I left off then skip to present week then go back etc?
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