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

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21/01/2011 at 10:32

Hi everyone

ASICS Super Six coach Steve Smythe will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer queries about marathon - and half-marathon - training.

Steve has run more than 60 marathons, holds a PB of 2:29, and has also won a British marathon title in his age group. Whether you're targeting a spring marathon, half-marathon or just planning to make the leap, pop your questions right here on this thread.

We're opening the discussion now so Steve will be able to get stuck in straight away at 1pm (rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once). That's enough from me - time to get posting!

LIVERBIRD    pirate
21/01/2011 at 10:40

I've got one!

Hi Steve - what's the single biggest thing you wish you'd known about running a marathon before you ever did one?

I was asked yesterday and I didn't know how to answer it!

21/01/2011 at 10:46


Best strategry for keeping a steady pace throught the 2nd split

thanks, Suez

21/01/2011 at 10:52

Hi Steve,

Do you think if someone's run a half marathon they could probably run a full one? Or is it a completely different kettle of fish!

Thanks, Angela

21/01/2011 at 10:53


I'm desperate to break 3.30 at london and don't want to fall behind with my long runs.

However I really want to keep up with the cross country races and 10ks that are coming up (typically on long run days - Saturdays and Sundays) and want to keep doing our speed sessions on club nights (Tuesdays/Thursdays.

Any advice for how to fit in or merge my long run with these?


seren nos    pirate
21/01/2011 at 10:53

what would be your recomendation be  for the last week prior to the marathon in terms of running and cross training to get to the startline raring to go...............

I'm talking about a 4:15- 4:30 runner which i appreciate might be different to a faster runner

21/01/2011 at 10:54
At what pace should I do an easy/long run during the week if my aim is a sub 1.30 half marathon in March? I'm currently doing 13 miles in about 1.32 comfortably but I don't know whether I should be pushing it in training or just rely on the speedwork that I do twice a week?

21/01/2011 at 10:56
Hi - i'm doing VLM and supposed to be doing a 16m run tomorrow but i currently have a niggle in my leg which has meant that I haven't run since Monday.  Am a little concerned about missing this week's schedule and am thinking of getting on my bike tomorrow instead of doing the 16m run.  How long should i be cycling for to replace this run? If the run would take me 2h15, would cycling for 2h15 be sufficient or would I need to cycle for longer?
21/01/2011 at 11:04

Hi Steve,

I'm training for Brighton this spring - my first marathon. My training schedule include four runs, and one long run. Currently I'm incorporating two days light cross training (30 mins on the gym bike one day, swimming for 40 mins the other) and light resistance training three times a week.

 I feel fine as it is, but will I struggle with this schedule as the runs get longer/shall I look on cutting back as I go further into my training?

21/01/2011 at 11:06

I'm currently training for a half marathon in March and I think I've developed, or am starting to develop, shin splints.

There is a lot of conflicting advice online as to the best way to tackle this. What would you recommend?

21/01/2011 at 11:06

On an undulating course is it better to slow down up hill and speed up down hill, or to maintain a constant pace?

21/01/2011 at 11:08

I'm doing my first marathon in April but I have been unable to run for almost a month due to a chest infection, I managed 6.5 miles last night on my second slow run this week.

I had hoped to do it in 3.30 but having missed a month's training is this now unrealistic (I'm a 47 year old newcomer to running)?

3.30 would have been slightly ambitious but my pre illness training runs of 15 miles or so were on target

21/01/2011 at 11:12

I'd really appreciate some advise on pacing for my first marathon.

Timewise I'm working towards 3hrs 45mins (based on recent 10K races and marathon Long Run training). Should I be looking at doing a steady minute mile pace for the full distance, 8:35mm?? Below are a few options I've thought about:-

1)  26.2 miles at constant 8:35mm

2) 2 miles at 9:00mm (to allow for congestion at start of race), then 13 miles at 8:15mm then 11 miles at 9:00mm

3) 13.1miles at 8:00mm then 13.1miles at 9:00mm

Seems inevitable that I will slow down in the second half of the race. Getting myself confused but would really like to have a clear plan for the day.



Edited: 21/01/2011 at 11:16
21/01/2011 at 11:24

Do you have any tips on how you mentally focus yourself in the race to keep going through the discomfort <pain>?


21/01/2011 at 11:32

What base should i be starting from before starting a marathon training plan?

 I have a 1/2 on Sunday im undertrained for, but determined to finish it as a long run/walk training run, and use it to my advantage.

I was running 3-4 times a week 4-5 miles at a time, 3 on road and maybe a 4th off.. When im consistant, i tend to do 4 weeks training then life gets in the way for a week or 2.. 

Im pretty slow 11min/mile, but also 6 stone overweight. Hoping with running ill shift abit of that, but my appetite goes through the roof with running.. Any tips for controlling the 2am munchies. Where do i need to be at before upping my mileage/adding intervals etc. I have a marathon in may and another in Oct.


21/01/2011 at 11:46

Other than underestimating the challenge of a marathon what do you think is the biggest single mistake people make.


Edited: 21/01/2011 at 11:48
21/01/2011 at 11:49

Hi Steve,

I have a recovery nutrition question:

I am a vegetarian running 55 mpw aiming at a sub 3 marathon. I am conscious of the need of getting in protein after hard sessions, especially LSRs. I have been downing a recovery (whey protein, no carb)shake and eating a banana straight away (within 20 mins) after a particularly long session (usually once per week). I follow this up with water and food later.

I have been reading that the protein 'window' is open longer than the carb 'window'. Also that Whey protein can only be absorbed by the body at 10g per hour.

Would I be better off focusing on carb repletion straight after the run (so maybe energy drink +banana) and have the protein shake later, sipping slowly over time, or should I continue with my current strategy of downing the recovery shake asap?

Sorry that this question might be a bit specific and scientific!

21/01/2011 at 12:06

 I am 4 weeks in to the RW sub 3.00 schedule and everything is going fine. It is suggested that I run part of runs at race pace 6.52 m/m ( eg 3 of 5 miles or  5 of 7 miles or 7 of 15 miles). I have run 10 miles in 63 and a half in 1.25 off little training last year. What will I actually achieve by doing this race pace training over short distances? Is it a mental rehearsal? Or is this junk mileage?

Surely we'll expect a drop of pace in the second half. Maybe 6.40 pace is a better training pace than 6.52 for these shorter runs so that 6.52 is comfortable?



21/01/2011 at 12:21

Hi Steve

I've missed a few sessions over last 2 weeks with a cold virus.  Last LSD of 12miles last Sunday and only done a couple of hill rep sessions and no other speedwork over last 4 weeks.  What should I do when I resume training which hopefully will be Monday  I would have missed 4 sessions in total by then including this weeks LSD? 

I'm confused and lost all my confidence.  I'm looking to break 4.30 my pb is 4.31 if I can achieve this it would be a good for age too! 

 Any advice at all would be really appreciated.

Thanks so much

21/01/2011 at 12:36

Hi Steve

 I'm running the VLM in April, hoping for a sub 3:30. My training plan suggests I do a long run on a Sunday, rest on Monday and intervals on Tuesday. I sometimes find it's easier for me to do my long run on a Monday after work, but I'm worried about how this will impact on the rest of the week's training.

 If I switch my long run from Sunday to Monday, should I always have a day's rest before beginning the next week's training plan? And if this means I need to miss a day's training, which one is the best one to miss?

 Thanks, Rob

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