With the Paris Marathon in sight, the ASICS Target 26.2 team test their mettle and reflect on lessons learned
It’s the ASICS Target 26.2 training day, University of Birmingham, March 3.
Roll call: the ASICS Target 26.2 team, Runner’s World, ASICS UK, the Target 26.2 coaches and the ASICS PRO Team experts.
The ASICS Target 26.2 team are over halfway through their training, and they’re at the peak of their high-mileage month. They’ve sweated over busy schedules, mastered new speedwork sessions and covered more new ground than they ever thought possible – but how far have they really come?
The ASICS PRO Team experts decided to put them to the test. This final training day was a chance for Lee, Emma, Craig, Rosie and Colin to show off their pacing skills and hone their speed: they ran a mile out-and-back at race pace – without the comfort blanket of a GPS watch to guide them – before taking to
the track to go all out in a 5K time trial.
Then, back at PRO Team HQ, the experts helped our exhausted runners to address niggling injuries and plan out the last few weeks before race day – everything from how to carb load without getting fed up of endless bowls of pasta to mental strategies to get through the taper with sanity intact.
Steal some tips for these crucial later stages of your spring marathon training. ASICS PRO Team sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson tells you how to set realistic goals and manage race day nerves, while dietitian Ruth McKean covers your carb loading bases.
Don’t forget to visit runnersworld.co.uk/asicstarget262 to follow the five runners and steal their tips, right up until race day.
ASICS Expert clinic
ASICS PRO Team psychologist Dr Victor Thompson and dietitian Ruth McKean are on hand to help you get the best out of your body on race day.
Taper tuck: What to eat in race week
Ruth says: “During the taper, eat as if you’re training to increase your carb intake. Go for low-fat, high-carb meals with a small amount of protein. Don’t include too many pulses, broccoli or high-fibre foods. If you’re in a restaurant, pick something familiar and stay away from undercooked meat, salads and fish.
“For a race breakfast, porridge is low GI so it’s a very good option. Chew your food more and the carbs will digest quicker. If you can’t stomach anything, have a milkshake or Slim Fast shake. If you really struggle, eat more the night before.
“After the race, rehydrate, get some protein in and then carbs. Have what you feel like but avoid alcohol – your blood vessels will expand and you’ll feel sorer the next day.”
Listen to the latest podcast for more expert nutrition advice from Ruth at runnersworld.co.uk/asicstarget262/ruthpodcast
Get psyched: Top mental strategies
Victor says: “To get the best out of your race, set more than one target. Choose a dream goal, a realistic goal and an acceptable goal. Even if things go wrong, you’ll be able to accept that it wasn’t your best day and you did OK.
“Expect nerves and just focus on the positives – you’ve done the training, you’re here to do your best and it’s better to be living the experience than watching it on the TV at home.
“The night before, just rest - sleep is a bonus! Research shows that sleep the night before has no impact on performance – from short distances all the way up to the biggest races.
“If things get tough, remind yourself why you’re doing it, or distract yourself with guessing games – can you guess the next colour vest to go by? And after the race, think about what you want to do next – whether it’s a shorter race or running abroad, it’s great to have something else to move on to.”
Keep visiting runnersworld.co.uk/asicstarget262 for Victor’s latest podcast
ASICS Target 26.2 Team: Progress Check
First up in coach Steve Smythe’s camp are runners Colin and Lee.
Everything’s on track for Colin’s sub-3:15 target time. In fact, Steve says, “because Colin has done everything right in training, and laid the foundations for a strong race, he’s now performing at a level where he could adjust the target to a faster time of sub-3:00”.
“I do feel more comfortable sticking to the sub-3:15 target, but I’m definitely getting more confident as things go along,” Colin says. “Steve’s helped me tailor the plan to my abilities, and [PRO Team dietitian] Ruth’s advice on carb loading has also been great.
She translates the statistics into real terms for me, telling me exactly how many slices of toast I need to eat to get the right amount of carbs.”
Things are more challenging for seasoned marathoner Lee: after spraining a muscle and contracting flu, he’s had to miss some sessions and has struggled to come back to form.
“It did knock my confidence slightly – suddenly in rep sessions I was finding it much harder to keep hitting my time,” Lee says. “But because I am a natural competitor – I chase trains, dogs, milk floats – I’m still hoping I’ll pick it back up and hit my goal [a 2:45 finish to qualify for the Virgin London Marathon Championship].”
Steve says, “Lee has lost a tiny bit of fitness with his injury and illness so we are going to have to be careful with his training. His key task is to get healthy in the next two weeks. If he’s sensible, there’s no reason he can’t get in a really good last month’s training.”
As they transition from their high-mileage phase to the taper, coach Sam Murphy’s mentees are quietly gaining confidence.
Having slashed his half marathon time by 13 minutes, first-time marathoner Craig (sub-4:30 target) says, “I’m seeing real returns on my effort and I feel like I’m starting to earn all the great stuff I’ve been given as part of Target 26.2. I’m very much enjoying it; I’m still constantly surprising myself.”
Coach Sam says, “As a beginner, Craig is improving on a steep upward curve. Scheduling in those practice races has been a great way to stay motivated and make sure he sticks to the plan.”
Meanwhile, at times, busy runner Emma (sub-4:15 target) has found it tough to juggle training with work, childcare and unexpected illness. “I’m a perfectionist – I want to do every single run – so I hated missing sessions when my family came down with a tummy bug,” she says.
“But Sam has helped me realise that 50 per cent of running is psychological. It’s fine to miss the odd run as long as you go into the race with the right frame of mind.
“She taught me to make a race more manageable by mentally splitting it into three – for example, a marathon becomes two 10-milers and a 10K. I tried the strategy out at the Tunbridge Wells Half and knocked four and a half minutes off my PB!”
“That was a real achievement and a bit of a turning point for Emma,” Sam says. “Running is about pushing yourself, but not beating yourself up. I’m confident that she’s still on target.”
For Rosie (sub-3:30 target), the biggest challenge has been “getting used to the concept of resting – and conquering my nerves”, she says. “I was a bit of a nervous wreck before the training day – I have a habit of talking myself out of believing I can do things. But after the reassurance of the experts I feel more at ease.”
From recommending vitamin D supplementation to imposing a compulsory non-run day, the experts have encouraged Rosie to make small tweaks rather than big changes.
Sam explains, “Rosie was making things harder for herself by eating erratically and never taking a day off. I think she’ll leave today feeling much more positive. She should feel confident that she’s put in all the mileage she needs to be able to relax during the taper.”
Visit runnersworld.co.uk/asicstarget262 – the home of spring marathon training.
- You can reach Sam and Steve, our coaches, via the forum threads where they’ll be answering your questions and dishing out advice for tougher sessions
- The ASICS PRO Team are also all hosting exclusive webchats between now and race day. On April 10 at 1pm, sports psychologist Victor Thompson addresses last-minute nerves, frustration during the taper and what to do if your motivation starts to dip mid-race.
- As well as answering your questions directly on the forums, this month, PRO Team physio Sarah Connors and dietitian Ruth McKean have each recorded a podcast talking through training nutrition and injury prevention.
Get Kitted Out
Our five contenders have been kitted out head to toe with ASICS gear. This month, make sure you keep your cool on race day with these streamlined vests. Made of super lightweight wicking material, they will get you round feeling fresh – and fast.
- Women’s Speed Tank (£30)
- Men’s Hermes Singlet (£20)
Buy the ASICS running range at sweatshop.co.uk/asics
MY ASICS App
Motivation is the key to marathon success. Keep yourself on track – for free – with the My ASICS iPhone app. It uploads your data to my.asics.co.uk, where you can create your own bespoke training plan – which is easily adaptable when life throws a curve ball and you need to skip a few sessions.
The app also explains the benefits of each session, offers no-nonsense pacing advice and logs every step you take. You can even use it to check out your next session on the go.
Head to my.asics.co.uk or the UK iTunes store to download the free My ASICS app.