Ask The Experts: Marathon Training with Paul Evans

Catch the highlights from Friday's lunchtime debate, when Chicago Marathon winner - and Lucozade Sport Super Six mentor - Paul Evans answered your marathon questions live in the forums

Posted: 8 March 2010

Paul was a finalist in the 10,000m in both the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He then went on to win the Chicago Marathon in 1996 with a career best of 2:08:51 - a time that, to this day, consolidates his place in the UK Marathon All Time Top 4.

Paul is a UKA Level 4 Performance Coach and now works as an Athletics Development Officer for Active Norfolk. This Spring, he joins us as one of our Lucozade Sport Super Six mentors, working with Christina and Lucy as they look ahead to the Virgin London Marathon on April 25.

Read the whole forum debate

Q. I'm currently training for my first marathon but my schedule doesn't include any speedwork. Would there be any benefit in including some speedwork six weeks before race day? Wobbled

A. I wouldn't get too bogged down with speedwork for your first marathon. Your key session is your long run (time spent on your feet). As long as you are increasing this week on week, you will find that as you get fitter your speed will improve anyway.

Q. How do I work out my marathon pace? Is my long run pace a good predictor of what pace I'm capable of in a marathon? mitiog

A. Try using the RW Calculator to find out your target race pace - remember if you undercook the first half you can always pull it back in the second half.

Q. What sort of pace do you advise running the long runs? Do you think there should be some marathon-pace within this session? Justbackfromarun

A. Your long runs are mainly about time on your feet. If you can hit marathon pace for the second half then great, but take care not to overdo it - remember you have to train again later in the week.

Q. Can you do any specific training to help you run quicker for the second half of the race? Flat Footed

A. Try practising on your weekly long run. For example, if you intend to run for three hours, head out for 90 minutes, turn, restart your watch and try to get back to the start quicker. Tactics like this might help with the boredom of the long run too!

Q. How do you keep pushing yourself in a race when your mind is telling you to slow down or even stop? knight rider

A. The marathon is 75 per cent psychological, 25 per cent physical. Try breaking the Virgin London Marathon course into four sections:

  • the start to Cutty Sark: the settling-in stage
  • Cutty Sark to Tower Bridge: looking ahead to halfway and taking care to undercook rather than overcook
  • Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf: time to concentrate - you're heading away from the finish now and the crowds can seem quieter
  • Canary Wharf to the finish: you'll be feeling tired but on the home straight, the crowds will pull you through.

Q. My marathon-pace run felt like a 7 or 8 on the scale of perceived effort this week. Is that normal? TrickyM

A. It will feel like a 7 or 8 as you're running on tired legs at the minute. On race day, you'll be well rested so your marathon pace should feel closer to a 6. My tip would be to write your 5K splits on your arm - beware, Miles 2 and 3 are slightly downhill but if you hit the Cutty Sark on time, you'll be well on target.

Don't miss our next live lunchtime debate - on April 1, Nick Morgan (Lead Sport Scientist at Lucozade Sport) will be online between 1pm and 2pm to answer any nutrition or hydration questions you might have before the big day. Pop the date in your diary now!

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Discuss this article

Hi everyone

Former GB Olympian and Chicago Marathon winner Paul Evans will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer any queries you might have about your marathon training so far.

After competing in the 10,000m finals in the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics, Paul went on to win the Chicago Marathon in 1996, with a career best of 2:08:51: a time that, to this day, consolidates his place in the UK Marathon All Time Top 4.

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

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:31

Hi – I’m currently training for my first marathon on April 18th using Hal Higdon’s novice schedule. It’s going well but I’m aware it doesn’t contain any speedwork sessions. Does this seem unusual to you? Would there be any benefit in including some speed work at this point? (I have about three weeks before I begin tapering).

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:42

Hi Paul

 Have you got any advice on  building mental strength ?
How do you keep pushing yourself in a race when your mind is telling you to slow down or even stop?

Do you break the race down mentally into smaller chunks? 

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:45

Hi Paul

I'm doing London this year. Despite giving up any hope of getting in I got a call on 2nd Feb offering me a place. I was on the way back from a few months off due to illness. I had been training for a marathon last year in September but was poorly on the day and only completed half of it....

I have managed to get back up to 14.5 miles so far and hoping for around 17 this weekend.... Am I still on target enough to get through the finish line on the day.

Any tips you could give me would be great. I'm hitting around 30 miles a week at the moment over 4 runs although no speedwork is involved, I just run at tempo if I feel ok. I have been feeling very tired this week and wondered if this is normal.

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:46

Hi - for your fist marathon I would not get to bogged down with speedwork, your key session is your LR time on your feet, as long as you are incresing this week on week, you will be fine, as you get fitter your speed will improve anyway

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:47

Hi - As long as you are doing your LR these are the key session, try to build them up to at least 20 miles if pos, if you feel tried drop down to 3 runs aweek, as long as you are doing the LR'S you will be fine !

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:51

Hi Paul, I'm going for a sub 3 hour. Doing 75mpw currently with an average pace of 7:30 ish. Long runs are 20m plus, flat but at 7:10 to 7:15 pace. A week is generally a tempo of 6m, track 800m reps x 10 *2:52 pace), Mid week run 2m warm, 10m at Mara pace, 2 m cool plus a fair amount of easy running with no watch etc. My last mid week 10m was at 6:50 pace. Am I on track or what do you suggest I do to give me a fighting cahnce of sub 3?
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:51

Hi Paul  - my question relates to MP runs. How hard should these feel during the heavy mileage weeks on a perceived effort level?

I did a 7 mile MP run on Wednesday (target 7:40 per mile) and it felt like a PE=7 rising to an 8 towards the end with the hills. My recent race times (e.g. 10 miler on 14th Feb, achieved 1h07m, ave pace = 6m46s; HM pb = 1h34s) indicate this pace should be well within my grasps, and I fully expect that they are feeling tough because of the workouts I am doing (e.g. 20x200m reps the day before at 5m30s per mile pace; ~ 50 miles per week at present).

I find these MP runs damaging from a confidence perspective as I always feel they should be easier than they currently feel if I am to run 26.2 of them!

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:52

Hi Paul,

How do I work out my marathon pace please?  I do my LSR's consistently at 11:25 pace and I'm up to 16 miles.  Is that a good predictor of what pace I'm capable of in a marathon?  I'm racing a half this weekend - if I use that time in a RW calculator, is that going to give me a better prediciton?  I don't want to start the VLM too fast.


Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:54

Hello Paul.

My question is about going quicker in the second half of the race. Is there any specific training for this?

I've now done three 18 miler in 2.40 and have felt good. Having done London before i have always been caught up in crowds for the first 8 odd miles and have been considering going around 9 min/mile till mile 13 and then increasing it in the second half.

Just wondering if there is anything I can do to help this


Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:57

Hi - great question, the marathon is 75% mental 25% Phyical

I break London up in to 4 quarters

Start to Cutty Sark - my settling in quarter

Cutty Sark to Tower Bridge - settlled in and looking to get to half way, undercook rather than overcook,

Tower Bridge to Canerie warf - this is the dead zone, this is were you have to concentrate, you are going away from the finsh, and the crowed are pritty quite

Tower Bridge to Finish, feeling tried but on home straight, croweds will pull you though

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:57

Hi Paul,
VLM will be my first marathon and my current target is 3:15. Last week I did 20 miles @ around MP (7:25m/m), so I feel it is achievable. I am running the Broadland Half Marathon on 21st March and wonder what pacing strategy you would recommend? In my first and only half last October I finished in 1:34 off the back of a heavy cold, so am hoping to target 1:30 or thereabouts. Should I race it from the start at my HMP (about 6:55m/m) or start out a bit slower, say 7:05 m/m, and try to pick up the pace for the last 4 miles? Thanks.
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 12:59

Hi FF - My suggestion is you practise this on you LR, for instance if you have a 3 hr run to do, run out for 90 min, turn restart your watch and try and get back quicker, it will help with the bordam of the LR as well

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:01

 Hi Mitiog -I think useing the RW Culculator is a good idea, remember if you undercook the first half you can alway pull it back in the second half, RW says 85% of people go off to quickly

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:05

Hi Paul

On Richard's Super Six 3:15 forum we have recently been discussing the high carbohydrate intake we need to consume to fuel our training. I was staggered by the amount needed in the taper week (7g/kg/day) and what this actually equated to in food terms ..

When you are training (particularly during the heavy march mileage) what would your typical day's food intake be to meet your CHO requirements?

Many thanks !

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:05

Gal Darr - sounds like you are to good shape, I personal would start off conservatively and work my way into it, you can alway pick it up second half

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:08

My diet was probally 85% CHO

The great thing about hard traing is you can eat what you like, lots of pasta, bake pot, porrige for breakfast, lots of F&V

I never weighted any thing out 

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:11

Hi Paul,

i've had a bit of a rubbish run up to the marathon.. (doing brighton not london so the week before) had a foot injury that has kept me off for 3 weeks and now have a nasty cough that i can't shake.. my long run so far has been 16 miles with just over 6 weeks to go.. I am worried i can't run this weekend with this cough going on.  Am I in trouble for the marathon? 

It is my second and I am hoping for some time around 5 hours



Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:14

Hello Paul,

Do you believe that some people are going to cramp up in the dying stages of the marathon, whatever hydration and electrolyte intake they have taken prior to and during a race?

I cramp in my calf muscles particularly, I know this is the first place where cramp is likely due to blood flow, but as yet no-one has been able to solve my problem.

I'm an experienced runner and have done much longer ultra distance runs and triathlons with cramp not being a problem. It seems to come with sustained speed rather than distance.


Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:15

RH - Sound like you are on track you are doing your three key sessions

LR,Tempo Run & Interval session, all I would say maybe increase you tempo run by a couple of miles

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:16

Hi Paul
How are you doing? Just wondered how many miles you were doing a week when you won chicago?
Also what sort of pace do you advise LSRs to be at compared to marathon pace? do you think there should be some MP within the LSR?
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:16

Have you tried a diffrent using diffrent drink before hand, or the gels !
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:18

Hi Christina _ I was doing 100 mpw but you have to remember I was a full time athlete, as for pace in your LR, its just about like on your feet if you can pick up the pace in the second half then great but remember you have to train the next day ! 
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:21

Hi Paul,

I sort of know the answer to this but anyway here goes, I have hooked into the Lucozade super ^ forum of Hashette which as you know is a sub 4.30 forum, my training is going well 3 runs a week 2 x training and 1 resistance session, this will be my first full marathon (London)

My pb for a hm is 1.48.45 achieved last December at Bedford., I recently complted The Bramley 20 in 3.03.07.

I will be happy to complete in 4.30 but I am sure I can go better, do I air the side of caution or go for a better time, it could be closer to 4 hours.?

I'm 52 and been running 2 and a half years with a fair few hm's under my belt.

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:23

Hi Bootise - firstly do not run if you cough is to bad, I think you will be fine, you are doing 16 now with 6 week to go, you only really have to get up to 20 mile, if you can manage a coupkle of them you will be fine, and if that means you have to fore go some of your other running so be it, your LR is your key session,  an 18 followed by a couple of 20 end of March and you will be fine

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:28

thanks Paul, for a sub 3, what pace would you recommend for the tempo runs?

I currently do them at 6:20 pace.......

Also, should the distances be longer than 800m x 10 intervals, should I be going longer...... 

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:28

thanks paul.. appreciate the reassurance!
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:29

paul ... Coach or mentor??!! Sorry
In all seriousness i've always had the mindset of slow runnerd doing 1 lonb run of 20m, but some say if you are slow fun by time and no more than 3-3:30 regardless as to how far that gets you. The rw plans seem to go by distance, what do you think?
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:30

Hi Ron - duncook the first half, you can allways pull back the time in the second half, and mentally is great to be passing all those guy how have overcooked the first half

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:30

Hi Prix - between 3.30 & 4 hr is plenty I think anything over that is counter productive 

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:33

Hi Richard - sounds like your tempo run are a good pace, just increase the distance,

you interval, why not do some miles, my favourite session was 6 x 1 mile with 2 min rec, I even done 2 mile reps a couple of time during the London Bulid up , 3 x 2 mile with 5 min rec

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:37

Hi Paul - did you have a view on PE for MP runs?
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:47

i'm looking at completing the marathon in 5 hours or so, how many 20 milers should i do in my training/
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:47

Hi Andreia - I would suggest two runs of 20 mile if that is possible, make sure you do the last of these at least 4 week out from Marathon day, if you can only manage one then so be it !

Good Luck

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:52

Do you ever still wear your really bright coloured check suits, from your "Don't forget your toothbrush"  and "TFI Friday" era?  They were very... individual - I hope you didn't just bin them when your career plummeted.
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:52

thanks paul, I think I will try to complete 2, wish me luck
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:53

Hi Tricky - sorry what do you mean by PE ?
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:54

 Candy - He's a lot richer than me !

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:57

Percieved effort - between 1 to 10. 10 being total max effort

MP run this week felt like a 7/8. Is that normal due to tired legs ?

Posted: 05/03/2010 at 13:58

Any luck with my cramp question?
Posted: 05/03/2010 at 14:05

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