Ask The Experts: Marathon Week with Liz Yelling

Catch the highlights from Friday's lunchtime debate, when double Olympian - and Lucozade Sport Super Six mentor - Liz Yelling answered your marathon questions live in the forums


Posted: 16 April 2010

Liz Yelling

Liz Yelling has been competing as a top international athlete for more than 15 years. In 2006, she won the Bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and she has twice represented Great Britain in the Olympics (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008). In 2007, she also won the British Half-Marathon and Marathon titles, and is a Lucozade Sport Running Ambassador.

Over the past few months, Liz has been one of our Lucozade Sport Super Six mentors, working with our Virgin London Marathon hopefuls as they look ahead to April 25.

Read the whole forum debate


Q. I am training for a sub-3:45 marathon, and normally run my long runs at about 9:00 or 9:30 pace. However, last week my plan suggested I do my long run at 8:30 pace.  Is this too fast? Kirsty G

A. Marathon pace for a 3:45 marathon is an 8:35-minute mile so yes, 8:30 is too fast. Aim to run your long runs slower than your marathon race pace and then add in some sections at race pace ( for example, three x 15 minute bursts or a 60-minute stretch) when you are three to four weeks out from race day.

Q. On runs of longer than three hours I tend to cramp up badly  - can I do anything to combat this?
Egilaustinsdad

A. Cramp can be a number of things. It can be nerve-related (so could be worth getting your back checked) or it could be de-hydration or fatigue. Try drinking an electrolyte drink in the days leading up to the marathon, and ensure you have a good hydration strategy in place for the race.

Q. Do you find you get all kinds of strange aches and pains turning up during taper?  Rowan Green

A. Yes, I get aches and pains during the taper period. If they are new niggles, then I know they are in my head, but if it is something I recognise then I tend to listen to it. Don't worry - they will all vanish once the gun goes on April 25!

Q. I am really panicking about falling behind - my schedule doesn't include running longer than an hour between now and the marathon. Won't I lose endurance and speed? tinka

A. Your taper sounds very sensible. Trust the training you have done - now's the time to relax and enjoy the ease down before race day. It's normal to feel like you will lose fitness, but the reality is far different. It takes two weeks of zero activity for you to start losing fitness - the taper is for maintaining your fitness, while giving your body a chance to recover from all the hard training you have done. Watch a movie and read some books - that's what I do!

Q. I've been really looking forward to my first marathon but now the last week is here I'm terrified! How much running should I do this week? grandadnohair

A. Maintain the frequency with which you run, especially if you're slightly older (resting tends to make you seize up). You should be doing about 40 per cent of your biggest week - a light session the Tuesday before (for example, 10 minutes easy, 10 minutes at marathon pace, 10 minutes easy) and reducing your runs as race day draws closer (no more than 10 - 30 minutes in the final four days). The day before the marathon, do a 10-minute easy jog. Good luck!

Q. I have a target time in mind, but if things go wrong and I start missing my pace goals, what's the best way to salvage a good race? Wobbled

A. It's best to have a window for pacing, so have a pace band for your target time, but also one for a time a little slower (a time that you would still be happy with) so you have some room for error. Also, if you do find yourself going off track, it is a good idea to have a back-up plan ready so you don't lose focus. If you start dropping off the pace, run how you feel and don't look at your splits again - just run the best you can on the day!

Q. I am preparing to run my first marathon - any advice on dealing with the nerves? Darran Jenkins

A. Nerves are normal. Try to embrace them  - they make you run well and are the petrol in your blood. Remind yourself why you are running the marathon and if someone told you you couldn't run, how would you feel? Think of five great sessions you have banked in the last three months, and remind yourself of how far you have come. It is all about positive thoughts, and reminding yourself it will be worth it. Deep breathing can also help calm those nerves too!

Q. Training hasn't quite gone to plan for me - how do you deal with the pressure of trying to run as quickly as possible for the distance, and how do you plan a race when you don't feel fully prepared? Frosty9

A. I like pressure but don't worry about other people, I just focus on what I want to achieve. If my race preparation has not gone to plan I run how I feel and don't look at my watch. Why not take the pressure off yourself, run without a watch and enjoy the race instead? Then your time at the end will be a nice surprise either way. Just make sure it feels comfortable until Mile 18-20, then run for home if you are feeling OK.

Q. I get really nervous and before a race starts, constantly feel like I need the toilet - even when the run starts, I still think I need to go. How can I combat this? BHOGG

A. Try a light jog before the start and see if that gets anything going, then pop into the loo. Alternatively, take an Imodium Instant 50 minutes before the start of the race. Drinking coffee early in the morning when you wake may also help evacuate the bowels.

Q. Do you have any tips on how much water to drink during the race? Sarah Masterson

A. Ideally you should have practised drinking on the run while you have been training. Only taking on water is not a good idea - I'd advise you take on some sports drink or carry some gels as well. Water will be out on the course - just don't take only water as you will not absorb it as well. I'd advise drinking three to four sips every 30 minutes.

Q. I always struggle to know how much fluid to take on board. I've been carrying a sports drink for all my training runs but always run out by Mile 18 or 19. Should I try to manage on water alone or delay drinking my sports drink until the later stages of the race? Amanda TW

A. I would take your sports drinks first and switch to water. You have been practising in your training, so you already have some idea of what you need which is great. The experts recommend you take on about 30 -60g of carbohydrate per hour, so you can take a gel  (30g) or the Lucozade Sport on course (20g per 330ml bottle). How much fluid you need will depend on how much you sweat.

Q. How soon after a race do you get back into training? Flat Footed

A. I take seven days rest after a marathon and advise the runners I coach to do the same. Then I do a week of very easy running, starting with 15 minutes and running a little bit more every other day. Only after a month of easy and steady running would I re-introduce some pace.

Q. I have just short of a month after an ultra to recover for a marathon. What would you recommend? Jonathan Mackintosh

A. I would enjoy a week of swimming (or at least five days of no running) and then do a week of very easy running (with no longer than two hours of easy running at the end of that week). You can then afford to add in some marathon- or half-marathon pace sessions to wake up your legs. Listen to your body - the first two weeks after an ultra are crucial for recovery. Eat and hydrate well as soon as you can and don't do anything too mad!


Stay tuned for stacks more advice online next week, including an interactive mile-by-mile guide, information about our free pacing groups and last-minute race-day checklists.


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Hi everyone

Double Olympian - and Lucozade Sport Super Six mentor - Liz Yelling will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer any queries you might have about race week and the big day itself.

Liz has been competing as a top international athlete for more than 15 years. In 2006, she won the Bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and she has twice represented Great Britain in the Olympics (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008).

Start posting your questions now - that way, Liz will be able to get stuck in straight away rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once.

Catherine


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:23

Hi Liz

 I'm a big fan of yours and I hope to see you at Edinburgh marathon this year.

My question is about long runs, I am training for a sub 3:45 marathon, I normally run my long runs at about 9 min or 9 min 30 pace, but last week my plan asked me to run it at 8:30 pace.  Is this too fast?  I didn't make it by the way ended up completing it in 9:30 pace.

My best half is 1hr 45 - do you think a sub 3:45 is asking to much of me?

 Thanks Liz

 Kirsty


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:26

What pace do you do your long runs at? Is it MP + x secs for the duration for instance or do you do progressive long runs where you start slow and reach MP for the final few miles?
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:31

Hi - I'm doing Brighton this Sunday. I have my target time, pace band all sorted out and feel ready, but my question is, if things go wrong and I start missing the targets what's the best way to salvage a good race; should you work out new splits, or just hang on or what? 

Thanks! 


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:32

Hello Kirsty, your MP for 3.45 is 8.35 miling so yes 8.30 is too fast for your long runs. I would aim to run your long runs slower than your Marathon race pace and then add some sections (3 x 15mins or 60mins) at your race pace into your long runs when you are 4-3 weeks out. So for now 9.30 miling seems perfect! Yes 3.45 seems a very realistic goal for you assuming your get the training in and address your nutrition and hydration requirements.

MM: I mix my long runs, so some are slow over distance, some are gradual increase in pace, but my MP race pace is 5.40 and I run a 2 hour tempo around 6min miles 3 weeks out, most of my long runs are done at 6.20-7min miles.


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:39

Wobbled: The best way is to have a window if pacing, so get a pace band for your target time, but also for a time a little slower that you would be happy with so you have some space for error. Also if the times start going and you find yourself off track it is better to have a back up plan in your mind so you don't just loose it. I would say if you start dropping off run how you feel and don't look at your splits again, and just aim to run the best you can on the day!
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:42

Hi Liz

Havent really got a question, just to say hello and saw you at Wokingham, well for a second until you belted it down the road and over the motorway bridge.

Your an inspiration to all runners and that run in Beijing was probably one of the gutsiest performances ever of a British athlete.

Good luck with everything.

And 1 week to go till London woohooo cant wait 


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:48


Hi Buzz Lightfeet, Thank you very much! Good luck for London!
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:52

Hi Liz. How many gels do you take for 26.2? I took 8 in Paris which saw me through a 3:13 PB with no issues. Is that a lot?
Keep it up Liz. You are an inspiration to us mortals.
Jim
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:56

Hi Liz.

 I running my first marathon in London next sunday.  My training has been going well and I am now in the final stages of tapering. My question, or concern is, on the longer runs 3+ hours I tend to cramp up badly in my right calf and left thigh. I have tried salt tablets and changed strectches but the cramp seems to return. 

It is frustrating as I seem to maintain a good pace and stamina isn't a major issue. Can anything be done to combat the cramp before or during? The very least I would like to do is finish the race after all the training.

Cheers

John


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:56

Hi Liz,

 saw you at Silverstone last month - I had a little tear in my eye, you were fab! My question: I've managed to do everything right up till now, and I'm on course for my first (super slow, but that's not the point - a year ago I couldn't run 20 seconds!) marathon. But I've managed to get a blister on my toe due to an ill fitting sock.

 So my big question: what's your secret cure for blisters, and do you have a favourite brand of socks?!


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:56

Hi Liz,

I am runnnig my first marathon next weekend and am now starting to get very nervous, dread may be more apt.

Any advice on dealing with the nerves?

Thanks


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:58

Hi Liz, my question is regarding post marathon running.

How soon after a race do you look to get back into training? I know rest is important but don't want to sit around for too long.

Thanks for you time


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 12:59

Hi Liz,

I notice you mention over distance work, which seems to feature in most elite marathoners' training programmes. A 28 miler 3-4 weeks out would seem to be a reasonable idea but my question is do you think a session like this or the overall weekly mileage in the last 12 weeks is the biggest factor in holding pace in the last 10K of a marathon?


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:01

Hello Liz, Im running Stratford on 25th and i have a stiff achilies but its not too bad. My question is will i gain anything by running in these last days or would i be better off just resting for the big day?


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:02

Jim: I take 6 gels and energy drink during the marathon, starting at 15k and every 5k after that, so it seems your 8 gels is not too much and if you are running strong at the end you know you have got your training and your nutrition right for you.

John: Cramp can be a number of things. It can be nerve related, so could be worth getting your back check, it could be de-hydration, or fatigue, the best thing I can say is to drink an electrolyte drink in the days leading up to the marathon, and ensure you have a good hydration strategy during the race. Good luck! I am sure you will make that finish line.
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:02

Hi Liz. I am running my first big ultra next weekend, the 53 mile Highland Fling. I have just short of a month to recover/prepare for the Edinburgh Marathon. What would you recommend in terms of recovery and runs during the month leading up to Edinburgh given my slightly unusual/mad preparation? Given the nature of the Highland Fling, 90% of my preparation has been trail running. Thanks
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:03

Hi Liz, hope you don't mind a semi-serious question, and a fun one!

First, do you find you get all kinds of strange aches and pains turning up during taper?  And what's your tip for telling niggles from something that really needs some attention? (Because a lot of us on Spink's thread are niggling like mad!)

Second, do you think we'll ever see any of you elites doing London Marathon at the back in fancy dress, taking 5-6 hours, just for fun?

(edited for spelling)


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:03

Hi Liz,

My last long run was a week ago today in Florida and was really hard. I think because of the heat. I got blisters and haven't wanted to go out since (jet lag + blisters). I could go out today, but don't really want to.

How important is it for me to get a few short runs in before the big day?

Thanks for your help.
K
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:08

Hi Liz,

You are a Legend...

I've missed a few long runs so here goes.

My longest run is only 20 miles and I've done a few 18's and a 19...usually I would have done a 22.

My longest run pace is typically between 08:30 - 08:45 which I'm comfortable at, my speed sessions 800m repeats are run at about 06:50 pace, tempo runs tend to be between 07:15 - 07:30......given all that and hopefully you have a calculator I was wondering what your advise on pace would be, I've done 8 marathons and my PB is 3:19 for the marathon, I just feel undercooked through lack of long runs and lack of general mileage. Part of me thinks I should go out at 07:30 pace and see what happens, I just know that wall is waiting for me.

Ps. looking forward to seeing you win London soon


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:08

Marathon mummy: To prevent blisters I put talc in my socks. It works a treat!

Darran: Nerves are normal and the dread is too. Embrace the nerves, they make you run well, they are the petrol in your blood. Remind yourself why you are doing it and if someone told you you couldn't run how would you feel? Think of 5 great sessions you have banked in the last 3 months, and remind yourself of how far you have come. It is all about positive thoughts, and reminding yourself it will be worth it. Deep breathing can also help calm those nerves too!

Flatfooted: I take 7 days rest post marathon and I advise those who I coach to do the same and then I do a week of very easy running starting at 15 mins and running every other day for a little bit more. After a month of easy and steady running I introduce some pace again.

Parkrunfan: I think the over all mileage counts more than the over runs.

Madlot: You will gain nothing form running in the last few days, rest that leg to give you the best chance of making that finish line!


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:10

Hi Liz,

What sort of socks do you wear for your running and are there any particular sort that you would recommend?


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:13

Hi Liz,

 A couple of questions for you, I am running my first marathon next Sunday. Is there any tips on how much water to drink during the race?

Also when running a my long runs a couple of times I have experience a sharp stabbing pain under my right rib which I can't get rid of. Is this dehydration or just a really bad stitch? It tends to come at mile 18-20.


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:15

Hi Liz,

I always struggle knowing how much fluid to take on board, last did London in 2006 and ended up throwing up 7 times (which is not fun along a crowd lined Embankment), have not been able to stomach Luz Sport ever since this time, so planning on taking my own sports drink but still worried the same will happen again.

Have been carrying my own drink on all my training runs, but I'm always all out by 18/19 which leaves me with none for later on.  Should I attempt the Luz Sport or bearing in mind previous experience do you think I should just manage on water.  Or should I delay drinking my sports drink until the later stages of the race.

Could ask someone to take some up for me - but with the crowds no guarentee that will get it.

Many thanks Amanda 


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:22

Gotthe runs: I wear thin light socks with talc in. Less weight the better in my book. It is personal preference really. What ever you have been training in will be fine! Don't try new socks on the day!

Jonathon: Good luck for your Ultra, I would take a week of swimming or at least 5 days of no running, and then do a week of very easy running at the end of which I would do no longer than 2 hours of easy running, then you can afford to have some pace, i.e. MP and HMP sessions to get those legs woken up, but not long sessions, and do some runs on the road 2 weeks out just to get used to it. Listen to your body and the first 2 weeks post ultra are important for rec- eat and hydrate well as soon as you can and don't do anything too mad!

Rowan: Yes I get aches and pains in the taper. If they are new ones I know they are in my head, but if it is something I usually get injury wise then I tend to listen to it. It will all vanish once the gun goes on the 25th! Yes I can see myself in 10-15 years time running round in a wonder woman outfit if my hips will let me !

Kristian: Jet lag is not nice but just doing some very easy 10 mins runs will actually help you get back into the time zone!

Rob22: Gosh Rob it is so hard to say. I would say you have done enough training and the wall is only lack of nutrition and poor pacing. 7.30s would give you 3.16, so I say you may as well start at that pace and see how it feels. You can always have a back up plan!


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:22

I have a question

Liz, are you coming to join some of the runners and supporters for a few beers at Chandos  (Trafalgar Sq) after the race
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:23

Hi Liz - just saving Steve the under 4 coach from another question (BTW - he has been great, answering all our queries, no matter how many times we asked the same question even  )

The under 4 schedule recommends a 12 mile steady run for this Sunday, 1 week before VLM. However, I will follow Steve's advice and do maximum 10 (same way I dropped the 18miles last Sunday to 15, but other than that I banked all LSR's) - the schedule mentions running this at a steady pace, so roughly MP. Do you think it's wise running at marathon pace this distance, or maybe just do a standard long run?

I have altered te paces I've done my LSR's recently - slow as prescrobed for the first half, and then I gradually picked up the pace for negative splits the second half.

It would be great to hae your input!

BTW - I have been training with a torn meniscus, so I have only done 3 sessions/week for the last 2 months (but never missed an LSR - even the 22 miles felt absolutely confortable).

Thank you very much,
Cristina


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:23

Liz, one more question: will you answer YES to Bouncing Barlist's question above ?
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:24

Thanks Liz....looking forward to the WW costume....you can see from my picture I've been known to dress up !!
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:24

Hello Liz, The taper is causing me a great deal of concern, as i am realy panicking about falling behind.

My weekly mileage has been around 70-75, 3 weeks ago i did my last long run which was 22 miles at 6.36mm to total 76 miles 3 weeks out. I did a 1/2 marathon sunday gone at 5.53 pace and 5 miles after to total 18 and  67m for the week, and this week i'll total around 40-43 miles.

But my program doesn't include running any longer than 1hr now up to the marathon, does this seem like a normal taper, compared to how you do your own taper, and will i lose endurance or speed since sunday upto the marathon as im thinking that im now not doing enough.

Thankyou Liz

Martin


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:26

Amanda TW: have you joined one of the RW mile 17 suport group? You could leave it with them, and have it at Mudchute, guaranteed  - sorry to be stilling Liz' space xx
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:26

Hi Liz

Any insider tips on the London course to help us gain a few precious seconds ?

Thanks


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:28

Amanda: I would take your drinks on first and then take on the water. You have been practicing in your training which is great news- so you do have some idea of what you need.
The experts say you need to take on about 30-60g of carbs per hour, so you can take a gel: 30g or the LS which is 20g per 330ml bottle. I would advise drinking 3-4 sips of fluid every 20-30mins. How much you need depends on how much you sweat.

Sarah: Ideally you should have been practicing drinking whilst you have been training. Taking on just water is not a good idea, and I would advise you either take on some LS drink or carry some gels also. Water is also out on the course, which is fine, just don't take ONLY water as you will not absorb it as well. I would advise you drink 3-4 sips every 30mins.


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:29

AmandaTW wrote (see)

Hi Liz,

I always struggle knowing how much fluid to take on board, last did London in 2006 and ended up throwing up 7 times (which is not fun along a crowd lined Embankment), have not been able to stomach Luz Sport ever since this time, so planning on taking my own sports drink but still worried the same will happen again.

Have been carrying my own drink on all my training runs, but I'm always all out by 18/19 which leaves me with none for later on.  Should I attempt the Luz Sport or bearing in mind previous experience do you think I should just manage on water.  Or should I delay drinking my sports drink until the later stages of the race.

Could ask someone to take some up for me - but with the crowds no guarentee that will get it.

Many thanks Amanda 


Amanda,

As Kitty The Cat suggested, there is a large RW support point at 17 miles, we are already catering for special needs for approx 300 runners, you are welcome to leave anything you like with us (basically you leave things at the RW stand at the VLM expo and we'll pass it on to you.

If you are interested have a look at the Support group thread and post on there (link below), thats assuming that youre not already in a support group)

Support Group 2 (mile 17)
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:32

Thanks Liz. I have been using gels approx every 40minutes during my long runs so just wanted to ensure I was drinking enough water to go with them


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:33

Another silly question....................  i get really nervous which I accept as a good thing but before it starts constantly feel like I need the toilet with no really true need.....................  when the run starts its still in my head that  I need to go but I am loathe to queue at the portaloos...... in previous marathons i have also been able to head off behind a tree and after this I am fine.  I would love to follow a pace group and be able to get my head to accept that I do not need to visit the toilet...............
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:34

Hi Liz,

Couple of questions if thats OK,

Firstly on pacing, my half PB is 1:49, and my LSR's have been just under 9m30s for up to 19.5 miles. Should I try and continue these into the VLM and aim for a 4:10 finish or do you think I could push them a bit ? (am scared of blowing up if pushing too much!).

Secondly (and this may affect first question) .. have you heard of the Coastal Relay being run this summer (and do you fancy signing up for a leg  ) ? We're hoping to give Barry the Baton his first run out in London, so although possibly not your area of expertise, would you have any tips for running with a baton, ie easiest way of holding etc.

Thanks

Bruce


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:34

Hi Liz.

I've been really looking forward to my first marathon (at 58 yrs old I came into it late!) and training has been generally going very well except for a heavy fall a fortnight ago where I cracked a rib and ended up in the river Medway - well almost, I was saved a few inches above the water by the brambles!!

But now that the last week is here I'm terrified!  Although my ribs are very sore I can still run ok, so I'm not worried about that - all I want to do is get round. But I read so many mixed messages about what we should run in the last week, from "no more than 20 mins a day", to a 5 mile mid week; and no run after Thursday, to a gentle run on Saturday.

Help!!

And thanks for 'being there'!

Ray (aka grandadnohair)


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:34


Bouncing B: I would love too, but I am on a tight schedule and have post race speeches to perform! No Rest eh! Have fun though!

Kitty: All coaches are different, although I always think that by this time you can only do too much the week before and I would advise no longer than 70 mins at a very easy pace the weekend before a marathon. If you do too much in your taper you will really know about it in the final part of the race.

Martin (Tinka): Your taper sounds very sensible, and looks like you have been training very well. So trust the training you have done, and relax and enjoy the ease down. It is normal to feel like you are getting unfit, but far from it. It takes 2 weeks of no activity for you to loose your fitness, in a taper you are maintaining your fitness, whilst giving your body the chance to recover from all the hard training you have done! Watch a movie and read some books, thats what I do!

Swiss Phil: None, sorry. It is 26.2 miles and maybe more if you don't run on the blue line. The same for us all!
]
Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:37

Liz - Many thanks for your answer, it is much appreciated and will be taken on board.

Good luck to everyone who is running in London (which seems to be the majority of the posters!)

 J


Posted: 16/04/2010 at 13:37

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