Marathon Race-Week Q+A: Liz Yelling

Double Olympian - and Lucozade Sport Super Six mentor - Liz Yelling answers your frequently-asked marathon questions


Posted: 17 April 2009
by Liz Yelling

Q. Is it normal to feel really hungry during the taper period? What snacks would you recommend? Nutty 29

A. It is usual to feel hungry in the taper. Eat little and often and make sensible food choices such as bananas and wholemeal foods. Foods with a low GI (Glycaemic Index) should help you feel more sustained. Nuts and dried fruit are good, as are cereals. Make sure you drink enough too - your body needs to stock up!

Q. How long should my run the weekend before be? SuzR

A. The weekend before is just about ticking over, so I would recommend you do no more than 60 - 70 minutes of easy running.

Q. Is it a bad idea to do a 10K race the weekend before? mad mark

A. If you want to run at your best in the marathon I wouldn't advise racing a 10K the week before. Now is the time to refuel and build your energy, not deplete it.

Q. Should I have a sports massage at the Flora London Marathon Expo? nikster

A. I wouldn't advise a sports massage now if you have never had one before. Don't change anything now, especially the day before. A massage can make your legs feel heavy.

Q. My schedule advises a 6 x 400m interval session a week before the race. Is there anything to be gained from a speed session this close to race day? Rhiannon Gravell

A. Doing some paced work in the final week can help to turn your legs over. However, I would not suggest you run the reps at maximum speed - run at race pace or just a little faster. You could also stay off the track and do 90-second bursts of controlled running on the road or grass to help your legs recover faster for the big day. Don't leave the session any later than the Tuesday before.

Q. I'm never hungry on the morning of a race, but know I should eat. What would you recommend? faithfulred

A. Breakfast is key so I would definitely recommend you try to eat something. You would need to consume four or five gels or the equivalent in sports drink to get enough energy. Cereal and slow-release carbs are your best options.

Q. How much do you recommend drinking before the race? inlastplace

A. Your pre-marathon hydration should really start the day before. Be sure to check your urine colour - it should be pale to clear. Sip little and often, and have a drink by your bed. Then, when you wake up, sip on an electrolyte drink up to about an hour before the race. Drinking about 500ml should be plenty if you are already well hydrated.

Q. I drink plenty in the run-up to a race but struggle with needing the loo when I start. Any advice? XCR

A. Stopping your fluid intake 60 minutes before the start of the race should be enough time for your body to get rid of the excess. Hydrate throughout the week so your body gets used to retaining more fluid - it will adjust and you won't need to go to the loo as much.

Q. I never feel thirsty when running - should I force myself to drink even if I don't feel like it? Robert Bruce 3

A. You should aim to drink every 5K in a marathon to prevent dehydration. Otherwise, it can affect your performance. Sip little and often - if you feel ing thirsty is too late, as you are already dehydrated by then.

Q. Is a negative split really achievable for most runners and what sort of training can help prepare you? Rob 22

A. Running a negative split is very hard to do - your effort can be harder in the second half but your pace may stay the same. To practice, run longer sessions specific to marathon pace (or just a little faster) and add faster-paced running into the second half of your long runs. That way, you'll practice increasing your pace when you are tired.

Q. I was aiming for 3:15 but I've been feeling pretty good in the last few weeks. Should I go for it and see if I can break three hours or would you discourage changing strategy now? RickJ

A. I would suggest you tackle your PB in stages and don't go for bust in this marathon. Maybe aim for 3:10, but only if this pace feels easy to start off with. If you still feel good at Mile 20 then you can push on, and at least then you will be rewarded with a more positive experience. Many people are tempted to change their plans close to the race but you need to remember what pace you have been training at.

Q. I have three target times and it is very tempting to set out at the fastest - what's my best pacing strategy? Fiona C

A. Assuming you have been training at your fastest target race pace, set off at this speed, then see how you feel and adjust your pace accordingly. You should feel controlled and relaxed until at least Miles 13 - 19.

Q. How should I feel at the different points of a marathon? hellen

A. Your marathon pace should feel easy to start with, and getting your pace right at the start of the race will affect how strongly you finish. Starting off too fast uses your energy up too quickly and will slow you down in the latter stages. If you fuel up effectively there is no reason why you won't finish strongly. Typically the last six miles are always the hardest and every level of athlete has to dig deep. Cruise until Mile 18 or 19!

Q. If I get to Mile 18 and decide to up the pace a bit, what is the best way to do this without blowing up four to six miles down the road? Back Seat Boy

A. Gradually increase your pace and monitor how you feel. Ask yourself whether it is a discomfort you can handle. If you have fuelled up well you should have the energy to finish strongly.

Q. I've only been taking energy drink on my long runs, as I was sick after eating a gel. I'm fine for about 20 miles, but can't imagine running another six. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get enough energy without resorting to gels? LisaBain

A. Energy drink should be enough to get you around the marathon. Take your time when you are drinking during the race, and try to drink as much of the bottle as possible. It is too late to try anything new now. Eating plenty the day before will also ensure your energy stores are sufficiently topped up.

Q. In my last marathon, I only drank water and ate gels but got terrible cramp at Mile 24. Do you think taking on energy drink may prevent this? Fast Legs

A. Cramp can be due to a number of factors, such as lack of specific conditioning, pacing or hydration. Taking on energy drink may help your electrolyte balance, but should be something you practice in training.


This Q+A was the last in our 2009 Flora London Marathon build-up series - you can find links to the other Q+As below. Don't forget: Liz is mentoring two of our Lucozade Sport Super Six so will continue to be offering wisdom and support on their training threads up until race day.

In the meantime, we'd love you to get in touch with your thoughts on how useful you've found the sessions and any ideas you might have for future live debates.


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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). This year, she also won the British Half-Marathon and Marathon titles, and is a Lucozade Sport Running Ambassador.

We're starting this thread now so you have a chance to post your questions beforehand - that way, Liz will be able to hit the ground running rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once.

Time to get posting!

Catherine RW


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:43

Hi Liz,

 What distance/time do you recommend for the long run this weekend? In my schedule I have 10 miles (which takes me about 1 hr 30) but I think I heard you say we shouldn't be doing more than 70 minutes.

 Thanks!


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:45

Hi Liz

This is my first marathon,hoping to do under 3hr 30. I have done one 20 miler and two 19 milers  the last of which was 2 weeks ago.  Was thinking of doing a 10 k club race on sunday,what do you think??


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:49

Hi,

Do you think there's much to be gained from a shortish (3 mile) tempo run at this stage? I've got one scheduled for today, but there's still time to change plans!

 Thanks.


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:51

Hi Liz,

I could bombard you with questions as a first timer but just for reassurance;

1 - I've had some injury in my training so was only planning to run another 10 miles in total (7 and 3) is that ok, is it worth it? I won't be doing anything else (no cross training) as I don't want to tire myself out. Last long run was Sunday gone of 18.

2 - If you had one tip for a first timer (hope to run in sub 5 hrs) what would it be?

Thanks

Jo  


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:51


SuzR; This weekend is just about ticking over, so I would recommend you do no more than 60-70mins of easy running this Sunday!

Liz


Mad mark: If you want to do your best at the marathon I would not advise racing a 10k the week before, now is a time to re-fuel and build your energy not take from it!



Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:52

Hi Liz,

I have a question about race day strategies...

Most advise I see is that you're better going for a negative split.....all the data from the FLM over the years would suggest that only about 2-5% achieve this and most of those are elite athlete's

Is this really achievable for most runners given the stats and what sort of training prepares you for a negative split on the day, is it more tempo runs at marathon pace?

Thanks

Rob

ps. look forward to the day when you win the London Marathon..


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:53

Hi Liz

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions - much appreciated!

Could I ask a question about hydration (what I use to call drinking!) on the morning of the marathon.  How much and what do you recomend drinking in advance of the run.

Cheers

Stephen


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:53


Joddly: Yes a 3 mile tempo run 10days out from the marathon is fine today!

Jwrun: 1: Yes you are good to do a 7 and a 3 miler just easy in the final week into london.

2: Tip for 1st time marathon runners is to have a good race strategy and stick to it.



Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:54

Hi Liz

I was considering having a sports massage at the expo, but having never had one before is it wise? I've heard sports massage are painful, could it cause problems for the big day

Thanks

Nikki


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:55

Hi Liz

 i tried to run a tempo run today but after about 1 mile I got a sore knee.  I had to stop altogether after 1.6 miles as the pain was too  much.  i think its Iliotibial Band Sydrome - any suggestions?

 Thanks

ps congratulations on the forthcoming baby!


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:56


XCR

Hi Liz

Training for me has gone really well with all long runs done. Last one was almost two weeks ago that being 20 and 10 last week. However, toe on left foot is very sore and has been increasing in soreness everytime i do a long run. Can i get away with just resting now? I ran 6 miles last night and toe is now.... sore!

Thanks in anticpation of a reply

Angela


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:57

I have this coach.....

Since taking me on she has got me to pb at every distance I have raced, banished my pre race nerves, ensured I have had 16 weeks consistent training and responds frequently and in detail to all my traning worries.

I have heard she is not a bad runner herself although has put on a little weight recently...

Do you think this meets your expectations as an experienced mentor and coach? Is this enough? Do you think I should ask for another 16 weeks free coaching just to be sure?


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:58

Hi Liz,

I'm never hungry on the morning of a race, yet I know I should take in something. What would you recommend? Should I force breakfast down? Have something light then take an energy gel/bar? Getting up earlier isn't really an option, as when I do that I'm even less hungry!


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 12:58


Rob22: Negative splitting is very hard to do, your effort can be harder in the 2nd half but the pace may be the same. To practice this running longer sessions specific to marathon pace and just a little faster, and also doing some faster paced running towards the 2nd half of your long runs, so you practice increasing pace when you are tired.

Inlastplace: Drinking pre marathon should really start the day before, making sure your are checking your urine colour and that it is pale to clear. Sip little and often, having a drink by the bed, and then when you wake just sipping on an electrolyte drink, up to about an hour before the race, when you may back off the drinking, before you start. Drinking about 500ml should be plenty if you are hydrated previously.


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:00

Hi Liz

I have my 3 target times and it is very tempting to set out at the fastest and go for it but what is the best pacing strategy?

Thanks

F


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:01

Wow Sue surely a coach like this doesn't exist......
Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:01

Hi Liz,

I'm following the RW Garmin Schedule for the London Marathon and hope to finish in 3:50ish. My run this Sunday is 12 miles but people on this site say that is probably too much a week before the big day. Should I do the 12 miles or reduce it slightly. So far the plan has worked for me but these people have put doubts in my head.

Thanks in advance,

Darrell


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:01

Hi Liz,

I only drink lucozade sport on my long runs, as I was sick after taking a gel and can't stomach the thought of them now. I just about managed to do my 18 and 20 mile runs on lucozade sport alone, but there was no way I could do another 6 miles. Do you have any suggestions (at this late stage!) on how I can fuel-up during the run without resorting to gels.

Many thanks

Lisa


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:03

Hi Liz

This is my first Marathon, I am a little behind with training as has an injury in January but have run for 3hours ( 10 days ago) and felt  fine. ( Tired) My half marathon was 2 15 in October 08 and last week did 10k in 1 hor.. Any tips on how to pace myself and not crash at 17 or 18 miles . I am sure I will be fine if I go really slow - its difficult when its your first marathon.

Thank you

Carole


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:07



Nikster: I would not advise a sports massage at the expo if you have never had one before, don't change any thing now, esp the day before as a massage can make your legs feel heavy.

Kirsty: I would get a sports massage on your IT band and Rest it until you feel it is better.

XCR: Yes, you could rest until race day now with no negative effects. I would also see a physio, and maybe you could do a little cross training.

Sue: Your nuts! Your coach is ace!
Falthfuried: Breakfast is key pre- marathon and I would recommend you try to eat something. You would need to eat about 4-5 gels or = in sports drink to get enough energy. Cereal and slow release carbs are best pre- marathon.


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:07

hi liz

I was wondering how a 20 mile race time might convert to my marathon time? I did the Ashby 20 which is hilly in a pace of 8.48/mile, I did this with the second half being 30s slower than the first so I did start to slow a little but the second half was a bit hillier and windier!! Considering I will be tapered for race day and Ashby was at the end of a hard week, how do you think my pace compares for that should compare to MP?

Ps I often run past your old house in loughborough!!


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:09

Hi Liz

What are you thoughts on over-distance training for a marathon.


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:11


Fiona: Set off at your fastest target race pace, and I assuming you have been training at this pace and then see how you feel and adjust your pace accordingly: You should feel controlled and relaxed until at least 13-19 miles.

Darrel: 12 miles is too much the week before the marathon in my opinion, I would advise no longer the 70mins very easy pace.

Lisa: LS should be enough to get you around your marathon, take your time when you are drinking the drink during the race, and try to drink as much of the drink as possible. It is too late to try anything new now. Eating plenty the day before the race will ensure your stores are topped up.

Carole: Just listen to your body, and make sure you have a hydration and re-fueling strategy and you will be fine! Just run at the pace that is right for you!

Liz
Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:13

Hi Liz

 My problem is that I know I do not drink enough when I run.  I never feel thirsty and will run a half-marathon without drinking, but will drink at the end, I know this is not good for me, what would you suggest, should I force myself to drink when I don't feel like it


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:14


Hellen: Say hello to my old house! A 20 mile race is a fair indicator of your marathon pace, although the last 6 miles are the hardest, as long as you have got your re-fueling strategy right, then you should be able to run within 5 secs per mile of your 20 mile pace.

Joe: I think over runs for the marathon can work for some if you are an experienced runner and you do them at an easy pace. It depends on the type of athlete you are.



Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:17

Hi Liz,

Is it normal to feel really hungry during the taper period?  I started my taper the weekend, and I feel hungry all the time, I'm trying to snack little and often, but even so the tummy keeps rumbling.  What snacks would you advsie to keep them hunger pangs at bay?

thanks 


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:18

Hi Liz (1:09 half marathon PB)

I just wanted to say you are a running goddess


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:18


Robert: Yes you must drink, and you should aim to drink every 5k in the marathon to prevent dehydration, which will affect your performance. Sip little and often, you should have really practiced this in your training and racing, so you get used to it! Being thirsty is too late, as you are already dehydrated at this time.



Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:19


Nutty29: It is very usual to feel hungry in the taper and you must eat, little and often is good, and making the right food choices, such as bananas, wholemeal foods, and Low GI which should help you feel more sustained. Nuts and dried fruits are good, as are cereals, make sure you are drinking enough also. Your body needs to stock up!

Johnny: Thanks!
Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:22

My runners world schedule advises a 6x 400m interval session next week.Is there anything to be gained from a speed session next week,or is it best to stick to two easy runs?
Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:24

Hi Liz,

 Again talking about race strategy, I guess it is different for everyone....I am aiming for a sub 5:00 run, my (comfortable) long runs have been around the 11.5min/mile pace. (The last one last Saturday was 15M in under 3hours)

Should I be to running at my long run pace, and use the LS stations i.e. every 5k (are they exactly every 5k?) as a goal to go past say every 35 minutes.

Or should I be starting slower or same pace as long run, and if am going well of a certain number of miles (say 17M) and then increase pace depending on feel (does that count as negative splitting!)

Or even should I be running faster than LR pace....but how much....

What the best strategy for first timers.....


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:25


Rhiannon: Doing some paced work in the final week can help to turn the legs over, however, I would not suggest you run these at maximum, but at race pace or just a little faster, you could also stay off the track and do 90sec, controlled running on the road or grass to help the legs recover faster for race day. This should be done no later than Tuesday.

Good luck!
Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:27


Silburbas:You should aim to run at a pace which feels comfortable and n control. It should feel easy for the first half of the race. If you feel good at 20 miles then I would suggest you then up your pace here, rather than before.

The LS drinks are at 5m, 10m, 15m, 19m, and 23 miles, not every 5k. There will be water every mile after 3 miles, so make sure you have a plan for race day.



Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:30

thanks for your answers LIz,

How should we feel at the different points in a marathon? I have done several before but have always faded at the end, I suspect due to pushing too hard early on.  So was wondering when it should be easy peasy, when it should feel comfortable, when it should feel hard but not quite dig in time and when is dig in time if that makes sense.  If I know how it ought to be then I can know if I am going too hard at any point and ease off before it is too late!


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:32

Hi Liz,

I am running my sixth marathon (1st London) and very keen to improve on my PB of 3:28 which I did several years ago in Paris. My training has been vastly improved in teh last couple of years, and I've been feeling pretty good in the last few weeks, running a 1:25 at the Hastings half, which is pretty hilly. I always aimed for 3:15, but am tempted to go harder and see if I can break 3hrs. I did this last year in Madrid and died in the last 10 miles but it was v hot, I was a bit ill... Would you discourage changing strategy now, or think it's worth going for it?

Thanks, Rick


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:33


Hellen: Your marathon pace should feel easy to start with, and getting your pace right at the start of the race will effect how strongly you finish, as starting off too fast uses your energy up too quickly and will slow you down in the latter stages, if you fuel up effectively there is no reason why you can not finish strongly, typically the last 6 miles are the hardest and a time when every level of athlete have to dig deep! Cruise until 18-19 miles!


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:36

Oops, it the chip timing that are every 5k!  Are there clocks along the routes, and agaisnt what time did they start i.e. elite woman or man or mass start?

 I expect we will know that where 5k points are as there will be signs.  I think I will run comfortable and in control as like in my LR and aim for 35mins per 5k for the start and access as I go along.

One other thing, it seems to be about 16 degrees on the day, what should I expect to change i.e. drink more water because of the Great British weather I havent had a chance to train in the better weather.

 Many thanks


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:36


XCR

Thanks Liz

Once last q - i drink plenty in the run up and day before but struggle with trying to ensure i don't need the loo when i start a race. I even tried stopping drinking by 10pm the night before and then having maybe a pint of water between 6-7 am - however at the Oakley 20 i tried this and.... i needed a wee by mile 2! Any advice?


Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:39


Rick, I would suggest you tackle you PB in stages and don't go for bust in this marathon. I would suggest you should aim for 3.10, and only if this pace feels easy to start off with, if you feel good at 20 miles then you can push on, and at least then you will be rewarded with a more positive experience. Many people are tempted to change their plans close to the race. You need to remember what pace you have been training at, and what your half marathon suggests at current is a 3.05- 3.10 marathon in my opinion.



Posted: 17/04/2009 at 13:39

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