Marathon Race-Week Q+A: 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.