Training

35 Training Tips from the World’s Greatest Runners

Give yourself a running start by following these 35 training tips from the world’s greatest runners...

Haile Gebrselassie
A Four-time Berlin Marathon winner and two-time Olympic gold medallist over 10,000m

Haile says: “Work hard! This is what my father always told me. Nothing comes for free, so if you want to achieve something you will have to work hard.”

Dick Beardsley
Joint winner of the first London Marathon in 1981

Dick says: “The one thing that you have, that is better than any gel, any drink, or any food, is something you’ve always had. It’s your mind and it can truly get you through anything.”

Joyce Smith
London Marathon winner in 1981 and 1982

Joyce says: “It’s important for beginners not to get carried away at the beginning and go off at a pace they can’t hope to keep up. You have to get used to all those hours on your feet in training and build up to that length of time. For food, I always used to eat honey on toast before my races.”

Hugh Jones
1982 London Marathon winner

Hugh says: “Don’t worry about nerves the night before and if they stop you sleeping. You will have had sufficient sleep during the previous nights. All you need to do the night before is avoid getting worked up about it and squandering reserves of nervous energy.”

Alberto Salazr
Three-time New York City Marathon winner and Mo Farah’s coach

Alberto says: “Good runners condition their whole bodies. The arms drive the legs. Keep your upper body and core toned with a lot of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and back raises. Don’t forget that the back is part of the core. Stay away from machine weights and stick to Pilates, climbing, and dynamic flexibility work like yoga.”

Kathrine Switzer
First woman to run the Boston Marathon and 1974 New York City Marathon winner

Lorna says: “If you miss a workout, don’t feel guilty. We’re all human. Just start again as soon as possible. If you miss many days, you may need to start again at a gradual pace.”

Michael Shelley
2014 Commonwealth Games marathon champion

Michael says: 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon champion
“If you are going to use gels in your race, practise using them in your long run. This will also help you pick a flavour you may like.”

Paula Radcliffe
Marathon world-record holder and three-time London Marathon champion

Paula says: “When possible, and when daylight permits, try to run on grass or softer surfaces. Not only does this put less strain on your body, helping to protect your joints, but allows your body to recover quicker.”

Wilson Kipsang
Reigning Virgin Money London Marathon champion and course record holder

Wilson says: “Trust yourself and even when you’re down, keep on trying. If your mind says you can do it, you can do it!”

Mo Farah
Olympic and world champion over 5000 and 10,000m and English record-holder in the marathon

Mo says: “Drink immediately before or after a 5K or 10K run, but not during it. Running with a bottle puts more pressure on whatever side of your body it’s weighing down, and running well is all about balance.”

Richard Whitehead
Holder of the marathon world record for double amputees. He also ran 40 marathons in 40 days in 2013

Richard says: “Threshold sessions, when you’re really pushing the boundary of how hard you can actually run, are very important. You run harder and faster than you would on marathon day but they really are the key to success. Make sure to deliver a high quality performance in those sessions.”

Steve Jones
1985 London Marathon winner and former marathon world-record holder

Steve says: “The effort to do a specific workout changes every week; the pace for 90 per cent effort this week will be different from the pace for 90 per cent effort next week. So it really doesn’t matter how far you get as long as the effort is consistent.”

Mara Yamauchi
Second fastest British female marathon runner

Mara says: “Don’t underestimate yourself. Human potential is a terrific, incredible thing and yet we all waste our talents so often. The way we are brought up, social expectations, habits and other things mean we often don’t fulfil our potential. So try thinking outside the box and really challenging whether your expectations for yourself are high enough.”

Mary Keitany
Two-time London winner and second fastest woman of all time after Paula Radcliffe

Mary says: “After each marathon rest completely for two weeks, followed by two weeks of slow running – increasing the volume in the second one. After about a month you can restart preparation at full training pace for your next marathon.”

Dennis Kimetto
Marathon world-record holder; he ran 2:02:57 at 2014 Berlin Marathon

Dennis says: “Set a goal, train hard and make your goal a result.”

Edna Kiplagat
Reigning Virgin Money London Marathon champion and two-time world champion

Edna says: “While it’s important to have a training programme, you must also listen to your body and make adjustments if you are very tired or worried you are about to become injured.”

Patrick Makau
Former world-record holder and two-time Berlin Marathon winner

Patrick says: “Rest after a marathon and build a good base of easy running, gym and flexibility work before you start with your 12 weeks long quality phase for the next one.”

Lornah Kiplagat
Former half marathon and cross-country world champion

Lornah says: “You need hard training to get in shape, but you also need a lot of easy training and the mix makes it very interesting.”

Meb Keflezighi
2009 New York City and 2014 Boston Marathon winner

Meb says: “It’s important to have a routine. I usually run in the morning, when my body is fresh and unaffected by meals. Designate a time and it will hold you accountable.”

Tirunesh Dibaba
World and Olympic 10,000m champion who came third on her marathon debut at the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon

Tirunesh says: “To run well and be a good sportsperson, you have to work hard.”

Deena Kastor
American record holder in both the marathon and half-marathon

Deena says: “Continually seek new inspiration in your own life, whether it’s a line from a book, a quip from a friend or an electrifying song.”

Tiki Gelana
Olympic marathon champion, London 2012

Ingrid says: "This marathon is very long compared to races like the 10,000m. You have to be patient and cautious, and take on a lot of water."

Ingrid Kristiansen
Only runner to win London Marathon four times and former marathon world-record holder

Ingrid says: “Have fun during the race and do not push too hard early in the race. Eat and drink normally before the race. Do not overcomplicate things.”

Emmanuel Mutai
2011 London Marathon champion

Emmanuel says: “You need to concentrate and have focus on what you want to do in your life. You have to start at the foundations.”

Kenenisa Bekele
World-record holder over 5000m and 10,000m and Paris Marathon champion in 2014

Kenenisa says: “The effort to do a specific workout changes every week; the pace for 90 per cent effort this week will be different from the pace for 90 per cent effort next week. So it really doesn’t matter how far you get as long as the effort is consistent.”

Eamonn Martin
Last British man to win the London Marathon, in 1993

Eamonn says: “Training shoes are the most important item of kit. It is important to have shoes that are going to help you in your running. If you’re not sure visit a specialist running store.”

Martin Lel
Three-time London and two-time New York City Marathon winner

Martin says: “Run on hilly routes if you want to be strong.”

Stephen Kiprotich
Olympic and world marathon champion

Stephen says: “Long runs, speed work and easy runs are all good. During a competition, you need to have good speed, which allows you to make the right break and it helps you at the finish. Long runs help develop good endurance. Easy runs after a hard training session can help relax the body.”

Mike Gratton
1983 London Marathon winner

Mike says: “You should always plan an easier week every third week or so regardless of your training load. It’s during the rest periods that the body adapts to the training you have done.”

Ron Hill
1970 Boston Marathon winner who, in December 2014, completed his goal of running at least one mile every day for 50 years

Ron says: “The more running you do, the better you will be. 60 miles a week is better than 30 miles, but if you get to say 100 miles a week that can be counter-productive. I’d recommend running shorter distances in preparation but a race is the best training you can do, so try a half marathon three or four weeks in advance.”

Joan Benoit Samuelson
First women’s Olympic marathon champion, winning the inaugural event at the 1984 Games in LA

Joan says: “Ten days to two weeks from race day, you need to sharpen and rest. It’s a delicate balance. You still need to carry strength while also getting appropriate rest. Run your last long run, I usually do 15 to 16 miles at an up-tempo pace, just short of race pace. Maybe add in a 5K or 10K race just to develop your pace.”

Geoffrey Mutai
Berlin, Boston and two-time New York City Marathon winner

Geoffrey says: “Train smart, rest enough and run as fast as you can.”

Grete Waitz
Nine-time New York City and two-time London Marathon winner

Grete says: “It is all about pacing. Have a realistic plan for your race based on your training and most of all stick to it. Don’t get carried away by how you feel at the moment. Miracles seldom or never happen in marathon running.”

Amby Burfoot
1968 Boston Marathon winner and editor-at-large of Runner’s World US

Amby says: “Collect great running quotes. You can start anywhere, from The Bible to The Iliad and the The Odyssey to Mark Will-Weber’s classic book The Quotable Runner. Update your collection regularly with new quotes you stumble upon. Here’s a good one from Aristotle: ‘Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an action but a habit.’”

Steve Cram
Former world 1500m champion who ran marathons in London and New York after retiring from the track. He has a marathon PB of 2:35

Steve says: “The biggest thing people go wrong with is being repetitive in their running and concentrating on volume because they’re scared of the marathon distance. Look at what elite athletes do – they are wide-ranging with track runs and faster runs to break up their mileage into bite-size pieces. It doesn’t help running the same pace for three miles or 12 miles, mix your pace and your distances.”