Martin Yelling's Q&A 1 April 2016

Q. I'm following one of your 16 week advanced plans, although I have tweaked certain parts to include strength training. I tend to favour running by 'feel', but I've heard the first three kilometres on the route will be congested and so I wont be able to stick to my planned pace. Is this a question of playing 'catch up' when I get some free road?

A. Depending on your pen start time it's going to be busy with other runners. It might take you a while to get over the line and into your running. The key is not to panic, ease into your running and find your pace. Take time to get back on track if you fall behind.

Q. How do you mentally get set to run at a slower pace than you are used to at the very start of the race due to the sheer volume of runners? My biggest fear is being completely boxed in with nowhere to move to get into my stride and it will throw everything out for me in my head.

A. Yes, that's quite likely! You've got to be be prepared and not get frustrated. Allow the race to unfold and people to get into their pace. Get in the right area of your start pen - at the front if you feel you're at the faster side. Put yourself in your own little zone at the start and ignore what other people do. Control you.

Q. This is my first marathon. I completed 20 miles two weeks ago and only did 13 last week as my knee is not quite right. I’m only planning another 12 miles this week and I'm scared my last long run will be too far away from the date of the marathon. Will I still have my fitness?

A. You won't have lost your fitness. You are totally right to run less and get the knee right. Test yourself too much now and you may not start at all. Make the start and you'll make the finish! It's the accumulation of all your training that makes the difference, not one or two long runs!

Q. I'm struggling to get more than three gels down my neck on the longer runs. What other fuel do you recommend that is easy to carry?

A. Are you sure you need more than three? Whatever you take you have to be happy with in training. Try making little flapjack slices, carrying dried fruit, nuts, or other sports nutrition type products like beans, bars or blocks.

Q. I'm doing my first marathon and hoping for a time of four hours 20 minutes based on my long run pace. My 17, 18 and 20-mile runs were pretty even splits but I went too slow on the 20 and had lots left at the end. How on earth do I know what pace I can maintain on the day? Training plans would suggest faster than my 18/20 milers but is that really realistic?

A. Only you can really answer this question I'm afraid! If you're feeling like you've got a lot in the tank and are handling the pace well in training, you can decide if you'd like to take any risks at all on Race Day regarding your goal time (eg four hours 15 minutes). You can always start off with an upper and a lower time in mind (eg four hours 10 minutes and four hours 30 minutes) and kick off at four hours 10 minutes but be happy with a four hours 29 minutes!

Q. my training was all going to plan. I did two 20-mile runs and was ready to taper, but then I injured the nerve behind my fibula. I’ve been told I may need two weeks’ rest. What do you recommend doing with the last week and a half that I will will have left to run?

A. DON'T PANIC! You've done all the training and that won't leave you in the next two weeks. You now need to try and get pain free running as a priority. Take a few few days off as planned - your taper had started! By the time the final week arrives you should be feeling refreshed and ready to run. Then it's important to not push too hard. Include a few gentle runs in the week and then hit race day ready!

Q. I did my last long run yesterday and it was slower than the previous two. I had been running fairly comfortably until 32 kilometres and yesterday I had to do a walk/run combination from 25 kilometres. Is it normal to see a slow down like this? I really want to get back to my faster pace for the race.

A. It's normal to have up and down days in training for sure. Especially as volume and fatigue creeps up. Now your taper is starting to kick in and you're running smart and light in the next few weeks. More adaptation should occur and you'll hit the start line back on pace again!

Q. I’m following the Advanced training plan and have a 22-mile run this Sunday. After last weekend’s 20 miles I've had a sore achilles and so have taken it easy this week but I’m apprehensive about the 22 miles now. I think I may have already worn through the heel in my trainers so may try new ones, but is it too late to do that? Do I still do my last long run?

A. Hmm, that’s a tricky one. You really don't want to aggravate an achilles. You are much better off dropping the distance down and running pain free. Don't run 22 miles for the sake of it and risk race day.

Q. This is my first marathon and I'm at 18 miles for my long run. I feel like I can't possibly run any further and my legs are all wobbly. Am I best to use a run/walk strategy? And if so, what is the best way to do this? My aim is to just finish.

A. Congratulations on getting to 18 miles. That's a real milestone! If you can do 18 you're on for 26! Start slowly! Focus on the final six after 20 miles. If you do need to walk perhaps use the water stations as guides. Run between them, then walk the duration of each station. That might be something like a 12-minute run and a two-minute walk for the final six to eight miles (or earlier if you wish).

Q. I've been wiped out by a chest infection this past week, missing a week’s training, including a long run. How should I approach starting training again? How do I know I'm ready to go? Should I try to cover the long run I missed or just move on to the next? I don't want another setback.

A. Sorry to hear that. Yes, you definitely need to be well again before resuming training. Ease back into running gradually, perhaps by doing one or two easy paced 30 to 40-minute runs to see how you feel. If you don't feel ready (you'll know!) then I'd take another rest day. Avoid playing catch up. Just pick up the plan where it should be after easing back into it.

Q. Do you have any advice on how to avoid cramp? I've done two marathons and have suffered cramp both times close to the finish.

A. There are many reasons why you could have suffered cramp including terrain, fitness, nutrition and pace. Get these things right and you'll reduce the risk.

Q. My normal race style over 13.1 miles is to start fast and slightly slow down, then maintain pace to finish. London is going to be my first full marathon. Do I maintain an even pace from the very start to the finish, or carry on with what has previously worked OK? I fear starting slow and getting slower, hence why I start fast.

A. I'd certainly suggest avoiding a fast start. Even paced running is more economical but you are still likely to slow down. The important thing is to attempt to minimise that slow down as much as possible. You'll do this by being sensible and well paced at the start.

Q. Are there any cheeky hills in the latter part of the Marathon we should be aware of? I was going well during a marathon elsewhere when an unexpected gradient knocked me right off track for that last few miles.

A. No! This is London! Any gradual rises are known as a 'slope of hope' so you'll be just fine. There’s nothing sinister hidden.

Q. It's my first time. Training has gone well so far and I'm running 22 miles on Sunday before the taper. Mentally I'm worried that as I taper and reduce the long run mileage I'll lose the endurance I've built up through the long run training and struggle. I'm aiming for a four hours, 30 minutes finish. Are my concerns warranted?

A. Nope! Put those to the back of your mind. Training has gone well. Trust your fitness. You've got this.