Martin Yelling’s Q&A 8 Jan 2016

Q. This will be my first marathon. My longest distance so far is 17 miles last Sunday, I will increase this every few weeks but do I need to do interval runs, speed work and/or hills? Also, what's the longest distance you recommend? And how many times shall I do that long distance before the marathon?

A. Wow, being up to 17 miles already is awesome. You're way ahead of the game in terms of distance. The answer to both of your questions depends on your motivation and Race Day aspirations. I’d recommend holding your distance for a while and consolidating around the 14 to 18-mile mark as a baseline long run. Then look to pick it up with specific sections at target marathon pace and up to perhaps 22 miles in distance (no closer than three weeks to Race Day). Intervals and faster paced running is really good as it does help that marathon pace feel easier.

Q. I'm struggling to get any training done due to a reoccurring right knee injury, I had a fall whilst out running a month ago and it's not been the same since, should I get it checked out by a specialist and if I'm struggling to achieve my plan when is the latest I should be thinking about pulling out of this year's marathon?

A. You should definitely get it checked out asap. Once you get a proper diagnosis you can determine a course of rehab and recovery and get back on the roads properly. I wouldn't consider pulling out - Race Day is a long way off.

Q. This is my fifth marathon. What things should I consider in my training to take 15 minutes off my PB to get a sub four?

A. That’s a great target. Consider: more threshold running and higher intensity work; More sustained long runs of between 16 and 20 miles and an extra run a week increasing your volume.

Q. This will be my first marathon! I wanted to know about fuelling on the day. I don't like gels so what can I take on the go? How often do I need to eat and drink whilst running? Are the drink stations on the day enough or will I need to run with drinks and food etc?

A. There are water and Lucozade stations on the day. What you decide to use to fuel your run on Race Day is up to you. You've got plenty of time to decide what works best for you and this is best done as trial and error during your training runs. Take something easy to carry, that you like and give it a whirl. Try: fig rolls, malt loaf, jelly babies, bars, etc.

Q. I'm doing four runs a week consisting of: a long run, two short runs and a medium length run as well as two strength and core training days. I'm aiming for under 4hrs 30mins. How would you suggest I work on getting this time? Do I need to incorporate sprints into one of my workouts or is just running the mileage enough? My last 10 miles was 1hr39.

A. Four runs a week is great! Practise some runs at your target pace of 4hrs 30mins so you really understand what it feels like. Do this when you feel fresh but also when you're tired, so at the end of a long run. Speed work isn't as important as stamina and miles for marathon running but a little higher intensity work can help the slower miles feel easier and more manageable as the fitness improves.

Q. The marathon training plan I have been recommended is time based, previous ones have been distance based - which is best?

A. They are both as good as each other. Time based plans are not prescriptive on distance as it clearly takes runners different amounts of time to run the same distance. If you're following a time based plan you'll probably find that you'll naturally also work in distance and find out how far you run each time. This is a good exercise in pace management. Slot some distances into your time based plan when you start to recognise how far you might run in different times.

Q. I'm a first time marathon runner (well any kind of runner to be honest!) and I struggle to eat before a run but always end up feeling light headed on a run. I know it's down to low blood sugar but I can't run after eating even after an hour. Any suggestions would be great!

A. You fuel up for runs in the hours before not really immediately before. So, as long as you've had some food that day (if you're running in the evening) you'll have enough energy. Try eating differently (e.g. some slow release carbs) and keeping your blood sugars level to save them dipping or peaking. Just take your time and practise different things at different times.

Q. It’s my first marathon and I’m using an Intermediate training plan. If I miss training time in the week and don't complete my long run mileage total, should I do the week again or just move on?

A. First trick is to try not to miss it! If you do then just move on to the next week. You can't really play catch up.

Q. I'm suffering with depression and finding it hard to find the motivation and I'm adding to my worries with my lack of training. Is there an initial easy start to training I can do until I get my mojo back?

A. Getting outside in the fresh air is great for motivation. Take the pressure off yourself by not worrying about the marathon and instead connect with the joy of being outside and exercising. There is plenty of time to go before the marathon and so a great way to start a plan is with a simple routine that test you outside and moving - running or walking! There are some on the London Marathon website.

Q. I've just started an improver’s plan, having completed London a few years ago the beginners plan seemed bit of a step back. However, my legs struggle with four runs a week. Would a hybrid plan using both work? Four runs every other week for example?

A. Of course, any plan has to work for you as an individual. It’s hard to write generic plans that cater for everyone so it's a great idea to be able to adjust a plan to suit you so long as you maintain the key ingredients. Four runs every other week would definitely work.

Q. I am hoping to run a personal record at London and am training now with around 6:40 to 6:50 m/m target pace in mind for a 2:55 to 2:59 finish. Could you tell me what is the best method or methods to assess whether I am on track during the coming months?

A. There are several ways. First in your training runs you need to reflect on how you are feeling at 6:45 per mile. It should start to get easier the fitter you get. Secondly set yourself some benchmark marathon pace (and faster) efforts as solo time trials, and finally race: you should be able to run faster than this for a half marathon.

Q. I'm going to be one of the youngest people to run the marathon and I'm currently on a 16 week plan but I have shin splints and am finding it hard to stay motivated! is there anything you would suggest?

A. Right now you have plenty of time so get healthy and injury free as priority. Sort the shin pain out. You are better off to skip the next two weeks of the plan, rest and heal, than struggle on and end up missing more weeks later down the road.

Q. is it doable to do a long run every other week? I'm writing a dissertation and won't quite be able to allow a full day a week to a long run.

A. Hopefully you won't be running for a whole day! It depends how long 'long' is. You should certainly be able to fit a long run in every week - but it's not essential. It's more important to try and complete a series of decent distance long runs in the buildup to the marathon - during March when you've progressed. Every other week is just fine and better than skipping it altogether!

Q. What coping techniques do you adopt when your mind wants to give up especially around the 18-mile mark?

A. There are many different things to think about to give you the strength to continue. Try just focussing on the next one-mile marker, thinking about someone/something important to you, remembering how much training you've done, concentrating on your breathing, tuning out and focussing on landmarks or music, saying a mantra. Practise these techniques in training between now and race day. Good luck!

Q. I am a first time marathon runner just in the first few weeks of the beginners plan. What is a good warm up and down routine?

A. On some runs you don't need to warm up or warm down. Just ease slowly into the run and that'll do the trick. If you feel like you need to loosen things up then some gentle mobility (circling, lunging, swinging the legs) works well before a run. Foam rollers can be useful for tight spots as a form of self-massage. If they work for you and you feel better go for it!

Q. I started marathon training but have picked up a tibial stress fracture - apart from rest (!) any tips on how to recover as quickly as possible?

A. That's no fun. Unfortunately you do have to stay off it running wise to promote healing and repair. This is priority. The bone needs to repair itself before you should stress it again. This isn't something you can speed up. You can look to maintain your fitness (with your doctor's approval) through non-weight bearing activity like swimming.

Q. I'm not following a plan as such, just what I think will work for me in the time I have to commit. How many times, in your opinion, should a long run of over say 18 miles be necessary to incorporate into training?

A. Lets assume you're running regularly and building up progressively to 18 miles as a start point. Even if you only did one that'd be great, yet if your progress goes well, then the more you can do the better really. For example, a long run series of 16 to 20 miles over six-to-eight weeks will certainly see you strong!

Q. What's the best form of recovery bath: ice, cold, warm or hot?

A. There’s much debate about that and things tend to change. Some runners like to use ice baths to cool the legs after a race and then have a warm bath, so flushing blood flow. Others like to recover in a warm bubble bath! Do what makes you feel good.