Tuesday Tips: Marathon Training

I am training for the Virgin Money London marathon. Last week, I introduced you to my trainer, the GB triathlete Gary Spencer. Now it’s time to report on my progress and share some tips.


The first thing we did together was make a training plan. How quick do you need to run each mile?

Before I met Gary, my training plan consisted of going out for a run three or four times a week. I’d do a long run on a Sunday (10-15 miles), a 6 mile run and another 6-8 mile run plus a swimming session and a gym session. But I wouldn’t have been able to tell you how quick I ran these distances nor what my heart rate was. Gary asked me how I could expect to aim for a focused target of a 3 hr 30 marathon, requiring a pace of 8 min a mile on the day, when I was unscientific about what I was doing in training. Also, how could I expect to improve my fitness when I was doing the same thing each week?

Therefore today’s key tips are:

(1) If you have a goal in mind, then work out what pace you need to aim for on the day

(2) Get a watch that can measure heart rate and pace. I use the Garmin Forerunner 15, which was £150 including the Heart Rate monitor from John Lewis. I have a purple one, but it comes in a range of colours. It’s not advanced but it does the job.


(3) Go out for a run, pacing something that feels fast but comfortable to you. Ideally, this should be something you think you can keep up for the duration of your race (depending if you’re aiming for a 10k, half-marathon or full marathon). NOTE: Make sure you warm up slowly before getting into marathon pace.

Measure what your heart-rate was during this time. In a race, you need to keep between 65% -70% of your maximum or you’ll get a lactic acid buildup.

(4) Go out for another run with a 10 min warm-up, 30 – 40 min main session and 10 min warm-down and keep your heart rate at 65%-70%. Is there a big difference in speed between that and the run you did when you were running at the pace you thought you felt comfortable with?


(5) The key to progression is to be able to keep your heartrate at this 65% -70% level while running faster, as close to race pace as possible.

This can be done with: technique analysis (your stride may mean you work too hard while running), interval training sessions to improve your cardio fitness, hill-running to build up strength to help with your strides. You should incorporate one of each into your training plan. I’ll go into more detail about these next week, specifying what Gary’s advised for me with my training. But be aware that you need to achieve your goal pace without your heart rate rising too high. The interval and hill sessions help make you fitter and stronger so that when you’re on your long runs you’ll find it easier to stay within the heart rate limits.

My progress is:

I have to say I’m not finding it easy as I thought I would. On the plus side, I am motivated. I am obsessed by my 3 hr 30 goal and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

However, I have had to be strict with my diary. To add these sessions into my weekly routine means shifting things out the way and also running in the evening occasionally, and I’ve had to sacrifice some of my social life. My old program may have been a lot less effective than the one Gary’s given me but it was a whole lot easier to just go and run a few miles without really testing my fitness.

I’m also learning about the importance of warming up and stretching. I have to admit, I strained a calf muscle during the initial heart rate / speed test as I set off as quickly as I could without warming up. I’m trying to recover by stretching every day, using a foam roller and making sure I ease into my top speed slowly, particularly if I’ve just woken up and its a cold morning. This may sound obvious, but in the past it wasn’t so important as I just used to do gentle jogs and never really pushed myself, so stretching was less vital to me then.

The key thing is, I can currently run 8 mins 40 / 8 mins 30 miles at a comfortable heart-rate. The questions is, can I get this down to 8 min miles so that I’m happy on race day?

Runners cross Tower Bridge during the 2008 Flora London Marathon.

I have less than 10 weeks to go now and I’m feeling the pressure. If you have any good advice, please Tweet me @livelikeavip or comment below.

I’ll being you some more tips soon from Gary and other training methods so keep checking out Live Like a VIP’s new running section.

If you want to work out with Gary yourself, you can find him teaching indoor cycling classes at Edge Cycle in Holborn, London – visit the Edge Cycle website for more information.

Zoe Griffin

Editor In Chief

Editor In Chief at Live Like A VIP. Author, Journalist & Copywriter. Often found with a glass of Champagne in hand!

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