Marathon Training Talks


These notes are based on Windmilers training talks and represent the experience of the club’s runners and coaches rather than official advice. Leading up to any marathon it’s easy to be bombarded with too much (and sometimes conflicting) advice. So always remember to base it on what you thinks works for you and use your commons sense!


Your objective is to be fit, fuelled, hydrated and ready to go at the start line in plenty of time. Your plan & training will then ensure you have best possible run.


This document is written to cover different types of races – some of the information is general whilst others is specific to a particular race:

Red: General Advice on the marathon

Blue: London Marathon

Orange: Post-London Marathons (e.g.Edinburgh, Vancouver)


1) Tapering– tapering in the month leading up to race day allows your muscles to fully repair any micro-damage sustained during previous long mileage training. You won’t lose any fitness over this time, but remember with less miles to eat less! You should aim to feel energetic & ready to go, i.e. rested but fresh (not stiff from too little activity).

How much to run in last 2 weeks? As a rough rule of thumb you should be running 2 to 3 miles about 2 to 3 times per week. Rest or strides on Saturday. Don’t be tempted to do too much – save it for the day.

2) The Last few days

a) Nutrition- including meal the day before.

Make sure you are fully hydrated in the preceding 48 hours. Also take in extra carbohydrates in the preceding 48 hrs (potatoes, rice, pasta - but aim for slow release food). But don’t vary your diet too radically – if it worked for your long runs then it should work for the marathon – i.e. tweak rather than radical change. One important point to remember is not to avoid too much fibre and green vegetables in the 48hr period – otherwise you increase your chances of suffering the pain of wind during the race which can be extremely uncomfortable!

Don’t forget you should have practiced on your long runs with the gels and energy drinks you aim to use during the marathon.

b) Sleeping

Get enough sleep the week before, don't worry about the night before! You will feel nervous but that will disappear when you start. It’s more important to sleep well two nights before the marathon day than the night before.

3) Run in your race kit before-hand!

Wear beforehand (preferably on a long run) the actual vest, shorts, socks and shoes you aim to use during the race. This way you can see whether anything rubs and if you need to change kit. Never buy a new top at the Marathon Expo and wear it the next day!! Also consider using Vaseline (or other lubricant) and lubricate all moving parts (toes & inner thighs) so soreness is avoided.

4) London Marathon - non-running aspects

a) Name on running vest

Decide on this and whether this can be done at Expo? It usually costs about £8 per line of text – and is brilliant to get the crowd cheering you on.

b) Wristband of pace/times per mile and include different paces

You can get a wristband at the Expo which will detail what time you should be at each mile mark. This is a Personal choice and may be useful if you find it difficult to calculate your mile times during the race. BUT don’t panic if you fall behind. Be careful of getting too far ahead in the first half.

c) What day to visit expo?

Earlier in the week and during the day will be quieter.

d) Changing start pens?

If you feel you have been allocated a start pen at a slower time than you are capable, you may be able to change this when you pick your number at the expo if you go early in the week?

e) Garmin GPS

Some runners report that their Garmins didn’t work, especially at start. Use a different watch if necessary. Don’t rely just on your Garmin as your only means of knowing how fast you are going.

5) Arrangements for supporters on the day (London)

a) Official Windmiler group

Full details of the supporting group will be put on the website in good time before the race but usually it’s an 8:30am meet in front of Wimbledon Station. If you want to meet us there - we'll be watching from a point that's about 13.7miles one way and about 21.5miles in the other direction. It's on a road called The Highway near Shadwell Tube. There should be people there from around 9 - 9:30am.

For runners this will mean that Windmiler supporters are on your left hand side (but on the far side of the road!) at 13.7 and on your right hand side at 21.5.

b) Where to meet straight after race

Note: when you finish you will have a large area with no spectators allowed in (no one to say well-done for a little while!) where you collect your running bag from the lorries you left it in. Once out of this area it is very busy and mobiles do not always work. There will be series of letters in the Whitehall area (e.g. pinned to trees). Consider meeting up at “W” and you may meet other Windmilers – it will be busy but you should be able to meet your spectators. Alternatively, arrange to meet at “Q” for a quieter time (unless everyone has this idea!!!). Tell your supporters your running number as it is the best identifier to use at the information point in this finish area.

c) All Bar One

From around 5pm onwards you’ll find most of the club in All Bar One... and loud cheers greet each marathoner runner as they arrive in the bar!

B) Race Day

6) Nutrition

a) Before race: Usual pre-run breakfast essential (carbo & no fibre). Drink half a litre of water early and then to remain fully hydrated take small sips right up to the race start. Remember what has worked for you in your long training runs and do not differ too much from this regime.

b) During race- gels, sports drinks, water. Have the minimum planned but increase if hotter. Usually take your first gel after about 45-60mins and then every half an hour. Don’t skip drinks or you will suffer later. But remember what has worked for you in your long training runs and do not differ markedly from this regime.

c) Vittel drinks bottle sports cap

You will be provided with Vittel water bottles during the race. You may like to take a Vittel sports cap that you can put on these bottles to make it easier to drink?

7) How to get to the start of London Marathon

Plan your own route from your house to the start. Check it & allow plenty of time. Talk to those who have done it before.

a) e.g. What time at Wimbledon?

As early as possible but plan your own journey. Be aware that the trains will be very, very packed. You may like to take the tube to Embankment and catch the train from Charing Cross where they start rather than Waterloo East?

When you get off at your destination you will be herded to the start and probably won’t be able to walk freely in any route.

8) At the Start

a) TOILET arrangements/advice before race!!!!!

There will be long queues for all toilets. If you’re patient then you should get to the front (men easier than women of course!). You will find that many runners (both men and women) make their own arrangements and use bushes, any available vertical surface (men) etc.

Queue early. Don’t drink too much in this period– it will just come out the other end.

b) What happens in pens before race?

Nutrition? Drink about 15 mins before start.

Go in your bottle if you are up to it some will?

Keeping warm? Bring old clothes (e.g.Old tee shirts (2-3)) plus bin bag to protect from cold/sun. Discard 5 mins before start.

9) The race itself

Try to run with your head up. Be positive & confident. Stay hydrated & carbo load regularly.

a) ENJOY IT. Essential. Don’t forget this – even when the going gets tough.

b)Starting off - pacing and other runners +remember downhill startat London.

Relax. Make up lost time gradually if your start is slow. Some say a good mantra is that if you feel good, then you’re running too fast! i.e. take it easy early on and remember your schedule

c) Race pacers?Try RW pacers, use mile or KM splits, GPS(this may not work at London)or go on your breathing (i.e. how you feel).

d) What to do if ahead/behind schedule?

Don’t panic. Going too fast in the first half may hit you later. If you get beyond, try to pick it up gradually if you can. If not, don’t worry & just enjoy the run.

e) How to be flexible on the day?

Vary pace occasionally – increase stride length briefly to stretch out.

f) Advice on the course?

Get to know it in advance. Or just go for it. Your choice. Remember it will be busy.

g) Toilets during the race.

They are provided as detailed in the info. for each race.At London, most course side pubs welcome runners using toilets and these may be better than official loos?

h) How to deal with the last few miles?

Have a plan, i.e. an idea to motivate you such as your charity, your pride, following someone else. Be strong – tell yourself this is it. This is what you were training for in January. You may have to shout at yourself. Talk to others. Feed off the crowd. Ask them for support if they are giving it. Anything to keep you going.

i) The Finish

Looking good/being aware of who is around you?

Or just get over the line. You have just done 26.2. No points for style: feel free to be sick.

10) After the race

a) The finish area

Pick up gear. Check out details for each race and arrange appropriate meeting points.

b) Recovery

Nutrition and stretching/mobility/massage?

Yes, yes , yes over following hours/days. Will aid recovery.

C) What to do in the days/weeks after the marathon to help body to recovery.

See how you feel. Stiffness may build up over 1-2 days after run. Try to mobilise & get flexibility back. Don’t be tempted to run much over following 2 weeks (ignore macho men). Speak to coaches for further advice.

D) Marathons later in the year e.g. Edinburgh, Vancouver

How do we keep going when everyone else has completed their training/runs?

Speak to coaches if you need advice. Other’s – please be aware and supportive!

Be proud: you did your best. You did 26.2!