I’ve run more than 100 marathons. It’s been a real mix – most of them have been unofficial marathons and part of bigger challenges, but my last and biggest was the 48 in 30. I ran 48 marathons in the 48 counties of England in 30 days. My fastest time for the distance was 2:50:01 and the slowest was just over ten hours, a real mixed bag.
I focus on four main sessions a week. When training, I want most of my miles to feel easy – in other words, keeping my heart rate at 70% of its maximum. I also factor in some intervals or speedwork on the track – which is a great way to adapt to feeling challenged and get your cardiovascular system working harder – and a tempo run for 40-80 minutes. The tempo run is around 15 seconds per mile faster than your marathon pace, which feels surprisingly tough. On a Sunday, I do my main session for 90-180 minutes. This is done at a slow, steady pace. Weighted strength sessions also keep me injury free.
Be proud of the stuff nobody sees. You’ll be prouder of the training than you will the main event – when there isn’t a crowd or finish line in sight, staying dialled into your training is what you value the most. Be proud of the early mornings and the everyday sacrifice.
If you can’t stomach gels, try Maurten. This Swedish brand does great hydrogels, which are better absorbed by the body. During a race, I’ll alternate between its Gel 100 and caffeine-based gels. If it’s hot, I’ll add some salt tabs to a bottle of water to replace electrolytes. When you sweat a lot, you lose salt, which can lead to muscle cramping, which no one wants on race day.
I always go vegan at least 48 hours before a race. This makes me feel better and lighter in my body and my stomach is always happier, too.
If you can run 10k, you can run a marathon. People are quick to fear distance running, and while a marathon is tough, we naturally sell ourselves short. When you take your mind off the notion that you need to run every step of the marathon, you realise you can complete the distance. You just have to sign up to believe in yourself.