Donate now

Liz Yelling’s marathon training and running tips

Marathons aren’t just for super speed snakes or bright lycra clad stamina machines.

An RNLI supporter running the London Marathon

Photo: Jon Stokes

They’re a tough challenge, yet they are also achievable for just about anyone. Completing a marathon is an exhilarating experience - but it’s no stroll in the park. Whether you choose to walk-run or run the whole way, it will push your physical and mental limits. It’s a steely test of endurance and is about much more than rocking up on the start line and completing 26.2 miles. When you cross the finish line of a marathon it will be testament to your commitment, stamina, motivation and dedication to go the distance in training as well as on race day.

1. Start early

There’s no magic potion or quick fix to a successful marathon finish. Making the finish line doesn’t come easily. It takes time, patience, commitment, persistence and dogged determination. Don’t put off training. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready.

2. Get a routine

Establish a routine of regular running. Once you have the routine established, stick to it as much as possible. If you stop and restart it’ll be much harder in the long run.

3. Be consistent

The most important thing is consistency. If you dip in and out of training, your fitness will be slow to develop. One week of running won’t make you a marathon runner. Many consistent weeks put together will.

4. Run at least three times a week

For some, this might sound like a lofty ambition, for others it’ll be straightforward. For a marathon finish, you should aim for a minimum of three runs per week. What these runs are made of will vary according to where you are in your training plan, your marathon aspirations and current fitness levels. As a very general rule of thumb they should be: 1. a long run (see below), 2. a steady base miles run and 3. a paced run.

5. Master your long runs

The long run is the mainstay of your marathon training. Runners who complete long runs in their training for a marathon are able to run stronger for longer on race day. Gradually progress the distance of your weekly long runs. Concentrate on building up time on your feet and this will steadily develop your stamina and endurance, get you used to the repeated pounding, make your muscles and heart stronger and help you be better at using your body’s energy stores to keep going for longer.

6. Know your pace

One of the biggest mistakes marathon runners make is getting their race pace wrong. Marathons can be lost in the final six miles as runners ‘hit the wall’ as a result of poor pacing, insufficient training and inadequate nutrition. Even if your goal is ‘just to finish’ you should know your target pace to the second per mile. Failure to do so could jeopardise your finish goal. Practice running sections of your runs at target marathon pace in training.

7. Peaks and troughs

It’s normal to have highs and lows in training. Just accept them. The slump rarely lasts long. Work your way through it, get your head down and come out of it feeling stronger and empowered that you can do it.

8. Believe in you

It’s natural to have doubts about the marathon journey ahead. It certainly isn’t going to be easy. Build mental strength by running regularly and believe in your ability to complete your marathon journey from start to finish.

Liz Yelling is a two-time Olympic Marathon runner and Commonwealth Games medallist. Liz was the first British finisher in the Athens Olympic Marathon and led the Beijing Olympic Marathon for the first 10 miles before being tripped and breaking a rib. Liz courageously still ran 2hrs and 33 mins to finish the race. Liz was the top European finisher in the 2008 World Cross Country Championships and has won the National Cross Country Championships 4 times. Liz is also a coach to runners of all abilities and is an ambassador for Lucozade Sport and Adidas.