• 07772 538 819


Lessons for marathon runners

By Darren O'Toole | In Fitness, Health, Marathon training, Outdoor | on May 12, 2017

It’s the end of another marathon training programme. After the elation of completion, with the pain beginning to subside, for me, the most important element is learning – what went well, what went wrong, how can things be improved.

This is my fourth marathon training programme. I have completed races in Dublin, Edinburgh and now Belgrade with an aborted marathon in Paris last year due to an injury (football-related) with two weeks to go. Programmes have improved at times, and at other times, new challenges have arisen. Putting them down in a blog is therapy for me, but may well just help you to not make the same mistakes.

Lesson #1

Pace your race – you are not Kenyan!

Before my first marathon, I read an excellent book by Adharanand Finn titled ‘Running with the Kenyans’. Within this, he discovered that Kenyans would run at a pace that they felt like ie, feel good – run fast. In my first marathon, I did this. I felt good for 13 miles…..then started to feel very very bad! Guess what…..in Belgrade, I did the same! A 1 hour 33mins half marathon was too fast. I tried to pace my race but got a bit excited and wanted a little bit of money in the bank. The problem was that I had a little bit of savings but had too many bills to be paid. The debt was too much! I got to the end but in the second half of the marathon I felt like I was dying a very slow death. Pacing properly would have prevented this.


Lesson #2

Develop a fan base

My third marathon – the number of people who have watched me running on a course that I know in total…….one! My wife! Slightly tragic stat given that two of the marathons have been completed in countries where an extensive number of family and friends live. Aside from seeking sympathy, my point is the power of support! In fact, having nobody that you know personally supporting you is fine, as long as there are lots of supporters generally. London is unique. If your only experience of marathons is watching the London marathon, that isn’t reality. The brutal reality is that most involve long, quiet, lonely stretches with no support. These quiet patches are really hard – mentally and physically. If you aren’t lucky enough to run London or New York, then I’d suggest placing friends and family at different points to give you that vital push when you need it.


Lesson #3

Start training early

Most programmes for marathon runners are aiming for you to train for the shortest period of time possible – instant gratification generation! 16 weeks tends to be the most common one. Here’s a top tip: Start that 16 week plan with 20 weeks until the race. Why? Because you will get one cold, you’ll have a couple of minor injuries, and by having this four week cushion, you won’t panic, won’t need to ‘catch up’, won’t lose motivation. Take your time, your shins and knees will thank you.


Lesson #4

Find a physio you trust

Potentially you could be running 50+miles per week – running 20+ miles in one go. Anyone who turns up on a marathon start line who hasn’t had a small injury is likely to have not trained hard enough. Having a go-to physio will help you no end. In particular, seek a really good diagnostician who will easily identify where the issue is. Hint: If you go in with a knee problem and they solely look at your knee, seek a new therapist.


Lesson #5

Recovery is part of your training

Note, not all of these are implemented in my programming. Further note, they all should be! Hot and cold therapy (ice bath followed by hot one would suffice for this); sports massages, Epsom Salt baths, stretching protocols, prehab, physio sessions. All of the above will pretty much guarantee that you will reach the marathon day in the best shape possible.


Once again, I have applied for next year’s London Marathon. You know what they say: ‘Tenth time lucky!’ After the Belgrade marathon, I felt, it could well be my last. A few days pass and the hunger begins to return. Aside from when my next marathon is, I can certainly assist anyone running one over the coming months and years. For a personalised, bespoke running training plan, get in touch.


Read more…

How to achieve your personal best

Darren shares his experience from Edinburgh marathon on how to achieve your personal best.

Enjoy our newsletter

We send out some great fitness tips, deals and much more in our monthly newsletter. Surely you want to read it, right?

Great, thanks for subscribing and now you will get to enjoy our newsletter every month!

Pin It on Pinterest