Not quite! But with seven weeks to go until the Virgin Money London Marathon, how can it help WR editor Esther over the finish line?
I think my training has been going quite well. My long runs have gradually (very gradually) been getting longer. I’ve been doing the odd hill sprint, occasionally I do a sort-of tempo run (not that anyone else would notice), and sometimes I run faster between lamp posts, but usually only if I spot someone I know walking past. I’ve been doing squats while I brush my teeth (doesn’t everyone?), I actually own a resistance band (although it’s not been used), and I am on speaking terms with my foam roller.
But now here’s the thing: if anyone says anything to me about pace or time, I get into a bit of a flummox. I can see what my pace is on Strava after I get back home, but I don’t check it while I’m running and I don’t know what I should be doing about it, if anything, to help me on the day.
So this is where Garmin and the super lovely Martin Yelling comes in. If you’re following the Virgin Money London Marathon, you will all know Martin Yelling – he’s been virtually coaching all of us for the past few months with motivational videos and advice. Martin is the official coach of the London Marathon, has represented England at road and cross country running, also GB at world and European championships for the duathlon, and has competed in the Ironman World Champs in Kona. He retired in 2007, but has since run sub 3hrs for the marathon. Oh, and he just happens to be married to Olympian Liz Yelling. So when I was introduced to Martin, I wanted as much help and advice from him as he was willing to give.
Stats stats stats
Martin was helping us on behalf of the London Marathon and Garmin. Us being me, the very lovely AJ Odudu and the equally lovely Lucy from the Sun, who’s aiming for a sub-4hr marathon (go Lucy). We got together in Battersea Park to have a trot round and figure out how a watch and some stats could actually help us finish without collapsing at the halfway mark. Turns out this is a thing.
I’ve been testing a Garmin 245 – I love it, but I realise I’m not using it to its full potential. What Martin explains to us is how to use it better and to our advantage. So what we do is look at pacing first and foremost. We figure out our hoped-for finish times, and together with Martin work out what that means in terms of pace.
Martin, along with every marathon runner in the world, has this bit of important advice: stick to your pace! If, say, you’re aiming for a 4:30 marathon finish time, first figure out what that means in terms of a mile pace. So this would be about 10:15 a mile.
We set off for a run and try to work out our pace feels like, without checking our watches. It’s easy to fall into your natural pace, which might actually be a little quicker than the pace you should be running – so this is where you need to check things regularly. After all the very worst thing you can do in a marathon is set off too fast (actually there are probably worse things, but this is definitely up there). So it’s hugely important to know your pace and understand what that feels like before getting to the start line. Being patient, and running at a pace that might feel too slow for the first few miles at least, will reap enormous rewards when you get to mile 20.
And so it turns out I can use my Garmin to set my pace so that I don’t go over it and run steadily at that same pace for the whole way round.
The long run
For our weekly long runs, which are now getting increasingly tough, Martin has the following advice: he says that what we should be doing is running slower than our expected pace on marathon day for the bulk of the run, and then to speed up to marathon pace for the last few miles. My next long run is a 16-miler, so he says I need to run that last six miles at expected marathon pace.
This is really hard! With a long run, you just want to get through it, and it’s far more usual to set off at marathon pace or a bit quicker, and then get gradually slower and slower and… slower. But by setting off slower to begin with, Martin convinces us that we can run better and more efficiently.
The best bit
You know what the best bit was? Martin asked us what our expected time was going to be – and then he checked our last long runs on the Garmin app, which details our split times (the time it took me to run each mile in my long run). And I’m way quicker than I thought I was! Well not way quicker – but certainly marginally so. So what I love about this right now is that this Garmin is helping me to feel far more confident about a) finishing, and b) finishing in a time that I can be proud of.
Watch this space! And good luck all of you with your training over the next few weeks for whatever marathon or race you might be taking on. Let us know how you’re getting on!