I’ve been offered a lot of advice since telling people I’m marathon training forÂ the inaugral Bristol To Bath race. Granted, some itÂ has been along the lines of, “Oh man, the marathon I did was horrible, never again, I’d try and get out of it if you can, lol,” but never mind, every viewpoint is welcome, I’m an open church.
Anyway, this week I decided to seek out some advice from the most experienced and successful marathon runner I know â€“ my father-in-law, Alan Ray. By his own reckoning he’s run “40, 50-odd marathons in all”, and in 1997, at the age of 40, he ran his first sub-three-hour marathon, after striving to achieveÂ one for years. HisÂ final time was a bananas 2hr 52min 23sec.
Putting that in perspective, to run a marathon at that speed, you have to be knocking out 6.5-minute miles, all the way round. It is hard. I’ll be genuinely chuffedÂ if I manage my marathonÂ in under four hours.
So I asked him for a few pointersÂ to consider during my training and the race itself, and here’s what he said. (Read aloud in a scouse accent for the full, immersive effect).
Alan’s marathonÂ wisdom
“All the way up to my sub-three hour marathon, I did everything wrong in a marathon you could ever possibly do. Everything in the book, and then a few extra things. Everything from eating the wrong thing the night before to wearing all-brand-new kit on the day. But I’d learn something new with every race.”
“Don’t take on too much water before the race. You need to stay hydrated, but if you fuel up on water too much beforehand it’ll all be sloshing around inside. Small amounts but often is the way.”
“On my sub-three-hour London Marathon I got myself to near the front of the starting crowd,Â right up to the people who were looking to run just over aÂ two-hour marathon. That meant I had a clear run through, I didn’t get stuck in any crowds, and I didn’t get stuck by anyone in a nodding donkey costume.”
“Steak and pasta the night before makes brilliant fuel for race day. A hearty breakfast at least two hours before the race and you’ve got enough in your body to sustain you for a perfect run.”
I didn’t do any strength trainingÂ â€“ what I did do was running in water
“I didn’t do any strength trainingÂ â€“ didn’t feel like I needed it. What I did do was running in water. That upped your stamina levels without putting a load of stress on the muscles and joints. You get yourself into the deep end of the swimming baths, and you run widths. Gets your legs, stomach muscles, heart working, and builds up your energy. You don’t wanna be swimming, because that uses completely different muscles. Even if you have to wear a flotation vest, you want to make sure you mimic the action of running.”
“I found that everyone can have a goodÂ run up the two-hour mark, or around the 20 mile mark. But if you can still feel good after that point, when it starts to get tricky, then you are on your way to doing a sub-three-hour marathon.”
High point of the week:Â The press-up section of my strength training routine is no longer making me sobÂ and strain like an enfeebled toddler. I think I’d nowÂ almost be happy to do press-ups in front of another human being. Almost.
Low point of the week:Â The “XX days to go” countdown (see below) on the Bristol to Bath marathon website is starting to give me the heebie jeebies. 81 days?! That’s not actually all that long, is it?