GUEST BLOG: Ray Boyd – The Marathon part 2

In my last post (HERE), I spoke about getting your head right, getting yourself into the game and making a commitment to the marathon. This commitment needs to be both a physical and mental one. Mental in terms of getting through the training each and every day and physically in relation to actually doing the training.

For me, the training is actually tougher than the marathon distance itself but this is the nature of the distance. While you are training, there is no adrenalin, there are no crowds cheering you on, there is just you and maybe the odd training partner. You need to get used to waking up tired and going to bed knackered and you need to get used to the idea that in many cases you will be walking a fine line between injury and adulation.

I said in my last post “You can’t cheat a marathon, it’s too far. Sure you may get to the 10km on pure grit or the 20km on your basic training but not too long after this a fridge will appear on your back and you will move into survival mode.”  So what do you do then to get, not only to the line in great shape, but over the line. Well, basically you run. Not swim, not cycle but run and there is no substitute for this. Tony Benson, a level 5 coach and the ATFCA National Consultant,  is quoted in the latest Modern Athlete and Coach (Vol 52 No.4) as saying “ Never in my 17 years association of coaching in excess of a 1000 triathletes did easy or hard swimming or cycling contribute measurably to running improvement unless the athlete’s running was at such a low level any fitness training would help” and if you are at the latter then a running a marathon is not where you need to be at the moment.

A sensible  program should build from one week to the next, slowly building strength and endurance while allowing the body to adapt to what you are asking it to do – The Milo Principle.

Remember to listen to your body, ensure that you meet your dietary requirements and seek treatment for injuries that you may sustain from a professional who can prevent a small problem from becoming a big one. I do hope however, that you do not require such assistance and providing you build up slowly and steadily you should be OK. Secondary to this your medical team ( Physio, sports doctor Masseurs etc) should be people you trust, so if they tell you to stop training they mean it and more importantly you are going to listen to them.

So the training, below are some times and pace guides for various types of runs

             Target                                     Pace                            Easy                Tempo            Easy/Steady                          


  • 2hr 10m Marathon            (3.04/km)                     (3.20)               (2.50/3.00)       (3.00/3.10)
  • 2hr 13m26s Marathon       (3.09/km)                   (6.00)               (4.50/5.05)       (5.10/5.30)
  • 2hr 15m Marathon            (3.12/km)                     (3.30/4.00)       (2.55/3.05)       (3.05/3.15)
  • 2hr 20m Marathon            (3.19/km)                     (3.30/4.00)       (3.00/3.10)       (3.10/3.20)
  • 2.5hr Marathon                 (3.33/km)                     (3.40/4.20)       (3.15/3.25)       (3.20/3.35)
  • 3hr Marathon                    (4.15/km)                     (4.20/5.00)       (3.50/4.00)       (4.00/4.15)
  • 3.5hr Marathon                 (4.58/km)                     (5.00/5.30)       (4.25/4.35)       (4.40/4.55)
  • 4hr Marathon                    (5.41/km)                     (5.35/6.15)       (5.05/5.15)       (5.15/5.30)
  • 4.5hr Marathon                 (6.24/km)                     (6.15/6.50)       (5.40/5.50)       (5.50/6.10)
  • 5hr Marathon                    (7.06/km)                     (6.50/7.30)       (6.10/6.25)       (6.30/6.45)


These are important for a reality check. For instance if you can’t run, comfortably, 3:10 km pace during a tempo run over 16km good luck trying to run a 2hr20min marathon. I’m not saying that its not possible, providing you have done the training but it’s not going to be a walk in the park.

These are some of the types of running that you will need to do during your , ideally 8 month preparation:

Recovery Runs/jog are very short and very slow runs. Can vary from 10 – 60 minutes but the pace is slower than your usual easy runs. For example an easy run for a 3hr marathon runner may be anywhere between 4.20/5m per km while a recovery run is 5m/5.30/km

Easy Runs are what most of us do most of the time. It’s a comfortable run and you should not finish the run feeling destroyed.(15 minutes – 90 minutes)

Steady State runs are aimed at building stamina but are done slower than your tempo and faster than your easy run. For the technically minded it is a run that sits just below the point of threshold running. (the point at which your body can cope with lactate production)

Tempo Runs: The tempo run is an important element of a distance runner’s program. Tempo pace is often described as “comfortably hard”. The most precise way to find your most efficient tempo pace is to run on a treadmill with ever-increasing speed and have a sample of blood taken from your earlobe every two minutes until a dramatic rise in lactate is determined. But!! if you don’t have a masochistic streak or an exercise physiologist as a best friend, a simpler method, and the one most athletes use, is by perceived effort, with breathing, heart rate and race times as backup. This may sound unscientific, but most elite runners use perceived effort because it allows them to adjust pace according to how they feel on a given day. It also accommodates fitness gains; over time, you’ll be running faster (which of course is the point), but the effort will feel the same.

A tempo run can also be referred to as a lactate-threshold (LT), or threshold run. Tempo running improves a crucial physiological variable for running success: our metabolic fitness. Most runners train their cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen to the muscles but they don’t train their bodies to use that oxygen once it arrives. Tempo runs do just that by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently. That is by increasing your lactate-threshold (LT), or the point at which your body fatigues at a certain pace.

During tempo runs, lactate and hydrogen ions- by-products of metabolism -are released into the muscles. The ions make the muscles acidic, eventually leading to fatigue. (source: Ed Eyestone 10/24/2007,  Runners World) The better trained you become, the higher you can push your “threshold”, meaning your muscles become better at using these by-products. The result is less-acidic muscles (that is, muscles that haven’t reached their new “threshold”), so they keep on contracting, letting you run farther and faster

Long runs build your strength. These are a critical element of your running diet. They build endurance, they teach you to spend time on your feet. As a general guide for some reason many marathoners have settled on the magic figure being a 30km run. This distance will vary depending on where you are with your program. It will essentially be anywhere from 20km  – 36km)


And finally there are some rules. I have worked hard to live by these when preparing for a marathon. Every now and then I broke them and when I did , especially No. 3 and 5 things always went wrong.

  1. Don’t try and make up for runs that you’ve missed, if you missed it is gone.
  2. Time your runs; get an idea of what pace you are running, this is crucial if you want to become a great runner.
  3. Don’t skip the long runs or the tempos these are crucial for the marathon runner.
  4. Train hard on the hard days and easy on the easy days.
  5. If you are sick then make an educated decision not an emotional one. One days rest is better than missing three weeks because you buried yourself.
  6. Aim for consistency when you’re running sessions.

Remember, it’s a serious commitment. Below is a section of my training in the lead up to the Sydney Olympic Trial. As I said, for this event I was the fitness I had ever been in the lead up to a marathon. It was the last marathon I have run

Last weeks leading up to Sydney.

8 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
AM 2.50hr 35min 35min 35min 35min 35min Mona Session
    5on/1offx5   5×1000/500    
PM 35min 70min Hills Fartlek 90min Tempo Fartlek 70min 35min
9 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
AM 3hr 35min 35min 35min 35min 35min Tempo
    Zamia Loop   5×1000/500   10on/50ffx2
PM 35min 70min Hills Fartlek 90min Tempo Fartlek 70min 35min
10 26 27 28 29 30 31 1
AM 2.45hr 35min 35min 35min 35min 35min Mona Session
    5on/1off   5×1000/500    
PM 35min 70min Hills Fartlek 90min Tempo Fartlek 70min 35min

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