Frank Horwill



  • These articles were first published many year's ago and whilst some are as relevant today as they were when new, many are now mostly of historical interest as modern research and coaching methods have superseded them.

Leaving No Stone Unturned

By Frank Horwill

There are, at the time of writing, sixteen weeks to the London Marathon and this period should be devoted to the acceptance of certain facts and procedures. First, estimate your potential marathon time by multiplying your 10km time by five and subtracting 10 minutes. Another method is to multiply your half-marathon time by two and adding six and half minutes. A long shot is to multiply your 5km time by ten, so that if your best 5km time is 17 minutes, your marathon potential is 170 minutes (2 hours 50 minutes).

Once your potential time has been established it is essential to practise that target time once a week, starting with one-third of the marathon dlstance, ie 9 miles rounded off. There is a very good reason for doing this, for if most of your training is either faster than marathon speed and of necessity short distance, and on the other hand slower than marathon pace and of long duration, on the day of the race there is a temptation either to start too fast or to run too slow, in other words, you will be confused and uncertain.

Once the 9-mile runs at target marathon speed feel comfortable, add a mile and keep on adding a mile up to two-thirds of' the distance (ie 18 miles). Here are some paces to consider - 7 minutes a mile = 3:03:24, 6:40 / mile - 2:54:40, 6:20 / mile = 2:45:56, 6:00 / mile=2:37:12, 5:30 / mile=2:24:06.

Perhaps the greatest training aid for the marathon was the introduction of variable pace. This is best done on a track and consists of running one lap at your best 5km speed and then going straight into the next lap at marathon pace. Continue in this way non stop for as long as possible. Usually, first attempts last for about eight laps. Take a lap walk recovery and start again doing as many consecutive laps as possible on time. The target is to do a total of twenty-five laps (10k). When I coached Wendy Llewellyn to run 2:37 exactly for the marathon in 1996, she was able to run eventually the 10km distance without rest as follows - 80 secs / 400m (16:40 / 5km) followed by 90 secs / 400 (2:37:12 / marathon). This session, with its undulating pulse rates which fluctuate between 150 and 180 beats a minute, prepares you for hills, making a break and covering one.

When the world veterans' marathon champion, Tony Duffy from Salford, wrote to me before the start of his build up for the 1999 title, I replied that he was doing too much junk mileage. I pointed out to him that Lisa Hollick, whom I was helping at the time, suffered from post-viral malaise (recurring glandular fever symptoms) which occurred if she trained daily. She trained every other day only, and was put on 1,000mg of vitamin C and 30mg of zinc daily. Her total weekly mileage was forty miles. She ran 2:54 in her first London marathon, and was the tenth British female home. She did one long slow run a week, one variable pace session,, one marathon pace rehearsal run and a session at 1Okm pace.

Carbohydrates are vital to successful training and racing over 10 miles. Carbs should be taken before, during and after training. The routine is:-

  1. 100g of carbo-loader three hours before training;
  2. A 4-8 per cent carb hydration drink sipped during training;
  3. 225g of carbs immediately after training. At meal times concentrate on low glycemic carbs which are preferentially stored as glycogen. High glycemic carbs give you surges of insulin which actually retard glycogen storage. Eat the following:- fructose, soyabeans, kidney beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, whole wheat spaghetti, oats, brown rice, buckwheat pancakes and whole wheat bread. Contrary to popular belief, bananas, and white flour-containing foods, are all high glycemic. Invest in a good carb polymer.

Training for the marathon should be a 14-day cycle which avoids boredom. This is how Duffy won his world title:

Day 1 - Build up to running for 2½ hours, speed is irrelevant, time on the feet is the main point of this session.

Day 2 - Recovery run of 35 minutes.

Day 3 - Variable pace session on the track totalling 10km.

Day 4 - Recovery run of 35 minutes.

Day 5 - Build up to running 18 miles at target marathon speed.

Day 6 - rest.

Day 7 - 10km pace session. Either 6 x 1 mile or 3 x 2 miles with 45 and 90 secs recovery respectively at best 10km speed or faster.

Day 8 - Recovery run of 35 minutes.

Day 9 - Repeat Day 1.

Day 10 - Recovery run 35 minutes.

Day 11 - Repeat Day 5.

Day 12 - Recovery run of 35 minutes.

Day 13 - 5km pace session. Either 8 x 800 or 6 x 1 km at best 5km speed or faster with 45 and 60secs rest respectively.

Day 14 - Rest.

The maximum mileage involved, excluding warm up runs, is around 64 miles a week.

For 48 hours before the race, do no training at all, but a 15 minute jog on both days is OK. Consume low glycemic carbs up to 600g daily. For the final 24 hours before the race increase water intake by 1 pint an hour but stop 30 minutes before the start. Costill found that before the Boston marathon, many marathoners had miniscule muscle cell damage, which was worse after the race. The 35-minute recovery runs will prevent this in your training cycle.

During the race, concentrate on reaching the first mile and 10km bang on time. A marathon should be apportioned 51 per cent of the target time for the first half and 49 per cent for the second. For example if your target is 7mins/mile, reach the 15 miles mark in 1:34:00, the next 13 miles will be in 1:29:30secs. If you reverse this scheduling, be prepared to "die" in the last mile!

After the marathon, take five whole days off from training and increase your vitamin C and zinc intake. Research tells us that in the first seven days after a marathon you will be very prone to infections.

There will be know-alls who will not agree with everything stated in this article. However, during my six months' coaching tour in South Africa, the coaching fraternity adopted the blueprint set out above. They have not done too badly have they? If you require personal advice at no charge, write to me at 4 Capstan House, Glengarnock Avenue, London E14 3DF. Enclose a stamped addressed envelope.