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today as they were when new, many are now mostly of historical interest as modern research and coaching methods have superseded them.

Twelve Essentials for Marathon Success

By Frank Horwill

  1. Fix a target time – This must be reachable and challenging. Some guides are your 10km time x 5 minus 10mins. Your half-marathon time doubled plus 6½mins.
  2. Train at your target time pace weekly – If your target is 2:37:12, that’s 6mins/mile. Start with 9 miles (one-third marathon) and run the distance in 54mins. If the aim is 3:3:24 (7mins/mile), run 9 miles in 63mins, and so on. Once you feel comfortable with pace, add a mile regularly at the same pace until you reach 18 miles (two-thirds marathon). This might be an extra mile a week, fortnight or month.
  3. Get used to being on your feet for the duration of your target time – If your target time is 4 hours, you have a tough time ahead doing this bit! However, this run is not at marathon pace, it can be 2mins/mile slower. Thus, a 3 hour potential marathoner running slowly may only cover 20 miles in 3 hours. Getting used to the time on your feet is important.
  4. Train at your 10km speed regularly – If you accept the 10km indicator to your marathon time in (1) above, this is an automatic thing to do. You can either race 10km regularly or run 10km fast in training, or do 3 x 2 miles.
  5. Train at your 5km speed regularly – The 5km distance is 80 per cent aerobic, not so far away from the 99 per cent of the marathon. One good session is called Variable Pace – run 400m at your best 5km time, then go straight into the next 400m at your target marathon speed. For a 3 hour target, this might be a lap of 93 secs followed by one at 105 secs. Do as many consecutive laps this way until the times cannot be reached. Take a rest, and start again. The aim is to do 10km non stop this way.
  6. Train at your 3km speed regularly – The 3km is 60 per cent aerobic, often called a fast aerobic distance. Attempt several 1,500s at your best 3km speed with 3mins recovery. This will aid your 5K speed which, in turn, will help your 10km time to come down.
  7. Eat low glycemic carbohydrates – These are better converted to glycogen. Glucose is high glycemic (100). Fructose is low (20). Eat soya beans, kidney beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, whole wheat spaghetti, oats, brown rice, buckwheat pancakes and whole wheat bread.
  8. Eat high glycemic carbohydrates immediately after training – This should be done within 30 minutes of stopping training. A glucose drink, bananas, raisins and honey in tea. From then on, eat low glycemic carbs.
  9. Maintain potassium levels – Research has shown that as the summer months pass, the potassium levels of distance runners declines via increased sweating. Lose too much and you could have a heart attack! Drink pure orange juice with all meals.
  10. Race once a month up to the marathon – Ideally, this can be 3km, 5km, 10km, 16km and 21km. This is a psychological boost to your marathon effort.
  11. Allocate yourself a race ratio of 51 per cent and 49 per cent – That means run the first 13 miles slightly slower than your target, and the next slightly faster. That’s 92mins/21km and 88mins/21km for a 3 hour target.
  12. Water boosting gets good results – drink extra water 2 days before racing. For 4 hours before the race drink 8oz every 15mins to within 30mins of the start. Drink on the run whenever possible. All 23 marathoners in this research on water boosting ran 10-20secs/mile faster than before!


Fink, W. Fluid intake for maximising performance. In:Haskell W, et al.,eds Nutrition and athletic performance. Paolo Alto: Bull Publishing, 1982.