How to survive the long run before the big race @petebeeuk @standardnews Experts offer their advice

Jon Grayson amongst other experts offers his advice to all you Marathon runners… @Petabeeuk
First published 13th April 2015

Eat porridge, apply Vaseline and don’t give up: Peta Bee asks the experts for a score of tips

With months of training under their belts, the remaining barrier before race day is the run of around 20 miles that faces the 38,000 London Marathon entrants. It is a pivotal part of preparation, providing a dress rehearsal for the big day and, hopefully, the first real inkling of proof that you can make it.

Exercise scientists are convinced of its merit. In preliminary research conducted at last year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, researchers at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, found that runners who have not managed to complete a long run of around 20 miles are more likely to experience high levels of fatigue and even to hit the infamous wall during the latter stages of the race.

So how do you prepare? He we provide expert advice to surviving the long run:
1. Check the weather
A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research last year showed it has a dramatic effect on marathon pace, particularly among men likely to slow down if it was warm. Researchers said: “Women tend to have a larger surface area-to-mass  ratio than men, allowing them to dissipate a larger percentage of heat produced by running.”
2. Weigh in
John Brewer, professor of applied sports science at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and a marathon runner himself, recommends weighing yourself before and after the run. “This will give an idea of how much fluid you have lost from sweating,”
He says. “With 1kg of weight loss equivalent to around one litre of fluid you will have an idea of how much you need to drink to replace it.”
3. Eat breakfast
“You will need to get up around two hours before you run,” says sports dietician Louise Sutton, of Leeds Beckett University. “Porridge is the preferred dish of many marathon runners, including Paula Radcliffe, but try any foods that will be quickly absorbed and leave your stomach quickly — toast and jam, banana.”
4. Grease up
Jogger’s nipple is a common problem, particularly among male marathon runners. “It’s caused by chafing, as a sweaty vest rubs directly against the body and is often worse in the morning when it’s cold,” says Matt Roberts, trainer to David Cameron.Lubricating nipples with Vaseline or a barrier cream containing zinc can help, or try Ron Hill Nipguard (, that can be stuck over the nipple to prevent it from coming into contact with fabric.
5. Hydration stations
“Take fluids but not too many before you head out of the door,” Sutton advises.
“Aim for up to 500ml, avoid fruit juice, milk, fizzy drinks. If you’re going to use sports drinks, sip them and don’t gulp down.”
6. Set your timer
Your technique can go to pot when you’re tired, so pop a check-point reminder on your watch or running app to go off every few miles, suggests Grayson. “When you hear it, remind yourself to check your running posture and step rate and to relax your arms if you feel tense.”
7. Drink and run
Use the long run to practise drinking while running, advises Brewer. “If you haven’t done so already, do try the flavoured sports drinks that will be offered on the course,” he says. “Either carry a drink with you, or if you are running loops, hide a drinks bottle somewhere so that you can use it each time you run past.”
8. Stop at 20
Don’t be tempted to run further. In her new book, Nell McAndrew’s Guide to Running, the model and marathon runner with a best time of 2:54 for the distance urges against running further than you need to at this stage. “For beginners, 20 miles is sufficient,” McAndrew says. “More experienced runners could try 22–24 miles. But it is not recommended to run 26 miles before race day.”
9. Stick to the routine
“Prepare for your longest run in the same way as for the race itself,” says Brewer.
“Don’t wear anything different or new, eat your pre-race meal at the same time, lubricate moving parts with petroleum jelly and head out at 10.10am, the time of the mass race start.”
10. Pace yourself
If you are determined to run a specific time in the marathon (and have trained for it), now is the time to put your pacing to the test. “Work out your pace per mile and stick to it,” says McAndrew. “The most efficient way to run a marathon is at an even pace from start to end.”
11. Get pickled
Cramp is more likely to strike in the 18- to 20-mile stage of a long run. “It’s due to muscle fatigue rather than depletion of body salts through sweat,” says Sutton.
“Stay hydrated. One study showed people who took pickle juice before a run stopped cramping faster than those who drank water as the vinegar solution seems to send a signal to the brain telling the cramping muscle to relax.”
12. Stretch your legs
Up to 39 per cent of runners experience cramp in their calves, hamstrings or quadriceps during a long run. Stop and stretch, says Brewer — for calf muscles, step forward with your non-cramping leg, keeping your other foot on the ground. Slowly transfer your weight on to your front leg until you feel the stretch in your cramping calf. Hold for 20 seconds.
13. Do mental gymnastics
Remember you are training the mind as well as body on a long run, Brewer says.
“Physiologically and psychologically, the last six miles of a marathon can be tough, and getting used to challenges through your final long run is essential preparation for the later stages of the race.”
14. Chill out
Want to follow the lead of professionals? Try an ice bath or cold shower. “Subjecting your legs to 10-15 minutes of cooler temperatures helps the body recover from the micro trauma of pushing your threshold pace,” says Grayson.
15. Refuel fast
“Scientists have shown the first hour or so after exercise is crucial for recovery fuel,” says Brewer. “The enzymes that convert carbohydrate to glycogen are primed for action, and muscles extract blood sugar from the bloodstream efficiently.” If refuelling is delayed, subsequent runs suffer. Take carbohydrates with light protein.
16. Joy of socks
Pull on a pair of Paula Radcliffe-style compression socks after your run to help you recover. A study in the February issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found wearing them for 48 hours after a marathon improved performance on a treadmill test two weeks later.
17. Long stretch
Static stretching after a long run can always make you feel better, says Six Physio’s running expert and injury specialist Jonathan Grayson. “Target the main muscle groups; quads, hamstrings and calves,” Grayson says. “Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds, no more than a few at a time. One long stretch is better than 10 little ones.”
18. Rub lightly
Treat yourself to a massage. “A deep-tissue massage can be too much for your muscles after a long run as the tissue needs to be realigned over time, so leave it a few days,” says Geoffrey Owden, massage therapist at Urban Massage. “A lighter massage that just uses deep flushing strokes can help repair the muscles.” Urban Massage, a delivery service, is offering a 10 per cent discount to London Marathon runners (download their free app and quote P-UMRUN).
19. Keep Going
Decades of research shows the mind can override the body on a long run. “Think of fatigue as a trigger for positive thought,” Brewer says. “Pessimism and negative
thought rank as many runners’ top mental barrier but they are easy to change.”
20. Taper down
After the run, decrease your mileage to 30 per cent of your average total for the final couple of weeks before race day. “The week before the race you should hardly be running at all,” McAndrew says. “Keep your legs ticking over with gentle jogs or marathon-paced runs over no more than three miles.”

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