Ultra-Runner of the Year's marathon gems: 'Think of it as a 20-mile warm-up and a six-mile race'

Ultra-Runner of the Year's marathon gems: 'Think of it as a 20-mile warm-up and a six-mile race'

2014 IAAF Female Ultra-Runner of the Year, Jo Zakrzewski, took up running relatively late in life, deciding to give it a go after regularly attending events as a race doctor. 

Now a 12-time World 50km and 100km World Championship medalist, Jo also runs a serious marathon, with a PB of 2:39 in 2013. Last year, she was ranked No1 in Britain for her age-group (40) and 23rd overall. 

Here, the experienced international athlete provides her key marathon tips and tricks:

1. Long runs
Gradually increase your distance up to a maximum of about 22 miles - I wouldn't suggest running the actual marathon distance, as race day adrenaline will hopefully carry you over the last couple of miles.

Your legs will feel tired for a few days after these sessions (eg until midweek if doing a long run on a Sunday). However, if you are still feeling it almost a week later, then you've probably increased the distance by too much.

2. Speed work
You shouldn't forget speed work as you increase your distance, so include a midweek interval session of shorter reps above your race pace. This will be tough at the time but will hopefully make race pace feel easier.


3. Nutrition
Think about how to fuel your long runs, how you aim to fuel during your race, and make sure you get the right balance of nutrition pre- and post-runs, eg carbs before and protein afterwards, and ensure adequate hydration.

4. Recovery
Recovery is the key to training well. Adaptations to training are made when you recover... so don't leave your best work out on the road in training.
Make sure you recover from each key workout so that the next one is just as useful in building up towards the race.

5. Race day
Just relax and enjoy it. The hard work is done. The actual race is the icing on the cake for all the effort you've put in. Running the marathon is easy compared to the training required to get you to that start line race-ready, so take the stage and go for it.

In order to avoid going off too fast, some people think of the marathon as a 20-mile warmup and then a six-mile race, while others work off the saying that for every minute you run too fast in the first half, you'll be two minutes slower in the second half.

By race day you'll know whether you need to eat your breakfast 2-3 hours beforehand, or whether you're more like me and graze up until 45 minutes before you run.

Don't change anything on the day - ignore others and stick to what works for you (though I would suggest cutting down on fruit, veg and fibre the day before and morning of the race and switching from brown bread to white breads, as you don't want to be spending half the race looking for toilets).

The same goes for clothing and shoes.....don't wear anything new - try them out for a few runs beforehand (or races if you like to keep "lucky" items for special events).

6. Supplements 

CurraNZ helps in many ways as you build up to the race. For me, I’ve noticed it aids lactate clearance and reduces fatigue in interval sessions, helps reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after a hard session or long run, increased fat oxidation (very beneficial for longer runs) and contains antioxidants which fight oxidative stress.

The dose that works best for me is 1 capsule daily for general health and recovery, and 2 capsules 2 hours before any interval session or long run.

As a vegetarian who tends to anaemia, I also take an iron tablet every day, but I wouldn't suggest taking these without having your iron level checked.

I also take glucosamine for my joints (I've almost broken more bones over my lifetime than I've won medals for GB), though some people question whether this is beneficial or not.

With any supplement, if it does you no harm and you know exactly what is in it, then the placebo benefit may be just as useful as a scientifically proven one.

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