Monday, 3 January 2011

Barefoot in Dubai’s marathon tips

In training, don’t run too often or too fast, 3-4 times a week is more than enough.

I'd think of my training like this:

Weekend: A long run every week is essential and the most important part of your training. Forget about mileage and just treat the run as a time trial. Do not run it at your expected race pace! Aim to run around 1 minute per mile slower than you hope to run on race day. Slowly build up to running for the amount of time you hope it take you to complete the race. This should give you bags of confidence that you’re prepared to run for that long. If possible use your long run to get used to whatever time your race starts on the big day. Experiment with what time to wake up and eat, and find out what breakfast suits you best. Give energy gels/drinks a try so that on race day you know exactly what to have and when.

Mon/Tue: Loosener, very easy 4-6 miles to shake out the effects of your long run.

Wed/Thur: Race pace, 4-7 miles. If when you finish this you are knackered, then you’ve been running too fast. It’s a training run, and you should finish feeling like you’ve got plenty more in the tank, and be looking forward to your long run.

Listen to and trust your body. You’ll soon learn when to push and when to rest.

Everyone occasionally has a bad run. Some days even after plenty of rest and all of the right foods, you set out and struggle to run to the end of the street. Other days you might have had ten pints, a kebab, and wake up with a hangover from hell, but then feel like you could run forever. It’s rare, but it happens. Don’t worry about it or over analyse it. Forget about it and look forward to your next run.

Before the race:
If you do have a specific time in mind, calculate your target splits in advance. It’s a good idea to write them down and take them with you on the race. The physical exertion placed on the body during a marathon makes even simple aritmatic tasks really difficult. The last thing you want to be doing is working out what 17 times 7mins 15seconds is.

Whatever you wear, make sure it’s got your name on the front in big letters. It sounds daft, but it’s a huge boost hearing someone you’ve never met shouting your name and cheering you on.

Most people train with music, and if you intend to run with an ipod have a playlist ready beforehand. On the race day, turn the volume down so that you don’t miss out on what can be a very special atmosphere.

The big day:
There’s always a lot of waiting around at the start of a big race so don’t let that put you off. Pre-plan a stretching routine and/or some music to get you ready. Get together an outfit, ideally something waterproof (especially in London) that you’re happy to throw away. This is for you to wear after the baggage bus has left but before the race starts, and discard them at the last minute before the start. Lots of people do this and they are collected for charity shops. Alternatively, a bin bag does the same job.

Smile. Enjoy it! You’ve worked hard for this moment so soak it up.

Look for a marker. Find someone who is running at the pace you want to run at and try to follow them. It helps if you pick someone dressed distinctively, though it can be disheartening running behind Elvis or Superman who get all of the attention and support while you plod along behind.

Think of the 20 mile marker as the halfway point. Too many people reach 13 miles and get too excited, only to blow-out 6 miles later. (i.e. me! Twice!)

After the race:
You’ve worked so hard, stayed focused, and completing a marathon is a huge achievement. What 99% of people forget to plan for is what to do afterwards. After my first I suffered a come-down, and found it difficult start training again without that goal and pressure. I talked myself into resting for a few days, which quickly became a few weeks. Before I knew it all of the fitness and endurance I’d built up was slipping away.

After my second marathon I jogged gently the following day, and registered for a 10k race. Over the next few weeks I was reinvigorated by intervals and speed work sessions, which built on my endurance. I felt great.

Good luck!!

Fitness in Dubai features reviews of all the latest fitness programmes and local gyms, such as The Circuit Factory, 24 Fitness and CrossFit LifeSpark, as well as reviews of fitness fads, fitness tests and fitness equipment, from Vibram Five Fingers barefoot running shoes to VO2 Max testing. Ultimately, this fitness blog - as featured in Good Taste, Men's Fitness, Time Out and Shape magazines - contains everything you need to know about fitness in Dubai, UAE, in the Middle East. Bookmark it now.


  1. This is really helpful Paul, can you give some master tips on what to eat before running long distances please? ie the night before and on the morning of the race? :-)

  2. The idea of carb loading was popular a few years ago. Starting a week before your big race you deprive your body of carbs for 5 days, and then on the two days before the race you stuff yourself with pasta, bread and potatoes. The theory being that to compensate for the lack of carbs, your muscles will absorb more of the carbs than they normally would.

    Sounds good in theory and I tried it, but I felt totally bloated. I was ready for the Sunday papers and a snooze rather than a 26.2 mile run. My advice would be not to do anything usual meal-wise before a race. I'm no dietician, but you need to be eating a balanced diet in the run up to the race. The day before and the breakfast, sure eat a little more carb than usual, but don't try anything new just in case it doesn't suit you. Stick with something simple, avoid anything too spicy or too rich, how about grilled salmon with steamed veg and roasted new potatoes? For breakfast some runners swear by a toasted bagel, a banana and peanut butter, but for me I'd stick to what I have most days, All Bran and oats. Job done.

    I hope this helps, Harry!