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The sun is shining in East London and I am contemplating heading out for a run this afternoon. I am attempting a 14 day run streak as part of my FREE For The Love of Running Challenge which is going great…we have over 1000 women taking part of all levels, everything from total beginner to those training for spring marathons, and it is these guys this blog post is aimed at really.

But even if you are not currently training for a marathon, or even contemplating one in the future, I just wanted to bust a myth that often puts lots of potential marathon runners off?

This is the idea that you have to run the 26 miles as a practice run in the lead up.

I have run 3 marathons over the past 5 years…

  • London Marathon in 2012 in 5.50.37
  • Brighton Marathon in 2014 5.56.40
  • London Marathon in 2015 6.50.30

Yes I got progressively slower…becoming a mum will do that to you…well it did for me.

And in October I will be running the Beachy Head Marathon, my first autumn marathon where I hope to get a PB seeing as my base speed is improving again.

OK so even with my recent improvements as outlined in my new book on speed, granted I am never going to be a fast marathon runner, and my training has never been completely scientific. But on all 3 marathons I enjoyed the, got round in one piece, in times which I was reasonably happy with, and most importantly I never felt completely ruined by the experience…many people are, and will NEVER attempt that distance again…..like EVER!!!!

In a few weeks time lots of people across the country will be gearing up for their longest training run. Lots of women from The Clubhouse, my online running club have ear marked the first weekend in April, and we will be cheering them on virtually from across the world.

They are all following different training plans…but my advice to them all (and to you if you are running a marathon) is that

20 mile is plenty miles

Now why do I say this when many marathon plans go up to 22 or 24 miles?

Look, most of us are not super douper elite athletes. We run slower than the average marathon runner, and we have lives outside of our training that need taking care of.


At the pace I run long distance it would take me at least 5 hours to run 20 miles in training and the impact of that on my body would take at least 2 weeks to recover from, if at all.

The purpose of your long Sunday runs is to prepare your body for running for extended periods, it helps you mentally and physically, as your body and mind develop strength, confidence and the ability to recover afterwards.

In the past my longest marathon training runs have been 19 miles, 18 miles and 19 miles….then bringing the distances right back down to taper and let my body recover.

By the time you get to the longest run weekend you will likely be 4-6 weeks out from the big day. You will have months of training behind you. You will have fundraised. Booked hotels and invited your loved ones to come and cheer you on. The risk of getting injured for those few extra miles to take you past 20 miles is just not worth it in my opinion.

Some people say they want to get up to 22-23 miles in training to give them confidence on the day.

Trust me, the buzz and vibe of a marathon will do wonders for your ability to finish those last few miles off come race day. So much of completing a marathon in mental, so all you have to do is believe you have done enough and focus on your goal, which for many of us is to get round safely.

For me the most important mindset aspect of a marathon is to run the first half strong, but with enough in the tank to enjoy the second half. But we are all different.

Look, lets face it…running anything even close to 20 miles is going to hurt…and nothing will prepare you for the physical, mental and emotional strain you will experience on the day of the marathon, but do you really want to know how much it hurts a month before? I didn’t…if I had known I might have wimped out, I would definitely have been dreading it.

Plus when you do your longest training run you have all the logistics to consider, there might not be toilets or water on your route, there won’t be crowds, your technology might play up, you might get lost, there are so many things to consider that in a race you don’t have to think about.

Some running coaches suggest focussing on time on your feet instead, which I think is equally as relevant. For someone planning on running a 6 hour marathon, you seriously do not want to be on your feet for anything more than 5 hours…a strong 4.30 long run is going to be much better for your body and confidence over all.

Twenty is Plenty, but don’t be worried if your longest run is 18 or 19 miles…the numbers are not that important…its only one training run out of hundreds.

Focus on enjoying it, learning from it, and simply enduring the miles. You want to come out of it injury free, able to recover and excited to get on with the challenge of facing those additional miles in the race.

In my experience the toughest miles in a marathon are mile 17-22…the final 4 seem like a breeze after that in many ways, because you have done the lions share of the work, and your focus is on getting to the end and revelling in the glory of being a marathon runner.

Twenty is Plenty, More is a BORE…unless you are going for a specific time, then I guess Twenty is fine (gosh I should be a poet, or a motivational speaker or something lol)

Some other quick tips for your longest run…

  • Audiobooks or podcasts are your friend
  • Consider running some of your run with someone else
  • The route is important, try to avoid pedestrians (canal tow paths and parks work for me)
  • Don’t worry if you need to stop and refuel, stretch etc
  • Keep folks updated with your progress at key points for motivation
  • Have someone on call to come and rescue you if needed
  • Have support for when you come home, for bathing, refueling, stretching etc
  • Be prepared to hurt the next few days, take it easy but keep mobile
  • Think about getting a massage 4-5 days after
  • Be proud of yourself, no matter how many miles you manage

Too Fat to Run will be having a cheering station once again at Mile 10 of The London Marathon, just near Surry Quays…if you would like to come along and cheer keep an eye out for further info. If you are running then let us know so we can cheer you through? Wearing a TFTR Buff or Shirt on the day will help us spot you. Or why not join The Clubhouse and get some extra support in the lead up…that way we will track you and be able to spot you for sure.

You can sign up here


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