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Marathon advice from Julian Goater


Posted by Rose K under Marathon Running, Running on 5 April 2012 at 7:05 AM

Julian Goater is a top running and cycling coach in the UK. He trained me when I cycled from London to Paris and I'd probably have not made it out of the M25 without him!
Julian's  new book which was released in March - The Art of Running Faster - is a must have for anyone looking to improve their running times. We caught up with Julian to find out what advice he has for Tribesports:

What would be your advice to someone approaching their first marathon? What should they be doing the fortnight running up to the race?  

It’s too late to get much fitter, but not too late to do something silly and spoil your race!  So if in doubt about any aches and pains, or you’re feeling over-tired, err on the side of caution.  Your aim is to get to race day fit and well. Not necessarily ½% fitter!  

In the last 2 weeks try and keep to your normal training routine, just cutting back on mileage.  Keep training a little and often, with most (but not all) of your runs being steady paced.  Try and finish each run feeling you could have gone further and/or faster.  But don’t be too cautious.  It’s still good to run hard enough to get out of breath, and to do one run each week of around 1 hour.   

What is your ideal running step? Where do you land on the foot?

Two words for your feet, starting with ‘Q”.  Keep your feet Quick and Quiet.  Don’t try and land in any particular way on your feet – It should feel the same as when you’re running on the spot. 

In practice this will mean you are landing on the ball of your foot, allowing your foot to act as a shock absorber as it takes your weight, and a spring as it gives you an immediate rebound.

What breathing exercises and techniques would you recommend to runners?

Breathing control is very important when you’re running.  That doesn’t mean holding your breath, but it does mean trying to use all your lung capacity, and to avoid puffing and gasping. Unlike swimming front crawl where you probably want to breathe bi-laterally (out for 2 strokes and in for the third), running requires a much more even rhythm.  Match your breathing to your footsteps.  Either  4 steps in, 4 steps out, or 3 steps in, 3 steps out.  If you find yourself doing 2 steps in, 2 steps out in a marathon, slow down as I don’t think you’ll be able to sustain that! You can tell from your breathing (rather than your HRM) if you are going too fast.

What are the most common injuries you see in runners and what advice would you recommend to help avoid them?  

Most injuries seem to appear in the legs – usually sore knees, Achilles tendons, calves and ITBs (along the outside edge of the quads).  But as a sports massage therapist I would maintain that  the root cause of all these injuries is a tight back and shoulders, which causes imbalances lower down and are then exacerbated by running with poor style and technique.

Best advice – stretch a little and often, before, during and after running, and during the day too. And in front of the TV!  Also go for regular massage, at least once every 3 weeks, and definitely after long runs and a few days before your marathon.

If you do pick up a niggle, don’t try and run through it – get it sorted.  NOT by a GP (they will only tell you to rest!), but by a proper sports therapist.  You can still keep fit even if you can’t run.  Swim, walk (fast), bike.  But don’t make the injury worse by continuing to run on it.  

What are your 5 favourite pieces of running equipment? Are you a gadget lover or technophobic basics man?  

The last thing I want when I’m running is to have some gadget in my ears giving me music.  I can hum a tune to myself, but mainly I don’t want to be distracted from concentrating on my running, and enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of where I’m running.  I don’t want to block this out.  I don’t mind Heart Rate Monitors or Garmins but don’t think they are necessary – they are nice optional extras for certain runs at certain times. 

Shoes are the most important bits of kit – ideally you need a selection, for different terrains and different sorts of session.  Road trainers, off-road trainers, road racing shoes (for faster road sessions, not just races), and maybe even spikes if you’re running muddy cross-country races.

Next most important is breathable layers, to keep you warm and dry against your skin.

3rd – compression tights – sometimes for running in, often to wear after your run to help you keep warm and recover.

Next – a watch – to time some of your runs, and your intervals.

Finally, when necessary, a breathable waterproof jacket, so you can enjoy training in even the worst weather.  That in itself can be an exciting and rewarding experience – but only if you’re wearing the right kit.

What has been the toughest challenge you’ve ever taken on?  

Riding the Marmotte sportive in the Alps.  112 miles, 4 mega climbs including the Glandon and Galibier, and then finishing up the Alpe d’Huez with the sun beating down remorselessly.

Can you recommend a Challenge to our users for training for different events, from the 5k beginners to ultra-marathon runners?  

I would recommend just one challenge.  To Run a Mile Faster than they believed possible. Use a running track. Warm up, and time yourself for 4 laps.  If your time is 10 min, your challenge is 9 min.  If your time is 9 min, your challenge is 8 min.  And so on.  The faster you can run a mile, the more scope you will have for improving your 5k, 10k, half marathon and even marathon time.

What do you recommend for race nutrition? Any specific gels or drinks which you think are good?

No, just drink before you feel thirsty, drink a little and often, and drink dilute isotonic drinks.   Energy bars are ok but make sure you drink.

What is your favourite quote?


Just Do It!

The more I practice the luckier I get!

When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Who is your sporting inspiration?  

Dave Bedford (now race director of London Marathon) when he was breaking records in the 1970s.  Steve Ovett, Seb Coe and Steve Cram in the 1980s.  And more recently Lance Armstrong