As many runners have spring marathons in their sights,  Mara Yamauchi shares her training tips

Mara Yamauchi is ranked second to Paula Radcliffe on the UK marathon all-time list with her 2:23:12 from the London Marathon in 2009.

With spring marathons in mind, the 40-year-old, who announced her retirement from competitive racing last year, shares some marathon training advice.

On event specificity

Yamauchi says: “The marathon is an aerobic event and therefore you must tailor your training to make your body efficient at burning fat and running aerobically. This will spare carbohydrate during a race and prevent you running out of fuel.

“Some runners misunderstand this and think they can handle a marathon just by adding a longer run to a training programme which consists mainly of fast, anaerobic work. For the marathon, training at speeds in between a jog and fast intervals is important.”

With specific regard to the traditional long run, she emphasises: “Lots of people run too slowly and get a limited adaptation.”

With notable half-marathon wins in Rotterdam (2006), Marugame (2009) and New York (2010) she warns: “I ran well in my early career over 10km and half-marathon, but poorly over the full marathon.

“In the latter part of my career after I really worked on aerobic marathon-specific training. I didn’t improve my 10km or half-marathon times, but my marathon did improve.”

On key training sessions

Yamauchi summarises her three main types of training: “Short intervals” tended to be between 300m and up to 1km. These were clearly designed to work the anaerobic energy system.

Secondly, she performed “long intervals”, which were from 1km upwards in distance and duration. Significantly, she advocated active jog recoveries rather than passive modes of recovery between efforts.

Thirdly, interval training was complemented by tempo running with a recommendation of sustained running at threshold pace from 10 minutes and beyond with her longest ever session of this type being 90 minutes. She adds: “I was a great believer in working according to heart rate rather than pace because it’s hard to replicate race pace in training.”

Sprints of up to 30 seconds were also built in during the middle or end of an easy run to recruit fast- twitch muscle fibres when tired.

On strength training

In advocating gradual increments in training load, strength training was recommended (designed ideally with the help of a strength coach), which she did at least twice a week.

The main objectives of her strength training were improving biomechanical efficiency, especially after fatigue sets in and injury-prevention. Short hill sprints were regularly done to develop maximal power output with a slow walk back.

On cross training

Bouts of plantar fasciitis saw her use many types of cross-training including both road and stationary bikes, with the former being performed uphill at altitude. Additionally, a belt would be used for postural control while aqua running in a pool. She emphasised that cross-training was as much about injury prevention as it was about recovery from injury.

» These tips are taken from a two page article in the March 20 issue of AW by Dr Matt Long who is a volunteer coach with Birmingham University AC and a winner of the BMC Horwill award for coach education. The work of Birmingham University AC head coach Mike Bull in facilitating the Birmingham workshop at which Mara Yamauchi spoke is acknowledged.