Part1: Marathon training

Graeme Whyman, Business Development Manager at BMI Healthcare, is running his first London Marathon in April. We decided to quiz him on his training journey up to race day.

Graeme Whyman is running the Virgin Money London Marathon in aid of Dogs for the Disabled

Have you done a marathon before?

No, the first race I entered was the November 2013 MoRun event in Milton Keynes. It was a 5km race and I came 3rd. Inspired by my efforts I entered the

Silverstone 10km in May 2014. In June I joined my local running club and have run a couple of 5K. The London Marathon is only my 3rd proper long distance race.

Why are you doing it now?

The London Marathon has always been on my bucket list of things to do. I'm 40 later this year, so I thought, "why not do it now?" When I was at school, I remember one of my friends coming in on a Monday morning with a foil blanket and medal his Dad had achieved by running the London Marathon.

I was a keen runner at school and I've always remembered that occasion and thinking, "I want one of those".

I've also heard many people, who have either run or spectated at the London Marathon, saying that it is such a great experience to be a part of.

There are not many occasions when you can actually take part in the same race with world class athletes including the legendary Paula Radcliffe, women's marathon world record holder.

Mind you, I doubt I will be anywhere near Paula with her world record time of 2hrs, 15mins, 25secs. That's an incredible time.

I'm running in support of Dogs for the Disabled, who provide fantastic support for people who not only need help to stay mobile, but companionship as well.

When did you start training, and do you have a set training plan?

In December I found out that I had a place.

For the first few weeks , I aimed to build my fitness and to keep training over Christmas and New Year. Someone once told me that if you want to run the London marathon then you need to be out running on Boxing Day, so that is what I did.

I then got a copy of Marathon News, the official magazine and inside there are 3 different 16 week training programmes: Beginner, Improver and Advanced. From these I created my own 16 week training plan, a kind of hybrid between the beginner and improver plans.

I'm 40 later this year, so I thought, "why not do it now?"

What does your weekly training schedule look like?

I designed my training schedule to last 16 weeks:

  • Week 1-4: I was running up to 15-20km a week, building in 5km bursts.
  • Weeks 5-8: For the next month I increased the overall weekly distance to about 30km a week, in 10km bursts. I was also swimming and going to the gym twice a week, and building in yoga sessions to build up my core strength.
  • Weeks 9-12: For the next four weeks I increased the running distance to about 40-45km, trying to get in a long run of over 20km each weekend, making up the rest during the week.
  • Weeks 13-16: For the final month, I have been getting in some long runs of around 30-34km and a few 5km and 10km in-between. I've stopped swimming, but still trying to do a little gym work at least once a week.

My last long run of around 32-34km, about 21-22 miles, will be two weeks before the marathon.

I've been told that you don't need to run a full marathon in training; around 21-22 miles should be ok.

Graeme in full running mode

It is important to start to taper down closer to the event.

I will run a few 10km up until the final week and aim to completely rest 4-5 days before the event. I have also been on lots of long dog walks. I find this provides an excellent way to warm down along with the all-important stretching after a long run.

Have you had to change much in your diet?

Generally I have always eaten a healthy diet and the mix of food has stayed the same. However, I'm just eating lots more of it.

I have a fabulous smoothie maker so I have been making up a juice, which is a combination of apple, celery, curly kale, spinach and ginger root and a touch of pineapple to sweeten. I have a glass of this most days. I've also been mixing up lots of other fruit concoctions which are ideal to have before a run.

I also take a cod liver oil supplement with multivitamins each day.

Before a long run I eat porridge at least an hour before and then mix up a 3 banana milkshake.

Before I run (so I can take as soon as I get back), I mix up a protein energy supplement drink with extra whey protein powder. I also add a few spoonful's of flaxseed, which contains Omega3, protein, iron, magnesium

and calcium. Our body does not naturally produce Omega3, therefore we must get this fatty acid from our food.

Many of my fellow runners have told me that the ideal time to take the supplements is straight after your run.

I've been drinking lot's more water than I usually do. Even though it's a cold time of year to train, you soon get warm with all the extra layers, so after a long run I feel the need to rehydrate. I noticed that after a long run in the evening I would start to get a headache and realised I was dehydrated. Now I tend to keep sipping water as often as I can.

What have you been eating while on training runs - gels, bars, etc?

I have completed most of my training without any gels or bars, just good preparation before I go out. However, more recently for the longer runs, anything over 15 miles,

I have taken an isotonic energy gel after about 8-10 miles.

I have been told that it is important to try out a few different options, brand, beforehand, as some gels may disagree with you. You want to find one that is suitable for you before the race day as its best not to be trying anything new on the day.

Generally I have always eaten a healthy diet. However, I'm just eating lots more of it.

Have you had any niggles or injuries?

Yes, one injury and a few niggles here and there. I expect most long distance runners do and it's just a case of trying to manage them?

I pulled a hamstring a couple of months prior to training, so I have been trying to manage that. I also have a sharp pain in the back of my left knee that comes on most times I run.

My physiotherapist has told me this is most likely a tight IT band, connective tissue

joining my glutes to the back of my knee. I feel like I want to stop when it comes on, but sometimes I have only gone a few miles.

I carry on and after several miles it often easies or can disappear.

What did you do to get over them and did it help?

I have been to see a physiotherapist and sports masseur. The sports massage has really helped. They are great at finding all those trigger points and I have a few. It can be quite painful, but you just have to go with it, as you know it is doing you good.

I have also invested in a good firm foam roller. I did quite a bit of searching on and a good foam roller is certainly worth the investment.

I now use it most days, great for using while relaxing watching the TV after a long run.

Has cross training helped you avoid injury?

I think so. I have been swimming and going to the gym once or twice a week. I've also done a bit of yoga. When you start to run long distances it is not only your legs, but your arms and core that are so

important to keep strong, especially in keeping your form when you start to tire. The additional training has really helped improve my overall core strength.

We'll be publishing Graeme's progress over the next few weeks. We also asked Miss Samantha Tross, a BMI Orthopaedic Consultant Surgeon what she thought of Graeme's training approach.

Consultant Comment/response:

When training for any intense exercise programme, it is essential to gradually build up muscle strength and endurance. This requires an early start to the fitness regime and expert advice with respect to the ideal fitness programme for you. Consider joining a gym and find a training instructor or seek advice from a sports physiotherapist.

I agree with Graeme's approach of the gradual build-up of muscle strength and endurance. It's important to build in rest periods in your training programme to allow muscles to recover, particularly just before the big race.

Injuries can be avoided by seeking the correct advice prior to training as well as adequately warming up and warming down after intense exercise. Should you become symptomatic during training, seek specialist advice early. Depending on your previous exercise endurance, expect the early part of your training to result in discomfort.

Take a look at our infographics and our Consultant Q&As for more helpful running advice and information on treating and preventing running injuries.

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