Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

John Brewer’s top tips for marathon enthusiasts in new book: Run Smart

Posted on 25 September 2017 by Tomas Meehan

Ever been interested in running a marathon but never really known where to start? Or are you a seasoned marathon enthusiast looking for that extra edge? Then John Brewer’s new book “Run Smart” might just be the book for you. In an interview with Sports Gazette’s Tomas Meehan, Brewer gives us his top tips.

Make it fun
One of the common misconceptions that Brewer clears up is that training has to be both time-consuming and boring. Brewer recommends that it is important to make running fun because the more you enjoy running, the more you will want to do it. This can be achieved by running with a friend or not pushing yourself to exhaustion every time, while still setting yourself goals. Running can be a great stress reliever and it should not be “something that causes your mind to be consumed with anxiety and pain because running is feeling difficult”.

Injury prevention
Injuries unfortunately are a part of running. “It would be naive and wrong to sit here and say you will never get injured” says Brewer. Thankfully they can be reduced by building up gradually “so your body can adapt to the stimulus of training”. Wearing the right clothing and footwear is also essential, as is doing stretches that allow you get the right range of movement.

Pace yourself
It’s important not to set off too fast. When people do this, they burn up too much carbohydrates earlier on in the race and are often too carbohydrate depleted for the latter stages. This can be achieved by knowing what speed you’re able to run at. If someone has a goal of running a marathon of for example 4 hours, a good question to ask yourself is “what does that mean in terms of minute-mile pace?” The correct pace to run a marathon in 4 hours is roughly 9 minute mile pace, so for a person aiming to run a marathon in 4 hours, 8 minutes per mile would be too fast.

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“The body is a bit like a grand prix car” says Brewer. Doing the mileage is important but you won’t be moving anywhere soon unless you fuel useful with the right grub. For Brewer, in marathon running carbohydrates are king. The body has two energy sources, fat and carbohydrate. Despite the fact that the amount of fat in our body would sustain us for about 40 consecutive marathons, fat is not as good of a source of energy as carbohydrates. However, we only have enough stored carbohydrate or glycogen in the body for 18 or 20 miles of running. That’s why it’s important to stock up on carbohydrates for that final push to the finish.

Before you burn up all the carbohydrates, “you’ll get to a critical state of fluid loss, before you get to a critical state of carbohydrates loss”. As well as losing fluid through our sweat it is also important to replace the loss of electrolytes for optimal hydration before, during and after both a training run and a competition run. Electrolytes help the muscles and nerves to operate effectively so Brewer recommends that “drinks that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes are very beneficial”.

Don’t worry about nerves
And finally on race day, don’t worry about being worried. Embrace it! Nerves are inevitable. When you are nervous your body goes into fight or flight mode. Heart rate and breathing increase when we are in fight or flight mode. When we start running our heart rate and breathing increase to pump blood around the body to our muscles so that they can move, so pre-race nerves can prime the body perfectly for action.

Photo credit: Louis Olvera. John Brewer talks about his new book: “Run Smart”.