Starting the new year with a 2:09 marathon

This evening, I headed to the Village Hotel Farnborough to attend a Training Talk with past London Marathon winner Mike Gratton. In 1983, Mike won the London Marathon in a time of 2:09:43 – a time which places him 14th on the UK all-time marathon list.

London Marathon 1983 BBC coverage

In anticipation of the Farnborough Half Marathon and 5km on 26 January 2020, Mike gave a talk on the basics of running, racing, injury prevention and diet to more than 100 local runners.

Basics of training

Whether you are new to running or a seasoned athlete, building base training and aerobic endurance is key.

Beginners should progress through walk-runs, while run-chats or 75%-80% max heart rate (or a rate that doesn’t tax the body) are key for established runners.

Aerobic endurance is built through long runs of up to two-and-a-half hours at 75%-80% max heart rate. These develop capillary networks to the working muscles as well as mitochondria (engines of the muscle cells) and encourage the use of fatty acids for energy.

Building aerobic endurance should be introduced early in the training cycle to create a base.

Frequency of running

Mike emphasised that how often you run is important.

While elite athletes incorporate 14-18 sessions per week in addition to gym work. Regular runners should try to include drills, core strength and circuit training to stimulate an endurance effect. Or, combine an easy early morning run on the same day as an evening speed session.

How fast do you need to be?

The most important factor is repeatable speed – speed endurance.

Tempo or threshold runs – continuous running at a good pace close to your aerobic threshold for 10-30 minutes.

Interval training – shorter distances at fast speeds repeated several times with a short ‘interval’ rest, i.e. 10×2 minutes at 5km speed with 2 minutes recovery.


Race as often as possible – preferably on a Saturday so you can do your long run on Sunday.

Target two or three key races in the build-up to your target race and use these to guage how you are doing.

For a marathon, a ten-miler or half marathon is recommended after about six weeks of a 16-week training block.

Injury prevention

Biomechanical inefficiency and over-use are the main cause of injuries.

Build-up training gradually to allow for adaptations over a period of eight weeks, then rest. Then restart another block of eight weeks, increasing the intensity or change the type of training to have a specific affect.

Typical training blocks comprise eight weeks base endurance; eight weeks speed endurance; and eight weeks of faster training leading to a race or race season.


Diet is always a topic that captures folks attention and brings-up interesting questions.

In addition to focusing on macros and balancing carbs, fats and protein. Hydration, gels, caffeine and bowel movement while running marathons were most keenly asked about by the audience.

The long and short answer here is that we are all different and need to use our training blocks to test what works for our bodies.


Careful planning, building endurance, and lots of running and racing are the key ingredients to successfully completing a half-marathon or 2:09 marathon.

Published by Zealousrunner

Faye is a London-based British Athletics registered athlete, coach, volunteer and licensed Leader in Running Fitness (LiRF), Movement and TRX Suspension Training. She regularly participates in endurance sports and is a member of Fulham Running Club.

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