Home Forum General Stuff Main Forum The Decline in British Marathon Running

This topic contains 59 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Uralcox 11 months ago.

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  • #138529 Reply

    john bicourt

    Good article by Brendan Byrne


    • This topic was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by  eightlane.
    #138596 Reply
    Profile photo of piriepirie


    Over the past 14 years havent our top marathon runners been in part in charge of marathon training I seem to remember something to do with a brighton set up with r. nurerker.
    I have had many a chat with paul evans regarding spending time getting the bottom end distances in place first but it just falls on deaf ears when putting this to athletes all they seem to want is milage and it is quite apparent it is not all about mileage.

    I did this approach with an athlete, 2hrs 25m. 03s but he was an over 40s vet. Pity I couldnt try it with a younger athlete to see if it works.

    #138613 Reply

    john bicourt

    You’re right. I was managing and advising Hendrick Ramaala throughout his career and had to stress the importance of sticking with high quality track training over 800-1600 reps at 10k race speed but he didn’t really make a leap forward (NY win and also 2nd and 3rd) until I finally convinced him about the carbo depletion and then loading diet in the final 10 days. Paul Evans maintain his 10k type training to his best marathons as well and again a carefully tailored cabo depletion/loading diet. Same also for Mark Steinle who I wouldn’t claim to coach but did advise him on his training and he found fast track sessions at pace over 800-1000 and maintain his 10k type training very beneficial (the first time I met him he was running his own session in winter of 10x 300 inside 45’s with a 100 jog) Ian Thompson and I ran a Sunday 15 miler at a pretty good pace just before we left for the CG in NZ and in the afternoon on an icy track I tried to keep with him on 10x 300 in 45 again with 100 jog. Well, we all know what he ran for the marathon and he was running 130-40 per week.

    What it comes down to is the right balance of long endurance, pace running over 800-1600’s and fast short recovery, 2-300’s for speed and knowing how to best “come down”in the last 10-14 days and getting the carbo diet bit right as well, and therein lays the secret to success.

    #138614 Reply
    Profile photo of 10_
    insert name here

    Problem being that you don’t get many chances to try it all out (a couple of times a year at most) so getting advice and input from others is crucial. Is that advice and input readily available? (i don’t know whether it is or not).

    Another hobby horse of mine is that the BMC possibly causes as many issues as it solves. I’m sure that there are a huge chunk of e.g. 3:50 1500 runners who have the potential to perform well at higher distances with the right preparation if they wanted to but the excellent BMC meetings provide them with a fulfilling and enjoyable racing experience (and who can blame them?). Having read Charlie Spedding’s book, it seemed he moved up to marathon to find success after not quite making it at shorter distances. Would he make the same decision today? I feel that there just isnt the same critical mass of appropriately talented runners with the necessary hunger for success trying out the longer distances these days. A lot of the guys that are doing it are good, very good, and who’s to say they wouldn’t be better still if some of those 3:50 guys were running 2:17s or 2:18s behind them?

    #138615 Reply

    john bicourt

    Yes, but as pointed out in the article, who wants to seriously run marathons unless they can get under 2.10 and that takes quite a commitment as well as talent. Paul Evans and perhaps Charlie Spedding and Richard N. made some reasonable money from their marathons which they couldn’t possibly make at 10k but today, no big maraathon race director is interested in paying for someone with “only” 2.10 . And even if a lower key race with a lot less prize money there are still going to be 2nd or 3rd level Africans turning up who can run around 2.10.

    My view is that we have 2-3 in this country (outside of Mo) who have the potential with the right training/commitment and support to run sub 2.08 and even medal in a global event (easier than making the top three in a major) We also have 2-3 women, likewise who could run very low 2.20 and perhaps one inside?

    If Steve Jones, who had no support and had a job could front run 2.07.13 (and would probably have gone 2 mins faster if he’d taken his foot off in the first half (62 something?)and hadn’t had to lead almost from the start, plus the other few notables who have sub 2.09, then why can’t others do it? Same for women. If Joyce Smith, a mum and who also worked can run as fast as she did, 2.29 so long ago unpaced and on her own, and 17 other GB women all faster since with the second best at 2.23 Mara Y., then what’s stopping a handful today doing the same or faster (all of the above, really!) Talent is there. We just need the right someone to lead with the right support and support for the athletes on a progress and get rewarded or get out and get nothing plan. That will incentivise and motivate as required.

    #138620 Reply

    luke s

    We need to create financial opportunities then for brits running 2:10.

    Host a national marathon championships once a year, brits only, mass entry, tv coverage, sponsorship etc . And pay big bucks to the top 3, alongside shitloads of exposure in the media for their personal sponsorships.

    Otherwise you’re expecting people to do what was once a full time job, as a hobby! Of course you’re not gonna get full commitment !

    #138622 Reply

    john bicourt

    If you read what is written you will see that is exactly what I advocate for those selected on a purely achievement to date base, reviewed every 6-8 weeks if they don’t cut the gravy with money to train to perform and money when they perform by way of prize and time bonuses.

    Dave Bedford once eventually agreed to my proposal to award, Brits only, good time bonuses from 2.14 and faster by degree. The money was very good but unfortunately it didn’t get widespread publicity and most athletes never knew what was on offer. But Jon Brown must have been happy. He got no appearance fee because he indicated his wish to run too late but walked away with pretty reasonable bonus for I think a 2.12 something and as first Brit.

    Forget Brits only race if you want publicity and TV. London is where it is and that’s where Brits need to perform. Award them a 1-8 Brits prize list starting at £30.000 down to £5000 plus time bonuses for sub 2.14,and every 30 secs down to sub 2.08 PLUS any open Prize money and pro-rata the women, but announce it at least one year in advance.

    That’ll get things moving and then maybe I’d be prepared to coach/advise anyone interested prepared to commit?

    #138624 Reply


    An obvious place to start is the UK’s biggest marathon, where someone with a time in the 2:18-2:20 range would not be deemed good enough for an elite entry, and virtually no chance of any prize money. This despite being maybe ranked between ~5th and 15th in the country. British only prize money doesn’t exist. Ok nobody is saying that 2:18 is super quick and everyone agrees the standard is poor, but London should do something to encourage the top Brits to improve. What would it take? Maybe 0.1% of the race budget??? Manchester seem to have made huge strides in this respect.

    #138625 Reply

    Matty hynes

    I find this particular topic very interesting as I’ve came into this sport 3 years ago to solely become a good marathon runner. Admittedly i don’t know as much as you guys but I think the problem is that athletes are neglecting speed once they move upto the marathon. Guidance also seems an issue. Luckily I feel having an ex 2:16 marathon runner who coaches me and believes the key to being a good marathon runner is basically being a solid 10,000m runner.

    #138626 Reply

    slow dude

    It probably doesn’t even need money, just some recognition and TV coverage. Showing only the fastest Brit crossing the line and giving him a sentence on TV just isn’t good enough. But if they do a 10 minute special featuring Wicks, Webb, Torry, Gilbert, Hawkins, … might inspire the next generation to give it a try as well. These are guys they can be as good as or even better, not Mutai, Kipsang, … .
    They do that a lot more in women’s racing, but those might just do to only about 30 of them starting half an hour early and there is nothing else to talk about. The BBC just sees elite and fun runners.

    #138647 Reply

    Still learning…

    I think many of the comments above offer some answers, however I would suggest there is an underlying issue that will take more effort to resolve. When I watch UK championship middle distance and endurance events today (ie the raw materials for top marathon runners) my perception is that the majority of runners are quite a lot larger in stature than 20 years ago, let alone 30-40 years ago. The number of athletes who are ideally built to run 10k to marathon distances is massively reduced. That is not to say that there are not tall and strongly built individuals who can run marathons extremely fast but the odds are not in their favour. Maybe not surprisingly there is still the opportunity to be world beaters in sports where the power to weight ratio is not quite so critical like triathlon, cycling, rowing, etc. This is the same reason that many U18 age-group records (including endurance) have continued to be broken but senior records have generally stagnated -young athletes are maturing earlier too. Changes in lifestyles and particularly diet have obviously had a big part to play in both factors. Does this mean I think we should just accept this and give up? No, but it does make it much harder to solve. To their credit some of those exceptions did so it is not impossible!

    #138649 Reply
    Profile photo of piriepirie

    If steve jones, liz mccolgan and paul evans state that improving your lower distance times even if this means accepting lower mileage for a while could result in marathon improvement then why does it seem so hard for aspiring marathoners to try this route.

    Because whatever they have been doing over the last 15 years does not appear to be working, if you look at the 10k abilities and 10 mile times they dont really equate to a fast marathon time.

    #138657 Reply


    Who is helping the potential 2rd and 3rd finishing male UK runners in This year’s London Marathon?

    #138748 Reply


    i think there has been a resurgence in uk distance running over the last few years. the likes of farah thompson fraser farrell vernon mccormick that have all run well over 5k/ 10k. will this translate in to the next generation of uk marathoners? also hawkins and hopkins have run some respectable times considering how many years left they will have at the marathon. hopefully farah can break the uk record this weekend and thompson will run a solid debut hopefully sub 2.10?

    #138752 Reply


    hopefully overall will have a good run as well.

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