First of all, apologies that it’s taken me so long to write about the evening I spent with marathon runner and Olympian Mara Yamauchi at Anglia Ruskin University – I blame the death cold from hell that has taken over my life and left me mostly sofa bound for a good few days. Never a happy situation for an athlete who likes to be on the move.
So, on the 18th January I – along with a handful of Ely Runners – went to a free talk organised by the Greater Cambridge Athletics Network (GCAN). For those of you who don’t know her (and there are a depressingly large number of those who don’t, given her achievements), Mara Yamauchi is the second-fastest British woman to run a marathon (I don’t think I need to tell you who the fastest is) in a time of 2:23:12. She also came in 6th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2nd in the 2009 London Marathon. That’s a snapshot of a pretty impressive running resume.
Photo of Mara thanks to the BBC
As I settled into a jam-packed lecture hall, the first thing I noticed about Mara was how petite she is – powerhouses can come in deceptively small packages sometimes. The second thing was just how she clearly lived and breathed running. On her own website she says “My life’s passion is running. From a very early age, growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, I loved doing sports and being outdoors. At age 11, inspired by the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, I decided that I was going to be an Olympian.” Her passion for her sport filled the room extremely quickly, and she quickly made her audience warm to her by threatening latecomers with 50 push ups!
For those of us who were hoping that there was some simple formula to becoming a world class runner, we were left unsurprisingly disappointed. It takes commitment, serious hard work, S&C, good nutrition, good recovery and the ability to really listen to your body. Mara admitted that she was extremely lucky that running could be her full time job, and sympathised with those of us having to fit our training around family lives and working hours. But she still managed to give us some tips that we could all take away with us, regardless of whether we planned to run 5k, 10k, 21k or 42k and beyond:
Mara charms her audience
- You need to steadily increase your training. If you increase the FIT – frequency, intensity and time (length) of your runs all at once you’re more likely to get injured.
- Your runs should consist of three key sessions – a long run, a threshold run and long intervals (more than 4 minutes).
- Hill training is great for strength bio-mechanics – increasing the amount of blood per beat of your heart. But she did admit that hill training is tricky around here – she favours San Moritz!
- Strength training is an important part of any runner’s training schedule. It’s essential for injury prevention and ensuring you hold your form over long distances. The priority with this is glutes – think the clam and leg raises (some helpful images can be found here).
- The pulling back motion of the arm is extremely important and will help make your running more efficient – work on it.
- Always try and refuel within 20 minutes of training. A protein milkshake is ideal.
- An elliptical is good for cross training.
- If you’re planning to run a marathon, you should aim for a 2o mile run 4 weeks before.
- Races are excellent as part of a training schedule (i.e. a 10k if you’re training for a half.
- Before a race, check the course and consider your logistics i.e. how you’re getting there. This gives you less to worry about on race day.
- Nerves are a natural part of racing, and the adrenaline is useful so try and work with it.
These are just some of the tips I noted down in my slightly befuddled cold-y state, but hopefully you’ll find one or two of them useful. Mara also recommended a couple of books – Anatomy for Runners and Strength and Conditioning for Endurance Running – well worth a look if you’re a bookish type like me!
Also, if you get the chance, read up a bit more about Mara. She’s an inspirational lady who simply loves to run, but also isn’t afraid to speak her mind, especially on the recent scandals rocking athletics.