Marathon Training Tips from Ross Houston

Adrian Tarit Stott interviews Ross Houston at the Edinburgh Marathon Training and Inspiration Evening, hosted by EMF, Edinburgh Leisure and Run and Become, November 27th 2012.

Ross Houston is ranked 2nd in Scotland for the marathon in 2012 and 13th in Great Britain. He came fifth in the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2012 with a new PB of 2.21.01 and followed that up with victory in September at the Baxter's Loch Ness Marathon by improving to 2.20.24. He is also very consistent at shorter distances and recently retained his Scottish Athletics road race grand prix title, by consistent performances in 2012 over distances from 5k,10k, 10 miles, half marathon and the full marathon.

Q. How did you start running?
A. At school. I used to do cross country and was lucky to link up with a local running club (Central A.C.) at Stirling. I found training with a group was fun and helped me progress. I made some good friends too.

Q. So do you think running with a group is beneficial?
A. Yes, very. You get a sense of camaraderie, and you learn a lot from each other. Also having regular training times with a group even once a week certainly keeps you motivated and wanting to train.

Q. You obviously progressed well through the junior ranks into senior levels at cross country and shorter road races. When did you start to think about half marathons and then marathons?
A. I ran my first half marathon in 2008 (69.29 at Dunfermline) and the following year (2009) my first full marathon at London when I was 29 (2.31.48) . I was a bit disappointed not to get under 2.30 but I learned a lot!

Q. You obviously train fairly consistently all year round but when you started training in earnest for the marathon, what would you say was the biggest change in your training?
A. The one thing that really changed was making my long weekend run progressively longer. I still did a full winter cross country season and plenty of regular speed work. Gradually I extended my long run a little further each week or every other week. My total weekly mileage increased gradually too.

Q. So shock and horrify us and tell us what your peak mileage is when building up for a marathon?
A. Between 100-120miles a week.

Q. Do you take any rest days?
A. Not really unless I am really tired. But I do have 'easy days' when I will just jog easily.

Q. Do you have a coach or advisor?
A. Not really, but I have several folk I can call on for advice and a I read a lot of articles on marathon training to learn about different peoples training ideas.

Q. Would you say having a coach is useful?
A. Of course, a good coach can really help, I guess it depends what your personal goals are and how seriously you want to take it, but it is always good to seek advice from friends or work colleagues who have run a marathon before, even If you feel you don't want to join a club or have a coach, mixing and talking to marathon runners, certainly helps.

Q. Do you have a training plan or schedule that you prepare and then stick to?
A. Yes, though it can be a little flexible. I will know each week what I need to be doing and plan that in around shorter races I will do for my club.

Q. Obviously trying to fit in 100miles a week needs a bit of planning, but for mere mortals and for those of us here who are planning to run their first marathon. What is your best advice on managing your time so that you can fit the training in.
A. (Almost without hesitation) I run in the morning! Before anything gets in the way! So much can happen in a day to make you feel tired have like taking on an extra project, family issues etc and then not make it out in the evening. By running in the morning, it is done and dusted.

Q. But sometimes you must run twice a day to fit in that mileage. Do you run in the evening though or at lunchtimes.
A. Oh yes. The main thing is to try and plan ahead when you are going to be running each day, depending on your circumstances and keep to it.

Q. Do you do any shorter races in the build up to a marathon?
A. Definitely. If it is spring race I will have done cross country and then in March/April will look for a half marathon to test myself and see how my training has been going.

Q. What motivates you and also keeps you motivated to keep you training in the weeks and months leading up to a marathon?
A. Just having a clear idea of what you want to achieve, whether that is just to finish, to raise money for your charity , or trying to achieve a time goal. I obviously try to achieve a time and just remembering that when I am out training helps me.

Q. You obviously were born with a bit of natural talent, and have achieved some good times the last two years, do you think you can go faster?
A. I hope so, the Commonwealth Games are in Glasgow in 2014, and the men's qualifying standard for the Scottish team has been set at 2 hours 19 minutes. So I have to try and improve by a minute and a half to achieve that, and there are also several other guys like Derek Hawkins (who recently ran 2.14 to top the Scottish rankings for 2012) Andrew Lemoncello coming back from injury, and a few others also aiming for the qualifying mark.

Q. So to finish off do you have any one piece of advice above all else to inspire our audience?
A. Try and keep things simple. Running for the majority of people is basically a very simple sport, so don't overcomplicate things. You have to put the work in to run a marathon and never under estimate the challenge, but if you do even a basic training schedule, it is very achievable for anyone.

So I am sure we will wish Ross every success for 2013 in trying to reach the Commonwealth qualifying time. Thanks very much for sharing some simple advice with us.

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