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Q&A: Our Marathon physiologist
Around the Academy:

Got a question? Ask our experts!
In the final week of our London Marathon forum, Charlie Pedlar, a physiologist for the English Institute of Sport, answers your questions. Good luck in the race!


Adam, 20, Stoke
As a slightly overweight student about to do his first ever long run in the London Marathon and hardly having done any training do you have any tips for the last week?

I know I will have to walk most of it on the day but I don't want to let my sponsors down.

Charlie says:
If you have hardly done any training, then you cannot really expect to be able to run much of the marathon, particularly if you are slightly overweight. It is a long way (26.2 miles).

In reality you are preparing for a long road walk, so I would recommend wearing some very comfortable shoes to avoid blisters (maybe even take some plasters and a spare pair of socks).

I would also recommend taking some food in the form of energy bars, because the walk is going to take a very long time. Good luck.


Ann, 26, London
During the taper of the last two weeks, should one also taper non-impact sports such as swimming, or is this a good way to keep up cardio exercise without damaging the legs?

Charlie says:
Reducing your overall volume (including all modalities of training) is recommended to help you store up endogenous energy stores for the race, so reducing your swimming volume as well as your running would be sensible.

Open Quote
an important part of the taper is to maintain some training intensity
Close Quote

The fact that swimming is a less damaging form of exercise does not mean that you are not using energy. Remember that an important part of the taper is to maintain some training intensity, however, this must be specific to the marathon and therefore can only be achieved by running.


Peter, 25, Northampton
I am running this year's Marathon for the first time. I also have a very important football Cup Final four days later which I hope I can play in.

What can I do after I finish the marathon to improve my chances of playing in the final?

Charlie says:
Your rate of recovery after the marathon depends on two main issues - your physical condition, and how hard you work in the marathon. Once you've finished the race, you need to work on refuelling and rehydrating as rapidly and effectively as possible.

Open Quote
A range of foods that are high in protein, carbohydrate and anti-oxidants will help you to recover
Close Quote

A range of foods that are high in protein, carbohydrate and anti-oxidants will help you to recover (take a look at the marathon nutrition section). A light massage may also help soon after the race. Other things you can try are regular movement including light stretching, plenty of sleep and some light exercise (e.g. swimming).

By day 4 after the marathon, it is likely that your recovery will be well underway, however, there is a huge variation in this between individuals, and there is little chance that you'll fresh enough to play at your best in a hard football match.


Mark, 42, Caterham
I ran 20 miles on Easter Monday and have developed what I think is a calf strain. Presumably I shouldn't run again until it is healed, and certainly don't want to ruin my chances of finishing on the day.

I think I have just about done enough miles, but if I don't run again until the day it will have been three weeks since my last run, and I am a bit worried that I may not have enough in my legs to finish. Any suggestions about healing or last week activities?

Charlie says:
During the last week before a marathon there is not a great deal that you can do to improve your marathon fitness. Although it has been 3 weeks since you last ran, you will not have lost everything, particularly if you have kept up other forms of exercise.

Some light running this week if you are over your injury may help you to feel 'race-ready' and give you some confidence back.


Una, Scotland
My son, 22, has just completed his first Marathon, in Paris, in 4 hours. He has several blisters and is running in the London Marathon this coming weekend!

Please can you advise best treatment for blisters, recovery, and training this week in time for London? From an over-anxious Mum!

Charlie says:
See above for some tips on optimal recovery. As for the blisters, there are a range of products on the market which may be suitable. A blister is usually caused by friction between the footwear and the skin and is probably the most common injury that occurs to athletes.

Therefore most products aimed at preventing blisters are designed to take the friction away from the skin, and can be very effective. To optimise healing of blisters keep them very clean, ideally allowing fresh air to get to them.


Sharon, 27, Warwick
After I have been running for an extended period of time I experience a pins and needles sensation in my foot.

After a couple of minutes of continued running my foot then starts to feel numb and progresses to my lower leg. What could be the problem?

Charlie says:
It is not uncommon for runners to experience 'pins and needles' (Parasthesia). The cause is usually related to blood flow, more specifically in the lower leg, reduced flow caused by socks or trainers that are too tight.

You could try loosening your shoe or changing your socks to a looser fitting pair. It may be that you simply have poor circulation to your feet during running. Other reasons for pins and needles may be related to your running gait causing a trapped nerve, and in this case you would need to have an assessment from a qualified podiatrist.



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