Nikki’s Marathon Monthly – Graham Sampson

Another Marathon Monthly and although most marathons have declared their position, two of them (London and Brighton) are still clutching their cards close to their chests, whilst we (the runners) await their decisions. We do have the excitement of a race in the not too distance future, with the Fox still going ahead, which will bring many of the Harriers, back out in their first, socially distanced, race.

It’s certainly a weird time for runners, on one hand, we’ve been lucky to still be able to get out and enjoy our sport whenever we wanted to, but on the other hand, maintaining motivation to get out when upcoming events are cancelled and postponed is tricky. For me, asking these Marathon Monthly questions has been interesting, inspiring and motivating and they’re reminding me why I wanted to attempt a marathon in the first place.

This month, Graham Sampson has been answering my questions. Below he’s spoken about the importance of training and also the importance of enjoying running for the sake of running again and not just to train for an event. Lockdown has been kind enough to give us all that fun opportunity and it’s nice to see it as a positive.

And when I’m out doing my short runs in the warm sunshine, wondering why (or if) I really want to do a marathon, I’ll definitely be remembering the quote that Graham mentions at the end of these questions.


Why did you enter your first marathon?

I wanted to see if I could do one and it seemed like the next step.

Where and when was your first marathon?

April 1984 – Taunton (not quite as exotic as other posters) as I had been turned down by London.

What was the most valuable thing that you learnt whilst training for your first marathon?

Get into a regular routine of running, work out what days are for shorter runs and which day is your longer run, and stick to it. Once you’re into a routine it is harder to break.

Also tell people your plan as it is harder not to do or find an excuse when others know what your plan is (if you are struggling to get out to run, then buddy up as no one wants to let anyone down).

What did you learn whilst running your first marathon that no one had ever told you before?

With me, (as an asthmatic) it was to get the breathing right, if I could get it under control and regular (normal breathing without having to struggle to inhale and fill the lungs) within the first mile or two I knew I would be fine. If not, I knew it was going to be harder and a fight all the way round. Also if my breathing was into a routine, I normally found my running pace was as well, and would fall into my normal pace. The sooner you hit your regular routine pace in feeling (not by watch and other gismos) the easier it will feel.

Also keep looking ahead to spot obstacles (groups running together) or drink stations so you can position yourself better, so as not adding to the distance or having to change pace.

Finally, a positive outlook and belief will carry you a long way. If you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t do it, so picture yourself at the end, accept it will be hard but believe you can do it

What did you do immediately after your first marathon and the next day?

I went for a pint immediately, followed by a meal in the evening.
I went back to work the next day (with a waddle).

How many times have you run a marathon since?

7 on their own  (and the Man v Horse v Bike which was only 22 miles & one at the end of a Triathlon), all of them, bar one, were done over a three year period. The other was done 10 years later and was a reminder you have to take it seriously and put the miles (hard work) in before hand.

During later marathons, what have you learned that you wished you’d known for your first marathon?

Every marathon is different and you will perform differently dependant on your training, how you feel, weather and course, so accept what you can’t change and control what you can – but it will always be a battle and achievement (it was to me)

As above, the last one which I didn’t take seriously so didn’t put the mileage (so it hurt for a long time after and much more), and I rubbed more than usual and blistered up badly on my feet. It did teach me that it is a distance to be respected and treated properly.

What was the favorite marathon you’ve ever run and why?

Apart from the last (Plymouth) all of them have a place in my memory.
Farnham first U21, but I found out later I was the only U21 running.
Guildford, as my home one.

But my favorite, even though it was not the marathon distance (22 miles), was Man v Horse v Bike as it was stunning countryside, very basic (three water butts were the three water stations) so you were very much on your own against the elements & for other reasons that didn’t help running that distance, all trail and it was nice to be passed and pass Horses and mountain bikes (apparently mountain bikes were only allowed for two years).

What tips do you have for overcoming the wall?

You will find your own way in dealing with it and I only remember hitting it once , and it was my last one, and it was a pint of Guinness at mile 19 (always used to carry a fiver in those days).

Is there anything else you’d like to share about marathon running, that hasn’t been asked here?

Treat it with respect, make sure you take water on, and don’t skip the early water stations because you are fuelling for later on.  Run your long training runs like you would run on the day (equipment wise).
More importantly, do it your way, what feels right for you but do get the long run in each week building up to it, and definitely fuel up the night before on proper food.

What are your tips for remaining comfortable during the race?

It’s a long way to run, so wear clothes you have worn and feel comfortable in (don’t be tempted to try something new) and if you rub in areas then Vaseline up. Your job is to get around in as little discomfort as possible.

Make sure you eat plenty the night before

As said before, try to hit (get into) your stride (probably harder with London with so many around you) and stay in that zone.

Any tips for maintaining motivation during training?

The challenge was always the motivation for me, on going further and doing different events that I forgot the joy of basic running. I have only found that since coming back to Running and the Harriers (Henrys fault), but with the lockdown it has reminded me what I really enjoyed, which is the solace of running by yourself, and listening, smelling and seeing the countryside (no earphones just the heavy breathing), but just, importantly, having the time to think and clear my mind.

Who’s been a big help to you whilst you’ve been marathon training?

A mate from school who got me into it, and was there for a lot of them –  Iain Mac. I never belonged to a club before so I missed having the support and the benefit of people around to motivate and advise, so it was mainly trial and error.  But there are a lot of good people who have got good advice at Waverley who I would listen to over me and as a runner at one event said to me,

“Don’t kid yourself, you’re doing it for yourself and the achievement you will get from it, which will make it worthwhile and you will remember it.”



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