How to run a marathon faster – with Danny O’Reilly

As part of my “How to run a marathon faster series” I am pleased to welcome Danny O’Reilly. He answered some questions for this blog a few weeks ago, but I’ve been waiting for today. He has been working hard all Autumn for a PB attempt today at Florence Marathon 2018, spoiler alert, he smashed it in 2:47:28. So I’m keen to share his tips on how to run a marathon faster.

Danny smashed his PB at Florence Marathon 2018 in 2:47:28

I asked Danny about his marathon highlights, and he said his are his first sub 3 at Dublin in 2016, and then of course his PB at Valencia in 2017. He broke his PB by just 2 seconds, which included an emergency toilet stop (but the less said about that the better) so it was tight, but he paced it well, with a negative split and the last 5km being his fastest of the race. This year Danny has began pacing marathons and has so far paced 5. He said there is a real thrill in helping runners achieve their goals. I’m sure if I were to ask Danny about his Marathon highlights today then Florence Marathon 2018 would feature.

Danny pacing Manchester Marathon 2018

1) How long have you been running, and what is your marathon PB?

I began running 5 years ago. I was unfit and overweight…about 4 and half stone heavier than I am now. I’d like to say I started running because it was in my blood, or I had an epiphany and decided to get healthy, but I didn’t.

The truth is, I live in London and I absolutely hate getting the tube. The price (tight Northerner), how stressed it would make me, constantly late for work, crammed into a tiny carriage with scores agitated commuters. The backpack wanker, the person playing music loudly on their phone, people who don’t give their seat up for those that need it, or person who uses a seat for their bag. It would all irritate me far too much and I would hold onto that stress throughout the day. So I started running in, and there’s where I fell in love with running.

I haven’t taken the tube to work in over 4 years. I run commute on my own, incorporate it into longer marathon training runs, or run in with friends and stop for a coffee and make plans for the weekend ahead I arrive to work refreshed (mostly – depends on the workout ) and on time (depends on the length of the coffee break)…but always stress free.

But to actually answer your question, my marathon PB is 2:49:24 (was – until today mate, 2:47:28, smashed it).

Just shows how important pacing yourself is

2) Have you always been fast, tell me about your first marathon?

I think fast is all relative. I’m fast compared to some, but very slow if you consider the times that actually win major marathons. I’ve won some parkruns, but also been lapped by athletes. It’s me versus me.

My first marathon was Dublin 2015. I made a million mistakes, too many long plodding runs, playing 5 a side twice week, a ridiculously long idle taper and I turned up to the start line with a hamstring pull from a football tournament.

My hamstring subsequently tore at mile 17 and around mile 20 I was overtaken by an OAP dressed as a leprechaun collecting change in his hat for charity. The pain was excruciating and I nearly quit with just 800 metres to go, but a random runner dragged me over the line. I vowed never to run again.


…I’ve been back to Dublin to take on the marathon every year ever since.

I think he is happy with that

3) What did you do to improve your marathon time?

Consistency, structure and discipline for me were the key. And having a marathon plan that suits me and is realistic, accounting for work commitments, travel, holidays and hangovers.

Consistency – you get better at running by running, so get out there and run. If it’s too hot, get on a treadmill, too cold, layer up. If you’re hungover then go slower, on holiday, get out and discover new places.

Structure – have a plan that works for you and try and stick to it. A good mix of interval workouts, hills, long runs, recoveries, tempo

Discipline – about half my runs are at either easy or recovery pace. Too many runners seem to attack every run and that’s the path to injury and burnout. Trust the plan, go hard on the hard runs and easy on the easy ones.

Working through the pain, this takes courage 

4) Tell me your top tips to running a marathon faster?

There’s no silver bullet. But consistency is definitely key for me – getting out there come rain or shine, utilising commutes, lunch breaks, early mornings – squeezing the training in wherever you can. Interval session for speed, hills for endurance and lots of recovery runs.

Many runners get hampered by injuries when hitting the long miles, so I recommend keeping a training log. Not just Strava, but physical diary or google doc with more than your pace and distance. Note how it actually went, any niggles, so you can quickly identify injuries and nip them in the bud.

Danny after pacing Limassol Marathon 2018

For those of you that have never ran a marathon, but have always wanted to, Danny will be a Mentor for the 2019 ASICS Marathon Challenge. And he wants to help someone reach their goal of a first marathon at the 2019 Manchester Marathon.

As part of your ASICS Marathon Challenge journey, Danny will help you through your training plan, with the help of expert coaches, elite athletes, the ASICS Pro Team, and you’ll get all of your kit for the training and the big race itself. If you are interested in applying for this incredible challenge, please follow the link HERE. Applications close 30th November. Good luck and happy running.

Broadgate Tower Run Up…

I spent the weekend doing something a little different at the Broadgate Tower Run Up 2018, check it out HERE. This seems like a good training addition, and I’m considering the Vertical Mile next year.

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