How to run a marathon faster – with Holly Rush

The “How to run a marathon faster series” aims to offer advice and support to runners wanting to run a marathon faster, from a range of experienced runners. For the fourth edition we have someone who is no stranger to running a marathon fast. Holly Rush has ran for her counry at the European Championships, World Mountain Championships and the Commonwealth Games, which she considers a particular highlight of her running career.

Advice from a GB marathoner

Holly Rush a dog loving ex GB road marathoner turned MUT runner (mountain, ultra, trail) with a passion for good food, good coffee and adventures. She can regularly be found running up and down the Kennet & Avon Canal with her running companion Mr Mole the German Wire Haired Pointer or munching on a pork pie post run. Holly said “I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world with my running and meet such amazing people.”

You can find Holly following these links:

On Asics

On Instagram

On Twitter

I asked Holly a number of questions to find out more about her marathon experience, and her top tips to run a marathon faster.

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

I have been running properly for 15 years and my marathon PB is 2.37

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

No, my first marathon was 3.57 in London, I did it for charity and loved it. The furthest I had run prior to that race was 15 miles and I had also done Bath half my local race. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and I made lots of mistakes. I wore a cotton T shirt, rugby shorts and long rugby socks. It poured with rain and so everything rubbed me raw. After my first marathon I trained too much for a year and got badly injured and university and life took over and so I didn’t get back into running again until my mid 20s.
Leading the pack MUT style

What did you do to improve your marathon time?

So I basically just ran on a treadmill at the gym I worked out for about an hour each day and managed to get my time down to 3.15 but it wasn’t until I downloaded a training plan from the internet (think it was Runners World?) that I ran 2.59 at Berlin. I was over the moon and really didn’t think I would ever go faster than that but my friend suggested I join a club and get a coach. As I lived near Bath Uni, I joined the club there and sought the help of a coach. Within 5 months of working with him and incorporating two quality speed sessions I ran 2.48 at London. A break through performance and one that earned me a GB vest.

Tell me your top tips to running a marathon faster.

1) Its really all about increasing your speed. You can do this by gradually adding a reps session on the track or road for example, then a tempo and or marathon pace session and then working on increasing the length of your long run. Once you start adding speed work into your weekly plan your average pace will just automatically get faster. I also incorporate some strength work into my week, this doesn’t have to be long sessions. Just 15/20 mins 2/3 times a week can really make a difference and reduce injury occurrence. Having a strong core will also help you in the later stages of a marathon.
2) Practice with your race day nutrition months in advance of race day. Many of my races have not gone to plan due to having an upset stomach so its worth really nailing what you plan to eat or drink.
3) I like to race in racing shoes but you need to build up to trying this but if your biomechanics are good its worth trying a lighter shoe in races and speed sessions as this can really make a difference to over all times.
4) Consistency in training is key. If you can get a solid 12/16 weeks injury/illness free build up into a marathon then you should be good to go. Try and keep yourself healthy and strong. Remember marathon training is a commitment and can also be exhausting so you are even more susceptible to injury or illness during training.

5) Eat well. Trying to lose weight during the marathon build up is not a good idea. Just eat normally. I don’t like to deprive myself of anything but I also make a real effort to eat plenty of fruit and veggies and quality protein. Post sessions and long runs I drink a pint of milk as as soon as I can to help with recovery. I am also partial to a post race pork pie and beer!

The secret diet of an elite

Some fantastic tips from Holly to help us think about how to train hard to get faster. It’s great to see that even at Elite level it’s ok to enjoy a beer and good food. Thank you Holly.

Check out the rest of my How to run a marathon faster series to hear tips from lots of fantastic runners:

Jordan Foster

Jordan jumping for joy with sub 3

Danny O’Reilly

Danny always puts the effort in until the very end

James Dunne

James after running for 4 hours with me in Berlin


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