Adrian Stott, one of Scotland's most experienced ultra-distance runners and Manager of specialist running shop, Run and Become (, offers some ideas on training with a twist!


Training for any distance, whether it is a leg of the Hairy Haggis Relay or the full 26.2 mile marathon, requires, if one is sensible, weeks and months of dedicated training.

Sometimes the dedication and inspiration goes and it all becomes a bit too stressful to keep the routine going.

Sometimes the dedication and motivation is there, but wee obstacles appear to thwart one's best intentions to get out the door!

With a bit of lateral thinking you can keep training whatever apparent problems get in your way.

A tale is told of the legendary Emil Zatopek, winner of gold medals at 5000, 10,000 metres and the marathon at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, with a young family and a wife who worked the occasional evening, he was left with fitting in training while having to babysit.

Legend has it that after putting his children to bed, he would run on the spot for up to an hour in his living room, such was his dedication.

If his training dictated he had to do some resistance or speed work, he would fill up the bath, put the washing in it, then run in the bath tub, washing and all, to give the required training effect.

While this maybe a bit extreme and out of the box the whole nature of distance running is like that.

Here are a few other tips, maybe more practical to help keep you focussed.

1 Write"Race Day - 27th May 2007" in a prominent place- bathroom mirror, cereal packet, coffee dispenser etc just to keep giving you a little reminder (at the same time make a note of important birthdays and anniversaries so you don't become so obsessed you forget everything!

Dedication is good- obsession must be kept in perspective.

2 Need to train, but feeling lethargic?

If you are unwell or feel you are coming down with something then you should rest. However, if you just feel you can't be bothered try these walk/run routines.

  1. just as beginning programmes often utilise walking and running, by convincing yourself you will run/walk your 20/30/40 minutes, it will seem easier and you will probably find after a few minutes that you are OK after all! (The best cure for lethargy is to get up and do something/anything!)
  2. if you don't feel like doing the long weekly run try the tip that former US Olympic marathoner Jeff Galloway, now a coach, gives to his aspiring marathon runners as a standard session.

On your long run, run 15-20 minutes then walk 2 minutes, but do this from the start. The 2 minute walk breaks allow you to drink/stretch and just take the pressure off. You should feel much fresher in the later stages than if you ran continuously.

3 Tired of that long run or not sure if you can stay on your feet for 4-5-6-7 hours?

If you like long walks or are an ardent Munro Bagger (ask a Scottish friend if you don't know!!). Instead of a long run one weekend (or weekday depending on your work schedules) plan a long walk, preferably with some hills. A good brisk 4-5 hour walk is a great alternative to a 2-3 hour run and if your marathon goal is 4-5 hours it is a good mental confidence booster knowing you can stay on your feet that long, albeit only walking. (Remember similar rules of drinking apply to long walks as to long runs!)

4 Can't bear to run the same routes around your home everyday?

  1. Try running to or from work.
  2. if that's too far, get the bus/train some of the way and run the distance you had planned to. I have several friends and customers at Run and Become, who buy a good running backpack and"superman-like" change out of work clothes into running clothes and sprint for the exit or leap into action as soon as the train/bus pulls into their chosen stop!! A bit of formal planning is needed to make sure the right clothes are in the right place, ie you have a clean shirt and socks to put on at the office or your running shoes are in the wrong place and you have to face running home in your work shoes- it's been done - honest, but I wouldn't encourage girls to wear their high heels!
  3. as an ultra runner living in Edinburgh and training for long events, two of my favourite training runs are to head out along the east coast trails to North Berwick and returning by train or run the other way to Queensferry over the Forth Bridge before picking up the Fife Coast path to Kirkcaldy, where again I can get a bus or train home. I usually carry a small back pack with a lightweight change of clothing (thermals if its winter so I don't get cold) and some spare cash. You can make the choice also, depending on your route, of taking fluid with you or using the"feed stations" you find on your route, ie corner shops/garages to buy water, flapjacks, jelly babies etc to keep you topped up.

Again, although these little adventures will be a bit extreme for many of you, you can plan your own adventure according to the distance you plan to cover.

On the weekend instead of that same out and back or circular loop you always do get a friend to pick you up or collect you from a totally new location - 3 miles or 23 miles away. Or use public transport.

  1. Be creative- think creatively- the only rule is there are no rules when it comes to thinking creatively.

5 Weight and strength training

It is generally acknowledged that some background strength training is beneficial for all runners. Yes, you can go to the gym and use boring machines or do pilates and power yoga, but there are simpler ways of doing similar exercises.

Top coach, Bud Buldaro, has been known to encourage his athletes to give each other piggy backs or fireman's lifts (over the shoulder) up and down flights of stairs, not just once, but up to 20 times and you change over after a few efforts.

Wheelbarrow races between teams, piggyback races etc are also excellent ways to build strength as are old fashioned, but still incredibly effective push ups and sit ups done in your own living room.

6 Injuries

If you have a pain which is inhibiting movement go and get a proper diagnosis from a sports medicine professional.

If you have a wee niggle or stiffness from the previous day's long run or hard session, try one of the following, that may not mean no training, but different training.

  1. bicycle- cycle to/from work or in the gym;
  2. Swimming;
  3. Walk to or from work or in your lunch hour;

7 Gadgets or no gadgets

The old fogies amongst us laugh when we talk about the growing trend amongst young and not so young runners to run while listening to ipods/radios/mini disc etc and holding lengthy mobile phone calls. We all have occasions when we are expecting an urgent call and don't want to wait in, or you might want to listen to that football or cricket match or just can't run without listening to the rhythm of your favourite song!

However, don't be a slave to technology!

Mankind has run for centuries, way before technology was invented. Sometimes it's just nice to get out there without any artificial bubble of technology around your brain and just experience nature's orchestra, the birds, the wind in the trees, children playing, the splash of puddles. Just be a child again exploring and experiencing the world.

If you rely on technology to get you through the race what if it breaks? Batteries go dead? Will you be able to cope?

Finally, some people are game for anything and take everything in their stride, others like to plan a little.

Look at your upcoming event. What does it involve? Does it feature hills (up or down), long straight stretch of country road, running with hundreds of people or on your own?

Then try and simulate that in training. Find a route with steep hills (ok you can walk them!). Find a long country road or straight dual carriageway with a pavement. Go and run in rush hour crowds!

Going back to the words of Emil Zatopek, he once said in an interview:

“If you can keep to the training for many long years- then willpower is no longer a problem. It's raining- that doesn't matter; I'm tired- that's beside the point; It's simply that .. I just have to!"

Get out that door- go train. See you on May 27th!

© Adrian Tarit Stott and Run and Become