Leslie Sexton

Sexton crosses the finish line of the 2017 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon capturing the women’s title as Canadian Marathon Champion. Photo: Matt Stetson.

There are now less than six weeks to the 2018 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, an IAAF gold-label race and host of the Canadian Marathon Championships. We spoke to defending women’s champion Leslie Sexton of London, Ont. and spoke about her current training and preparations.

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Canadian Running: With just under six weeks to go, how’s training been for you?

Leslie Sexton: Yeah, training is going well! I had a bit of a bump in the road a few weeks ago when I had a blister that got infected and I had to back off while that healed as I took antibiotics, but this week and last week have gone really well and I am feeling good so I think I am back to 100%.

CR: What do your “biggest” weeks of training generally look like in terms of mileage, key workouts and long runs?

LS: My biggest weeks are around 210 km (130 miles), with two runs per day on every day but Sunday. On Tuesdays, I usually do some very light speed work, like 8 or 10 X 30s surges within one of my runs. Every three or so weeks I will do a more substantial session like kilometre repeats for a Tuesday session. Thursdays are my bigger workouts, usually time-based tempo or longer marathon pace intervals like 4-5 X 5k. On Sundays, I run long, typically 36-42k at the fast end of my easy pace (currently 4:10-4:15/k), or up to 32k with some marathon pace work in the second half of the run. My training is very similar to previous marathon blocks. The one thing Steve and I added for this buildup was a bit more 10k pace work so that I could touch on some faster running and get in an extra workout once every three weeks or so. So far I have been handling the training well for the conditions but I expect I can go a bit faster in some workouts and long runs as the weather cools off.

CR: How does your diet/nutrition, sleep, pre/rehab, strength training routines, etc. change/adapt to the biggest weeks of training?

LS: For recovery, I like to keep it simple. Sleep and nutrition are the most effective things I can do for recovery and don’t cost a fortune. If something is tight I will use the foam roller or get physio treatment when I can’t deal with the issue myself. Other than that and some core work three times a week, I don’t do much aside from running.

With the mileage I run during a marathon training block it can often be a challenge to eat and drink enough to fuel my training. My diet is pretty high in carbohydrates; I almost always go back for a second helping of rice or pasta with dinner, I try to snack frequently, and I don’t shy away from treats or desserts. With the humid weather in Ontario this summer, I have been going through a lot of Gatorade, too.

CR: How do you approach the training mentally, knowing you have to log the mileage, do the workouts, etc. day in and day out?

LS: I take it one run at a time and I focus on getting the best effort out of myself on the day. Being tired is part of the game during marathon training, you need to ride that fine line where you go into each session with a bit of fatigue in the legs, but you need to feel good enough to put in an honest effort in workouts and not feel run down. Over the years of training my coach and I have developed a good sense of what I am able to handle in terms of mileage and workouts, so I can be confident that my training schedule is challenging but doable. When I feel tired or the legs are a bit heavy going into a workout, I just tell myself that doing the work on tired legs is a great training stimulus and will prepare me for the late stages of the marathon.

CR: What is your advice/suggestions to other runners preparing for an upcoming marathon? What should they do now to be successful in 4-8 weeks?

Be as consistent as possible in your training. There is no one magic workout that will make you fitter or a type of session that will get you your goal time, just consistent training day after day. Get some cumulative fatigue in your legs and do the work. 4-8 weeks out is a good time to run some marathon pace workouts, either as a longer interval workout or as a continuous effort within a long run. When running marathon pace workouts, practice being smooth and relaxed, hitting your splits evenly, and taking in nutrition. These workouts should give you an honest assessment of your fitness and a good idea of what pace you should target on race day. Your goal time should reflect your current fitness and what you have done in recent workouts, don’t waste your training by trying to run a pace you aren’t in shape to sustain for 42.2k on race day.

CR: You’re running the Under Armour Eastside 10K this weekend in Vancouver. How important do you feel it is to run tune-up race(s) as part of marathon training?

LS: I like racing a 10k to get in a good, hard effort four or five weeks out from the marathon. 10ks are nice because the recovery afterwards doesn’t take very long, so I don’t have to adjust the following week’s training very much (whereas after a half marathon I need longer to recover before I can attempt a big workout). Plus I think there is some value in racing something shorter and practicing being uncomfortable since marathoners spend so much time training to run marathon pace while feeling smooth and relaxed. In the week leading up to Eastside 10K,I will back off a bit in my training to roughly 75% of my usual weekly volume and do a lighter workout three days out from the race. Running a strong 10k always gives me a confidence boost heading into the last few weeks of hard training, so I am excited to see what I can do at Eastside this year.

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