Training > Long distance

40 tips for nailing the Ironman marathon

You just swam 3.8km, Then cycled 180km. Wondering how you’re then going to smash out a decent marathon time? Fear not. Here to help you are some of triathlon’s fastest long-distance runners


 If you want to complete the 42.2km Ironman marathon comfortably, then start with your bike strength. Coach and 39-time Ironman finisher Mark Kleanthous explains how to get the most out of your training.

1. If you want to ‘compete’ at the Ironman, run 60mins max effort after your most important long ride. Do this 2-3 times a month during the final 12 weeks.

2. If you want to ‘complete’ the Ironman, run 4-5 times a fortnight off the bike for 15mins, starting 20 weeks before Ironman day. Never run further than 45mins after cycling.

3. Know the total amount of climbing for your chosen Ironman bike. Start training with a similar cumulative elevation gain for each 10 miles, then progress to similar gradients in the final 16 weeks.

4. Learn to endure long steady rides of 4-5 hours before turning them into an Ironman effort in the final 12 weeks, during the race-specific phase of your preparation.

5. Improve your performance by completing a maximum of two long runs a month and never run further than 2.5hrs in the final 16 weeks.

6. Boost your endurance gains by consistently riding 75-85 miles two to four times a month, rather than rather than shorter and much longer rides.

7. As soon as you can, work out how much solid food you can absorb during your bike-to-run workouts without gastric issues. Reduce the solid amount by 15% on race day  

8. Practise cycling at iron effort for up to one hour after swimming, at least twice a month, and wait 5mins after starting your bike before consuming fluids, then switch to solids after 25mins.

9. Worried about the swim or bike cut-off? If you can, hire a multisport coach to improve your swimming and cycling techniques. 

How to choose a triathlon coach


10. Train at Ironman effort on the actual race course or as close to the same profile as you can find. And, if you can, climb the same amount every 10miles to get your legs used to the effort.


As with most things in life, planning is key when undertaking an Ironman. Multiple long-distance race winner David McNamee shares his secrets to smashing all 42.2km

11. Cut your toenails before the race – not the night before though as you don’t want to deal with any nicks on race day. This will just make for a more comfortable marathon run.

12. Race in whatever’s comfy for you. If that means a change of clothes in T2 then go for it. You’re going to be out there for several hours – chafing is not welcome! Also, consider nipple plasters!

13. Stick to your pre-race plan, especially early on in the run. And don’t get competitive trying to race others. The Ironman marathon has to be very individual.

14. Find out which nutrition brand and specific bars/gels etc. are going to be on offer during your Ironman run and practise using them in training. Your gut will need to adapt, so start two months prior.

15. Make sure you know where the aid stations are pre-race so you can factor in any stops, when you will take on nutrition and any extras you might need to carry with you. This will really help with your pacing plan as well.


A successful Iron marathon requires a well-practised nutrition plan and some forward thinking. Over to sports scientist Andy Blow

16. Pace the bike ride sensibly. This will allow you to eat and drink plenty before the run starts, and to get off the bike in good shape leading to a much better run than if you’re already blown up.

17. Start eating little and often on the run (gels, blocks or other easily digestible carbs every couple of KMs) – don’t wait until you start to feel low or hungry to begin eating as it’ll be too late.

18. Walk a few strides through all the aid stations, even early on and if you’re feeling good. This allows you to properly consume food and drink without spilling and gulping down loads of air.

19. Take salty foods from the aid stations – if the salt tastes good, eat more of it or take some salt capsules as it’s a sign your body is craving sodium and it will help you maintain better hydration levels

20. Sip on flat Coke if you start to flag or feel like your blood sugars are dropping. The liquid sugar hits your bloodstream very quickly and can dig you out of a hole if you’re starting to bonk

Click here to continue reading tips 21-40 (2/2)


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