10 running tips from some of tri’s best runners and coaches

Want to improve your run leg? Here is some advice from some of the best runners and coaches in triathlon, including Ali Brownlee, Vicky Holland, David McNamee, Dave Scott and Mark Allen

Ali B making it look easy... Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN

01. Caffeinate your Ironman marathon

The aim should be to consume between 200-300 calories per hour depending on what your stomach can handle. Use nutrition you’ve trained with, even if that means having gels in your T2 bag to start the marathon. Try testing using caffeine, especially towards the end of the race where it can provide great performance benefits.
David McNamee, 2 x Kona third-place finisher


02. Run one lap barefoot

The best tip I learned as a triathlete trying to become a better runner was one simple drill that changed my form and efficiency completely. I’d go to a track, take off my shoes and socks and run one lap barefoot. You land perfectly softly. Then you’re off your foot instantly. I’d put the shoes and socks back on and try to run with that same feel. It sounds simple but it was profound!
Mark Allen, 6 x Ironman world champion

03. Stay mentally strong

The only way to get through a marathon run in an Ironman is to break it down into small manageable chunks in your head and eat/drink little and often.

Alistair Brownlee, 2 x Olympic gold medallist

04. Build your base

This is so important, so that your muscles, ligaments and tendons are strong enough to support you while you run. Build up your mileage slowly so you have plenty time to adapt  and you don’t injure yourself!

Scott Findlay, 220’s run coach

05. Work your hip flexors

Hours on the bike shorten these muscles and can create imbalances. Tight hip flexors can be the true cause
of lower back pain or chronic calf problems; gaining just a slight improvement in flexibility of the hip flexors can help you avoid injury and the ‘Ironman shuffle’. A millimetre of improved mobility will lengthen your stride and improve your speed. There are many stretches for the hip flexors (I like the kneeling stretch and the wall
stretch) – work on them daily.

Dave Scott, 6 x Ironman world champion

06. Do fartleks

I’m a big believer in fartlek running for 70.3 racing and above, but I still like to keep the recovery fairly strong so there’s a strength element to it. So a simple session I like to do is 4mins, 3mins, 2mins, 1min intervals twice through, with recovery runs of half the interval duration between them (2mins, 1:30mins, 1min, 30secs).

Will Clarke, U23 world and European champion, Beijing Olympian and 2 x British champion

What’s the difference between fartlek and interval training?

Hill running vs. fartlek – which is better for time-poor triathletes?


07. Widen stride rate

I know a lot of coaches who use treadmills to develop cadence and cadence bandwidth. Why? As an analogy, it’s like moving pieces of firewood. If you’ve 1,000 pieces of firewood to move, you could do 10 reps of 100 but you might be smashed after the third 100. Or you might do 100 reps of 10 and find it easier. In tri it’s the same. If you have a good cadence range, it’ll come in handy when you’re fatigued.

Jamie Turner, coach to Rio Olympics gold medallist, Gwen Jorgensen

19 triathlon running tips from Jamie Turner

Jamie Turner explains how to run like Gwen Jorgensen


08. Measure resting HR

Tech can be really helpful in monitoring recovery, and one simple way is through measuring resting heart rate. I track it over a long period of time for the best indicator of whether I’m a little rundown or if there’s an underlying illness brewing. I work on 10% higher than normal being a warning so, because my resting heart rate is low (usually 36-37bpm), that means a variation of only 3-4 beats. If it starts heading up towards 50 then that’s definitely not okay and means bad times for me.

Vicky Holland, Rio Olympics bronze medallist and 2018 world ITU champion

29 Work on core strength

Whatever your level of ability and aspirations, working on core strength/stability and functional strengthening is a great time investment. Running involves a repetitive motion, so moving properly has two key benefits:

Injury prevention – Allows consistency in training, the key to progression and improvement.

Efficiency – A performance benefit, holding form as you fatigue will allow you to hold your goal pace for longer.

Craig Alexander, 3 x Ironman world champion and 2 x 70.3 world champion

10 Pace smart for the IM marathon

Pacing a marathon in Ironman is key. Start at goal pace or just below for the first 5-10km and really work on nutrition and hydration, then build into the middle 20km and really use average pace to help guide you (hopefully you have a pre-race pace schedule for the marathon).

Consistency is paramount, but take the aid stations slowly and stay fuelled, the last 12km is in the head – if the strategy has gone to plan about keeping focused and ticking of each km at the set pace, this is when all those pacing sessions in training come into play, so you can really use them to gain confidence as everyone is slowing down and hurting. It’s who slows down the least and willing to hurt the most. Train hard, race easy!


Tim Don, 3 x Olympian, 4 x ITU world champion and Ironman winner