You can read the first eight weeks of Jonathan’s marathon training journey via links further down – and support his chosen charity DEBRA, at this page.

I learned a harsh lesson last Friday.

I had a lot to get through before my planned 14-mile long run. Working from home, I promised my wife – at her mum’s for the day – that I’d pick up our boys from primary school. Seven miles to Rochdale and back again for 3.20pm was the goal.

Writing last week’s blog late at night then forcing myself to get up early to work was my first mistake. It meant I started the day tired.

Powering through my list, I barely drank any water. Mistake number two.

Breakfast was espressos and a cereal bar, while I only remembered to eat dinner (lunch) around 12.30pm, throwing some leftover Spanish chicken and rice down my neck. Número tres.

I didn’t give myself a morning yoga break, so no stretching or muscle prep. Four.

I’d ordered some gels, but they didn’t arrive in time. Five.

After signing off on a final phone call, I was out the door within five minutes, doing a mental calculation of how quickly I had to go to make 14 miles.

The first leg, on the cycleway towards Rochdale, was fine. I ran more quickly than I should on a long run, but I had water and the Healey Dell nature reserve is beautiful. 

After looping round at six miles – I’d have to make do with 12 – to make school pickup I’d need to do sub-9-minute miles. Not a problem… if they aren’t all uphill.

The Garmin was crucial here, allowing me to keep tabs on pace and time, and I made it to the schoolgate by 3.22pm (to my credit, I have to say).

I climbed up the drive… and my wife was there, chatting to a friend. “You didn’t answer your phone so I came anyway,” she said. “You might as well go home and have a bath.”

It’s fair to say I was ‘done’. Next time I’ll be sure to sleep, hydrate, eat and carry carbs…

Scafell Pike before work

I shouldn’t complain. Visualsoft founder Dean Benson told me a few years back that he once climbed Scafell Pike in the Lake District before work to demonstrate the benefits of flexible working (this well before COVID was a thing). 

“I like challenges,” he said at the time. “I’m really driven. I don’t know if that’s the qualities of an entrepreneur or just of a very stubborn individual!”

Benson once signed up blindly for an Ironman triathlon – a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and 26.22-mile run – after a couple of pints with a client. “I had to learn to swim, to buy a road bike and to work out how my legs could move 26 miles. It took nine months of training, nine months of quitting alcohol, nine months of quitting TV. Nine months of pure focus on one event,” he says.

“In both my personal life and professional life, if I set myself a goal, I achieve it – it’s a matter of breaking it down and working at how you get from A to B.”

Indeed. Or working out how much time you need to get from A to B, and back to A again…

I tapped up Benson for marathon training tips this week and he advised me to not overcomplicate nutrition. “Keep it simple, hydrate and maybe a few gels. Work out your carbs and set a timer. Don’t change anything on the day!

“I used to only train on hills: it slows you down, builds your core – then when you road run, it’s so much easier and faster.

“And music – find those tracks where you lose yourself and stop thinking about running.”

Another entrepreneur with Ironman and marathon experience is Ray Wright, who co-founded with partner Deirdre Mc Gettrick (sign up for Manchester Digital’s eCommerce Conference 2023 to hear more about the ‘Rightmove for furniture’).

The Aussie advises that I get myself into a cadence of running 5-10km a day, with a couple of rest days a week.

“Your body becomes attuned to constantly running and repairing itself,” he explains. “Stage increases in your big run over, say, a six-week period to reach 20 miles. In the final week before the marathon, taper it right down to allow your body to be as fresh as it can be on the day.”

Highland Cross

Wright completed the Highland Cross duathlon – 20 miles on foot, 30 miles on bike – which traverses the Scottish Highlands from west coast to east. “That’s the hardest run I’ve ever done because I was scrambling up the side of the mountains, effectively,” he says.

On gels, he adds: “In the marathon, my strategy was always to do one gel near the halfway mark and the next around 20 miles. That should take you through. Don’t overdose on them!

“And avoid those with caffeine: in Barcelona I found they just made me feel queasy and it impacted the second half of the run. Get your body used to them so it won’t be something foreign on the day.”

And, as also suggested by Sputnik Digital MD Andy Nicol, good old Coca-Cola is worth considering.

“When I did Ironman in 2014, they encouraged us to drink flat Coke as we were doing the run! They actually serve it as you’re doing the event,” says Wright.

“You could have someone waiting around the 20-mile mark ready to serve you a flat Coke – it’s amazing how quickly the sugar gets into your system and how much of a boost you get off the back of it.”

He says a post-exercise cold bath flushes the lactic acid out to keep muscles relatively nimble, something that can also be achieved using a foam roller to roll quads, hamstrings and lower back following a long run.

Bodyweight exercises such as lunges and squats are essential. “These strengthen your hip flexors and hamstrings. People that are really good at distance running, the main feature that they have is that their core is very, very strong,” says Wright.

He concludes: “What you’ll find, particularly with London, is that the adrenaline’s rushing – the crowd and atmosphere will carry you through. You’ll be on cloud nine coming into those final few miles.”

Over the next few weeks this column will include advice from experts in areas such as nutrition, training performance and psychology – and naturally tech will be running through it all. If you have an anecdotal or expert contribution to make – or know someone who does – get in touch at [email protected].

You can sponsor Jonathan’s London Marathon run, supporting his chosen charity DEBRA, at this page.

Week 1: How hard can the London Marathon be?

Week 2: Running in the snow (& Peaky Blinders)

Week 3: Beer helps you to recover!

Week 4: Top of the pods… & Muhammad Ali

Week 5 & 6: From Saudi Arabia to Shawforth

Week 7: The Yorkshire terrier

Week 8: A chat with the Chorlton Runners