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Paula Radcliffe: How to run your best marathon


Fancy taking on the fastest woman in marathon history? Paula Radcliffe shares her five steps for success, so you too can maximise your running potential...

Running your first race can be a daunting experience, especially if you're taking on a full 26 miles! Long distances demand a commitment to training but also often require a full diet overhaul to ensure you're fuelling an aching body with all the nutrition it needs to repair and make it stronger. Queen of the marathon miles, Paula Radcliffe currently holds the women's world record for the distance - so who better to get you race ready in five simple steps? Nail your training and feel stress-free at the start line with Paula's essential tips...

Paula Radcliffe running with a crowd

Question 1:

What are your FIVE most useful snacks and ingredients to have in the cupboard?

1/ Grains. Basmati, jasmine and different types of rice are always in the cupboard. I prefer rice to wheat as a fuel for the marathon. It just works for me. Also porridge oats.

2/ Bananas. Sometimes I have one before I run. Sometimes I'll just have one in my bag for when I've finished. They're easy to mash up in lots of things too. My kids love flapjacks made with mashed bananas.

3/ Mixed nuts. Especially almonds - I love almonds and almond butter. It's good to have a handful of nuts straight after training. I think a little bit of salt is good so I have the dry roasted ones.

4/ Salmon and other fish. I have a lot of fish in my diet because I love it. I justify it because it has a lot of good omegas (healthy fats) in as well!

5/ Dark chocolate. lt has bioflavonoids and a bit of iron in it - that's my excuse!

Question 2:

Choppped apricot, seed and oat granola bar

What are the FOUR most important things you would recommend people have in their kit bag for race day?

1/ Carbohydrate drinks. These are a good way to keep loading up on energy to the start of the race. You want one with some electrolytes in it as well.

2/ Power bar. Some people like to have just a little bit of an energy bar. Jelly babies, dark chocolate or something similar are good to keep you going.

3/ Old clothes or a bin liner. It's good to have something you can keep on until the last minute that you can throw away. You send your kit bag to the finish but you want to stay warm before the race.

4/ Anti-chaffing cream. Rub it on your feet before you put your shoes on. Apply it to any other areas that may rub because it's going to make the experience more comfortable.

Question 3:

Glass of water splashing

If you're training for your first marathon what are the THREE diet and lifestyle changes you'd recommend?

1/ Be more hydrated. We say roughly an extra litre for every hour that you train in hot conditions. So if you're training every day, you need to be getting in almost an extra litre every day.

2/ Consume plenty of protein as well as carbs. You're going to need to tweak your diet and pay more attention to carbohydrate and protein because you're building muscle and breaking it down. People always think about the carbs and don't think so much about the protein side of it.

3/ Sleep. You need more sleep and more recovery time!

Question 4:

What are the TWO most common mistakes new runners make and how can they avoid them?

1/ Running in the wrong shoes. It's not the ones that look cool or have the prettiest colours. It's the ones thatsuit your running style. Go to a specialist store, run up and down, have them assess whether you're a pronator, supinator or neutral and then get the shoe that's right for you. It's going to reduce injury risk massively.

2/ Pace yourself and build up the training gradually. Don't just jump in because it's the first week, being all enthusiastic and trying to do everything. Don't increase distance or time more than 10% a week.

Question 5:

What is the ONE thing you can do on race day to get across the finish line that bit faster?

1/ Don't overstress it. Run how you feel and enjoy the atmosphere. Yes you need to pace yourself but don’t over analyse. Take in the atmosphere and tune into yourself. Run according to your instincts and what you feel is the right pace because the atmosphere will lift you on the day. If you look at your watch thinking, 'Oh, that mile was 10 seconds faster than I should have done it,' you'll get stressed. Tune into your body and stay focused. Know that everybody has bad moments in a marathon so don't panic when you get to them. You've just got to get through it and then you'll be fine.

Try these energy-boosting snacks to keep you going:

Energy balls in a row on a baking tray

Energy balls
Energy bites
Dried fruit energy nuggets
Spicy seed mix
Apricot & seed protein bar
Strawberry & banana almond smoothie

Protein-packed meals:

Mexican chicken stew with quinoa & beans in a cooking pan

Spicy Cajun chicken quinoa
Mexican chicken stew with quinoa
Moroccan turkey meatballs with citrus couscous
Vitality chicken salad with avocado dressing
High-protein recipe collection

You'll find more expert tips and meal plans in our marathon training and nutrition hub.


Are you running a marathon this year? Tell us how your training is going and share your own tips for success in the comments below...

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