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Stephanie Davis: How to train for a marathon   

Low mileage and cross-training has helped Stephanie Davis make the transition from club runner to Team GB Olympian. Here she reveals her marathon training secrets. 

Five years ago Stephanie Davis was a self-confessed seasonal runner. During the summer months she ran twice a week when the sun was out and spent the rest of the year hibernating inside her local gym, where she worked up a sweat on the cross-trainer, bike and treadmill. She squeezed her sessions in around a full-time job working in finance. 

It was only when a friend invited her to Clapham Chasers running club, where she remains a member to this day, that she began to nurture a dormant talent. “I’d been running at the club for a short while when my boyfriend suggested that I try running the Berlin marathon,” Davis tells “I decided to get myself a coach and do it properly.” 

For the first time in her life, Davis followed a structured training programme. “The training was very full on,” says Davis. “I’d never done high volume training before and I didn’t really know my own body.” She adapted her training regime to incorporate cross-training, using low impact machines such as the elliptical trainer and swimming alongside her running sessions. “That approach just seemed to work for me,” she adds.  

It paid off as she clocked an impressive 2:41:16 in Berlin and followed that up with a time of 2:32:38 at the mass start in London before shaving off another five minutes with a 2:27:40 run in Valencia. That time was enough to put her in the top 10 on the UK all-time rankings for female runners. Victory in the British marathon trials in 2021, in a personal best time of 2:27:16, saw her qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where she finished 39th – the highest placed of the three female Brits. 

Her success was all the more remarkable given her unique approach to training that is at odds with most long distance runners, who clock up significant mileage on the road in preparation for marathons. “I tried experimenting with 70-75 miles per week a few years ago and suffered an IT band (hip) injury,” she says. “That period really confirmed to me that low mileage – 50-55 miles per week – and cross training was the best approach for my body.” 

So, what does a typical week of training look like for Davis? Mondays are typically a low or no impact day, involving swimming in the morning and a session on the elliptical trainer in the evening. “The aim is to get in the same aerobic work I would get on the road but without putting huge amounts of load through my joints,” she says. On Tuesdays she does interval training on the track or road. Thursdays focus on tempo runs before a long run on Sundays. She also supplements her running with two strength and conditioning sessions and flexibility work.  

Davis’s approach to nutrition has also evolved over the past couple of years after she suffered a serious health setback. “I suffered from RED-S syndrome (relative energy deficiency syndrome),” she explains. The condition typically results in declining athletic performance and health when athletes do not get enough fuel through food to support the energy demands of their daily lives and training. “A loss in the menstrual cycle makes it easier to spot in women,” Davis continues. “This happened to me along with more injuries. Fuelling properly is so important so your body has enough energy to do all its regular functions, plus cope with the demands of training.” 

Since overcoming the condition, Davis has focused on upping her carbohydrate intake. “I have to constantly remind myself to eat more than I think I need to, particularly around sessions,” she says. SiS supplements are helping her to refuel and recover between training and after races. “If a session is longer than an hour, I take GO Isotonic Energy Gels or the SiS GO Energy drink during that session,” she adds. “I make sure my energy sources are continually topped up. I thought I was eating enough, but timing and what you are eating is key.” 

Much like her approach to training, Davis has also adopted an individual and instinctive approach to nutrition. “A lot of people talk about carbohydrate loading the day before a race but I like to start increasing my carbohydrate intake two days before a race,” she explains. “I just feel like eating so much food the day before a race can sit very heavy. Marathon races often start at a ridiculously early time in the morning as well, so I like to make sure I don’t eat a heavy meal or eat too late the night before a race, otherwise I won’t feel hungry in the morning. I want to eat something in the morning of a race so I feel fully fuelled.” 

The 32-year-old has a continual thirst for new knowledge. Recently she added a weekly drill session to her training schedule to work on her running technique. “I’ve made some changes to my technique to really prevent against injury,” she says. “I class that as strength work, it’s not the same as what I’d do in the gym, but it’s very core focused.” She also has some sage advice for runners of all levels. “Sometimes less is more,” she says. “There will be a time that you have to drop a session because of work or if you’re tired after travelling. Take that rest day – it’s hard to do but slow things down and you’ll feel the benefit.”  

For more training and nutrition advice for marathon running, check out the SiS Marathon Guide 

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