Marathon Prep: An interview with 50km record holder Bruce Cook

Date Posted: 29 August 2022

We sat down with long-term Wildfire employee Bruce Cook, former AIS coach, race walker and Australian record holder for the 50km at 3:09.


How many marathons have you completed?

Oh, too many off the top of my head. I’d use marathons as training for the ultra marathons somewhere between 50 and 100km. But probably over 20.


Brisbane Marathon

The Brisbane marathon is coming up soon Bruce, is it possible to prepare for a marathon or half marathon with only 6 weeks left? 

Normally, you would work on a 12 week program. But if you’re already doing some runs throughout the week, then you can do your longer runs on the weekend and gradually increase until you can run further than your race distance. For example, if you’re going to do the 10km event, train for 12km. The main thing is that you want to be getting the miles in your legs and training your body to be able to do the distance you choose. 

If you’re already running 10km comfortably, then you could probably push yourself to do the half marathon (21km). Of course, if you already run 20km+, then go for the full! 

For those who are cross trainers, a bit of cycling or swimming on the side, then you could possibly push yourself a bit further because your cardio will be better than if you were only running, but it may not be pretty. 


How can you level up your training?

Do tempo work, so after your warm up, pick a pace which you can hold for between 2 - 4km. Back when I was training, I would do 400m reps 10 or 12 times and just cruise for maybe 20m. You do speed work to judge your pace and being able to correctly judge your pace is the secret to long distance running. 


Do you have any recommendations for training besides running?

Besides tempo work and getting in a long run once a week, a bit of strength training always helps. Specifically looking at your arms and your core, your core is going to help stabilise you and your arms are going to carry your legs. You don’t run without moving your arms, so keep them strong too, you don’t want to be a noodle wobbling all over the place. 


What do most people forget to do before a marathon?

Hydration! Make sure you’ve had enough to drink before you start and take water with you. Before the 70’s you weren’t allowed to take anything with you, now there’s feed stations every 3km, but they can sometimes be dangerous because there’s people everywhere, cups are dropped, liquid spilled, it can get pretty slippery and messy, so I would just avoid where you can and take a little bottle of water

Make sure you also train with nutrition. There’s no point buying gels for the first time the day before, thinking that they’ll be the cure all. They might help you get a bit of a buzz, but if your body isn’t used to it, you’ll get a tummy-ache during the run or be looking for the portaloos pretty soon after you cross the line. 

If you’re going to use electrolytes, make sure you still use water as your main intake. Gels and electrolytes take water from your stomach lining so to avoid the upset stomach, drink water and don’t have electrolytes every time. 

When training, you want your body to become used to taking a gel after about 30 minutes. When you’re doing any exercise, you use your glycogen stores first, then your starches and around the 40 minute mark is when you break into your fat stores. By this time it’s been long enough that your glycogen levels are starting to drop. You’ll feel it: your pace will drop, you’ll start to feel a bit flat and it’s only then that you’ll think of taking a gel. At this point, it’s too late. The gel will take a few kilometres to be absorbed, and you’ll be flat that whole time. 

Know your body, know your pace, know when to eat to avoid going flat. 

What kind of shoe should you use for a marathon?

Aha! Now this is interesting. Rockers are the latest craze in a lot of shoes, they’re designed to make it easier to conserve energy and be propelled forward, but they only work well if you use your forefoot. Think of the On Cloudswift (ideal for the 5km or 10km), Asics Gel-Noosa Tri (for the half to full marathon), and the Saucony Endorphin series is good for anyone who is focussing on speed. 

Carbon plates are only beneficial if you’re running sub 3 minutes/km, and if you’re a heel striker, forget about it, because you land on your heel and then you’re pushing uphill just to get over the plate, so you’re not using the shoe properly. However if you know what you’re doing, take a look at the Saucony Endorphin Pro and On Cloudboom/Echo.

A lot of people say that they’re a forefoot runner, but after 15km, everyone heel-strikes or loses their technique in some way.

If you know that you can run a marathon in less than 3 hours, go with a racer shoe, if you’re going to be over 3 hours, go with a trainer racer. 

Some racers include the On Cloudboom/Cloudboom Echo, Saucony Endorphin Pro, Asics Magic Speed, Asics Hyper Speed, or Altra Escalante Racer for our zero-drop fans. 

For trainers, the Asics GT-2000 is suitable for marathons because it has a flexible forefront, mild stability for those who pronate and good cushioning. Other good trainer shoes include the Asics Glideride, Saucony Triumph, On Cloudsurfer, or the Altra Torin. If you’re a mid pack runner (4.5min/km), then the Saucony Endorphin Speed with a plastic speedboard is a good option. 

The longer you’re on the road, the more cushioning you’ll be wanting. You’re hitting the same surface at the same camber which can lead to damage and overworking the muscles over time.

Come into our store to find the best fit for you, or use our Try 2 of Anything deal to finalise that tricky decision. Good luck with your training!