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Kathy Stringer

Long Distance running, Duathlete, Triathlete

We sat down with Kathy Stringer, a British Duathlete, to delve into her upcoming marathon training, the hurdles she's faced with a persistent knee injury, and the invaluable insights she has to offer on preparing for your next race.

What inspired you to do a marathon?

As an athlete, I’m always looking for the next challenge or goal..and as a dedicated runner, this typically involves trying to improve either my speed at a specific distance or my ability to cover greater mileage. After completing various half marathons, it left me wondering what my potential would be at a marathon distance so I decided it was time to give it a go.

Which marathon are you training for?

London! The London Marathon has long been a coveted item on my bucket list, a race I've admired and wanted to participate in after years of watching it on TV and standing on the sidelines for friends and family. 

Having been unsuccessful in the ballot for 13 consecutive years, my patience ran out and I decided to pursue an alternative route and enter the Amsterdam Marathon last year, with the aim to achieve a 'good for age' time that would qualify me for London 2024. Fortunately, I succeeded in my mission and secured a spot for this year’s event!

Can you share some specific challenges you've faced while training for a marathon?

At the beginning of last year I somehow developed a knee injury whilst training for a big multi-sport event. I managed to control it in the lead up to the event by doing lots of cross-training, but once it was all over and I focussed solely on running, the injury gradually got worse. At first I was able to run 10-15km before I felt anything, but as the weeks went by, the distance shortened to approximately 3km before I was in absolute agony and forced to stop.  

I had to take a large chunk of time off from running whilst I had physio, and to let my body recover and heal - not the most ideal preparation before beginning marathon training! I’m just going to add in here that I’ve also had a history of Plantar Fasciitis which flares up when wearing certain race trainers (carbon-plated ones) and this was another factor for taking some rest at this point…

In short, my biggest challenges have been:

• Coming back to a high volume of running training after a long period off

• Preventing the knee injury from repeating

• Managing my Plantar Fasciitis and hoping it doesn’t flare up

What modifications or adjustments have you made in training to overcome these challenges?

Gradually increased my mileage • Due to having a larger 'off-season' than normal, I decided to take on a ‘marathon baseline’ training plan before jumping straight into a full marathon plan. The idea of a baseline plan is that it gradually increases the distances you’re running each week to get your body used to the volume of miles required for marathon training. I was worried to begin with and wasn’t sure how my knee was going to cope but luckily it recovered well and strengthened over time as the mileage increased.

Changed my trainers • I discovered TrueMotion about half way into my baseline plan. It seemed like a great time to switch from my old pair and test them out whilst I was still only on the shorter runs. I fell in love with their magical U-TECH technology which meant that my knees were finally aligning properly whilst I ran. (Traditional running shoes can cause your knees to tilt in an unnatural way, whereas the U-TECH technology in TrueMotion trainers keeps them aligned whilst still providing plenty of cushioning!) This has been a game-changer for me - since switching, I haven't had even the slightest of knee niggles! The trainers also strengthen your feet which has indirectly helped with my PF too.

Put more emphasis on recovery • A higher volume of training has meant my body is being put under a lot more stress and therefore needs better recovery. I've been doing a lot more stretching, foam rolling and muscle compression after runs to help my muscles recover quickly.

Could you share any tips or advice for fellow athletes dealing with similar knee issues while training for events like marathons?

• Ensure you have a good pair of trainers that aren't causing you injury. People love running because it's an affordable sport from the perspective of not needing a lot of kit, however if there's one thing you do need to invest in, it's your trainers.

• Be consistent with your strength and conditioning and include specific exercises that will benefit your running, such as weighted lunges, reverse lunges, squats, calf raises and single-leg RDLs. (If any of these exercises cause your knee to flare up, see a physio)

 • Do a thorough warm-up before any sort of speed session i.e. interval / tempo run. I tend to do a 2-3km gentle jog before completing 5 minutes of drills.

• Take up yoga or pilates and do one class a week around your training. They help with your strength, flexibility and balance which are all SO important for your knees and the surrounding tendons and muscles. 

Photography by - @welshy.d