How they train: Clara Evans – AW

    The Welsh marathon record-holder outlines her routine and talks about building performance, yet keeping a relaxed outlook

    Every athlete’s race preparation is unique, based on their personality, practicalities and superstitions. For some, it’s simply laying out their kit. For others it’s studying spreadsheet data, documenting race splits and deliberating potential ‘what ifs?’ For Clara Evans – and for the Valencia Marathon in December specifically – it was a case of figuring out a more approximate plan of action.

    “What pace do I need to run to hit 73 minutes at halfway,” she asked her partner the night before the race. “He said: ‘It’s this pace per mile’ and I was like, ‘Okay, so that’s kind of what I need to do’.”

    Fortunately, the 30-year-old Cardiff-based athlete – who finished ninth in the 2022 Commonwealth Games marathon – is not one to sweat the small stuff.

    Having admittedly struggled in the latter stages of the Seville Marathon earlier in the year where she ran 2:29:24 (a personal best at the time), Evans made tweaks to her Valencia build-up to focus on a strong period of running from 30km to the finish. Her 35km-40km split turned out to be the quickest of her race, testament to the hard work put in with coach Chris Jones.

    She ultimately ran a significant lifetime best and Welsh record of 2:25:01 to secure the Olympic Games qualifying standard and go seventh on the British all-time list. “I’ve not really thought about it too much, but when I do, I’m like: ‘Did I actually run that time?’” she says.

    The vast contrast between her life as an athlete and her full-time ‘day’ job as a transport planner goes some way to explaining her laid-back approach. “When you go back to work it brings you back down to earth pretty quickly,” she laughs. “I only have a small team of five… they ask questions, but they don’t really care, it’s more out of politeness.”

    Evans isn’t new to running; she has clocked up many miles (and solid performances) across road, track, cross country and fell over the last decade, but linking up with Jones in late 2018 was a
    game-changer in terms of performance, over the longer distances in particular.

    Clara Evans (right)

    In addition to substantially lowering her marathon best in Valencia, her half-marathon best – 74:13 when they first started working together – now stands at 70:17 (Berlin 2022). She has represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the World Half Marathon Championships, then the World Road Running Championships (again in the half marathon), finishing 22nd in Riga in October last year.

    Now in the company of an incredible group of British female marathon runners vying for Paris selection, the Pontypridd Roadents athlete could be forgiven for moving the dial on pressure, but she remains totally relaxed.

    “I don’t really get stressed out, to be honest,” she says. “I do want to achieve more, but if I retire tomorrow I’m more than happy with what I’ve done. If you’re always chasing you’ll never get better. I’m not chasing, I just think what will happen will happen; if I improve, I improve, and if I don’t, I don’t. I’ve got my health, I’ve got my partner, we’ve got our house, our dog, I’ve got my job, I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted in my life and more and you’re just greedy if you’re chasing [for more].

    “If I make the Olympic team or the European team [for Rome in early June] I’ll be really happy, and if I don’t there will be other opportunities. I’m healthy and happy and I think there are a lot of athletes who maybe aren’t. I think that’s more important than anything else.”

    READ MORE: How they train series

    Evans trains predominantly in Cardiff but spends periods of time at altitude in Font-Romeu, where she owns an apartment. She incorporates two gym sessions (comprising five key exercises) into her overall weekly programme and does “a little bit” of core work daily.

    Her peak mileage week in the build-up to Valencia Marathon totalled around 112.

    Sam Harrison, Calli Thackery, Clara Evans, Abbie Donnelly (British Athletics)

    Monday: (am) 7-10 miles; (pm) 5 miles. Both runs are done at an easy pace (heart rate of <150 bpm). “I like to get the long one done in the morning but generally it doesn’t happen because of work, so I tend to do the shorter one. I just see how it goes,” says Evans. The second run might be followed by strides, such as 5-6 x 20 seconds.

    Tuesday: (am) shorter session such as 400m, 800m or kilometre reps totalling 8-10 miles of work including warm-up and cool down; (pm) either 5 miles easy or 5 miles build/progressive run. “Not crazy fast, I’d maybe start at 7:30min/mile pace and probably finish between 5:50-6:00min/mile pace. It’s just to turn the legs over in the evening.”

    Wednesday: 10-13 miles (to heart rate as above).

    Thursday: as Monday.

    Friday: marathon session – for example,
    18-19 miles (about 30km) with 15km at slower than marathon pace – 10km at marathon pace – 5km at half marathon pace, or a 10-mile tempo slower than marathon pace then 15 x 1km at half marathon pace, or 3-4 x 4 miles.

    Saturday: 5 miles easy.

    Sunday: “If I did the 10 miles/15 x 1km session on the Friday then I’d do my long run on Sunday (18-22 miles). If I’d done the 30km then that would double up as my session/longer run and I’d do up to 13 miles easy on the Sunday.”

    Favourite session

    “I actually love the long marathon sessions like the 30km.”

    Least favourite session

    “Probably 600m or 800m reps.”

    » This article first appeared in the January issue of AW magazine, which you can buy here

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