Why marathons are made for older women

The first four women to cross the finish line of the 2009 New York City Marathon were all enviably fit and fast, as one would expect. But perhaps more surprisingly, all four runners – Derartu Tulu, Lyudmila Petrova, Christelle Daunay and Paula Radcliffe – were in their mid-thirties or early forties. Their achievement followed on the heels of another relative old-timer, Constantina Dita, who was 38 when she took gold at Beijing in the women’s marathon. So why are older women so good at going the distance? Sam Murphy finds out...

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How to train for the marathon

If you are gearing up for a spring marathon, Sam Murphy tells you what you need to know - and do - now...

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Dare to bare: the truth about barefoot running

The barefoot movement is gathering pace, promising closer connection to the terrain and our evolutionary heritage. But is the key to better running really what you wear – or don’t wear – on your feet? Sam Murphy sets out to find the truth about barefoot running. First stop, the New York City barefoot race...

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Can you get fit in five minutes?

HIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a big thing in fitness right now, but can the possibility of less pain (and time) really equal more gain? Sam Murphy investigates.

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Running away from depression

A BMJ study made headlines recently when it downplayed the link between regular exercise and improved mental health. But 90% of women at a running club in Kent would disagree. Sam Murphy put on her trainers to find out why...

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The Urban Runner's Survival Guide

Everything you need to know to minimise the hazards and maximise the benefits of your city runs.

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The lowdown on sports massage

Last April, a 21-miler left a band of exquisite tenderness along my inner calf. I rested and iced for five days, but the pain lingered until my next sports massage. Agonising as it was, the treatment eliminated the problem completely and I ran a half marathon PB a week later. So it won't surprise you to hear that I'm a keen proponent. And I'm not alone. Look to the elites and you'll struggle to find anyone who doesn't consider massage crucial. "Massage is an essential part of my training programme," says RW's triple Olympian contributing editor Jo Pavey. "It's important for both performance and recovery." Mo Farah also gets rubbed the right way: "I get massaged by the physio all the time, it's so important when you've put you body through hard work." But massage has had some – excuse the pun – bad press recently. Last year, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that pre-event massage had no effect on running performance, while research from Queens University in Canada found massage actually slowed lactic acid removal from muscles post-exercise. Which leaves a few questions to be answered if you're going to get the results you're after. I set out to answer them...

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Child's play: running for kids

Running, whether it's a zigzagging meander or a breathless sprint, comes naturally to children. But if we want it to become something more than a playful pastime (and ensure it doesn't get usurped by video games, where the only working muscles are in the thumbs), how do we best encourage kids to run without taking away the simple joy of it?

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'And for my next challenge...' Swimming the Thames

You may not consider the Thames - busy with boats, murky in colour and home to more than the odd abandoned shopping trolley - to be the best place to take a wild swim, but I was willing to be shown otherwise by the author of a new guidebook to swimming the mighty river. Read on to find out how we fared when we went gently down the stream...

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'And for my next challenge...' Dunwich Dynamo

'And for my next challenge...' is a series of articles describing various physical endeavours I've put myself through all in the name of training, and a good story. This piece is about the legendary Dunwich Dynamo - a unique night-time 116 mile bike ride from east London to the Suffolk coast. Find out how I fared...

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