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Three Roads, One Goal: Andrew Heyes

Embark on a series of interviews with three SOAR Race Team athletes gearing up for the London Marathon this year. Join us as we sit down with Jacob, Mo, and Andy to explore how athletes with diverse backgrounds unite toward a shared objective. From training techniques to aspirations, gain insights into managing elite-level training alongside the everyday commitments of amateur racers.

Our third and final guest is Andy Heyes.

What do you consider your best/favourite race distance and why?

I’d say the 3000m indoor was previously my best race distance. I was British Champion and ran a World Standard in 2018. I also have a silver medal from the British Champs in 2017, and I was British University Champion in the same event. I loved the chaos and compact intensity of racing indoors and felt that the 3000 was probably what I was most suited to. 

Unfortunately, it was a distance I never received a GB&NI vest for despite running qualifications standards. Missing out on selection to the European Champs in 2017 and World Champs in 2018 are two of my greatest frustrations and disappointments in the sport. 

Aside from the indoor 3000, I love the road 5k as a distance. With the growth of Parkrun over the past decade or so, there’s a wider public appreciation for what it is as an event, and it’s become one of the more accessible distances. As for the marathon, it’s the build that I really enjoy. The race is hopefully a culmination of that, but I think it’s important to find enjoyment in the process of preparing, training, and building week after week. Certainly, helps if you just love running a lot.

How has your approach to training evolved over the years?

My approach to training over the years has evolved to fit what I was targeting, where I am fitness-wise, the training environment I’ve been in, who my training partners are, and probably most importantly, what is happening outside of running in ‘normal’ life. 

I’ve run high mileage, low mileage, faster for easy running, super slow for easy running, a lot of elevation to hardly any, and a lot of track work to very little. It would be quite a challenge to distil into a short answer given it has been so varied and I’ve been running for 20 years. 

I suppose what comes to the fore and remains constant is that I’ve always had strong coaches and teammates to learn from. Starting with the most influential, Keith Whitelam at Hallamshire who guided me for so long and instilled consistency and patience when it comes to running. I’ve been lucky to learn from Coach Gulley at Tulsa, Luke Gunn at Birmingham, Steve Vernon in Manchester and now Mara Yamauchi for my move to the marathon. Each has a different approach and I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to develop in different ways under each.

Can you describe how you’ve approached your training block for the London Marathon?

I’ve taken a bit of a different approach to the build for London compared to my previous blocks. This has been the highest mileage I’ve run in preparation for a marathon, and most I’ve been on the track. However, I’ll be honest and say it has been tough given other responsibilities and obligations in my life. I’m always trying to reflect on what has worked well and what might not have. It’s difficult to get away from saying that much of this will be judged on the performance and outcome of London. But what I’ve learnt from previous blocks is that training can go incredibly well, but for one reason or another the resulting performance isn’t quite what one hopes for. I enjoy the process of learning and reflecting on each block, hopefully improving things going to the next.

How do you structure your training week to balance mileage, speed work, and recovery?


In short, two sessions a week, one mid-week long run with some quicker running within in it, and one long run that is normally structured then easy running around all of that. I’ve changed my weekly routine to fit in with when I can access a track. Monday is a session day, normally a tempo or split tempo on trails. Tuesday is mid-week long, running on tired legs. Wednesday is very easy. Thursday track session when I’m in Leeds for work. Friday is easy. Saturday is the long run, and Sunday is very easy. That would be the ideal structure for me, though it often gets thrown out of the window when there’s a race typically on a Sunday.

How do you manage training around work and family life?

It’s very much a work-life running integration rather than a balance. Areas of our lives don’t exist in separation. They will coexist and influence each other, and it is a challenge in all honesty. But I’ve found the marathon slightly easier to manage than say preparing for track. Looking at essentially two marathons a year means you’re only in a focused block for a set amount of time. 

Thankfully I’m incredibly fortunate to have jobs that allow me to have some flexibility and are incredibly supportive of my running. It helps that I’m working as a researcher in sport integrity and anti-doping as well. My wife runs at a high level as well, so we have an appreciation of the challenges of running at our level and working. We support each other in what we both want to achieve and that certainly helps. Our young daughter has been the extra dimension to things in the past few years. She will always come first, and life priorities completely changed when she was born. That probably makes things a little easier, or at least takes the pressure off somewhat. Where once running was the be-all and end-all, now it isn’t.

This is probably the best time to mention the support from SOAR. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and grateful to have the backing of such a brilliant brand that genuinely wants to help athletes who have a bit more going on outside of running. The philosophy of helping athletes who are not full-time professionals is one I’m particularly keen on and it also means I get to train and race in the smartest kit out there. Having that support and belief helps enormously.

What’s the key pre-marathon session?

I’m far more focused on building consistency over weeks and months than on specific key sessions. Though that isn’t particularly glamorous as I’m not putting out that kudos banking massive marathon session. Instead, I’m just running a lot, some of it fast, a lot easy, and yes most is tailored towards marathons. Instead of a key session, it’s the consistency that’s key for me.

I’ve always avoided labelling anything a key pre-marathon session. Yes, there are sessions in the build that will only appear when I’m appearing for a marathon, but I feel labelling anything as a ‘key’ session is slightly dangerous. If the weather is miserable, or you’ve had a tough few days at work, or our daughter is ill or sleeping such that it means I’m not firing on all cylinders, you’re then protected if it doesn’t quite go the way you would ideally like. 

What’s your approach to tapering? How do you handle the taper restlessness and doubt?

I had a three-week taper into Manchester as my debut. This time, I’ve run more miles in the build and I’m looking forward to the taper but this time around it’s probably going to be closer to ten days given I’ve missed a few days through illness or niggles.

As for restlessness and doubt, I try to stay as rational as possible. All sorts of niggles seem to appear in those final weeks, and you then seem to wake up every day worrying that you’re coming down with a cold. It can mess with your mind somewhat but often I find it’s a case of trying one's best to make sensible decisions and just hope that my daughter doesn’t pick up any more illnesses from her nursery.

What are your pre-race rituals
and routines?

I’d say I was far more into rituals earlier in my career. I’ve little time for them now, there’s far too much else to think about and focus on than putting stock in a superstitious ritual. 


Pre-race routine though, I do think that is important. I’ve always had several planned warm-up routines that I know inside out such that surprises are limited on race day. Having a well-practised pre-race routine calms the nerves and allows you to focus on the tasks at hand. I have an ideal warm-up routine, but I’ve also got much shorter routines (Plan B and Plan C) I can comfortably switch to should anything happen on the way to the race that would otherwise rock the boat.

How do you approach pacing and strategy during the marathon?

I’ll likely make a judgement on pacing and strategy in the final two weeks. A couple of sessions will guide me on this. I’m a big fan of 3*5k a couple of weeks out, running the first 5k at above roughly what I think marathon pace might be, the 2nd at marathon pace, and the 3rd slightly quicker. I’ll then reflect on and refine that.

We may be somewhat dictated by what pace groups there are in London as to what the strategy is. But hopefully, there should be a decent few of us looking to run similar times such that we can at least make it to halfway or 20 miles sharing the work and having a bit of company. From a logistical point of view, I’ll have my splits written down on my arm to ensure I can have a rough time check every 5k or so. Watch splits aren’t always perfect in built-up cities, so I feel it’s better to have that extra information. I need to have them on my arm as mental arithmetic is the last thing I want to be doing deep into a marathon.

How do you handle nutrition and hydration during long training runs and on race day? Do you have any specific fuelling strategies that you find particularly effective for marathon distance?

Practice. Right from the start of the build, practice taking on drinks if you have access to drinks or practice taking on gels if you’re using gels. I’ve found it important to get used to what it feels like to take fluid or gels on during a run and at marathon pace.

As for specific fuelling strategies. I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to a nutritionist as part of the Leeds Talent Hub, and one of my colleagues at Leeds Beckett is also a brilliant nutritionist (and marathon runner) so I’ve had a couple of conversations with them about optimum strategies. 

We normally will have access to drinks every 5k and I’ll carry a gel just in case I miss a bottle. My previous strategies have involved taking on around 60 to 80g of carbohydrates per hour. I take caffeine on before the race but not during as I don’t particularly get on with caffeine gels. 

Reflecting on past marathons, what have been some of the most valuable lessons you've learned about training, racing, and preparing for the 26.2-mile distance?

Each build has been different and you’re continuously learning. The external environment and pressures have been different for each. Work often varies; family life is constantly changing as our daughter grows up, and the physiological requirements for each build can be drastically different. I’ve started some marathon blocks in really good shape already, while I’ve started off the back of a few weeks off due to where they’ve landed in the calendar. Some I’ve been very laid back about, while others I’ve been slightly on edge the entire way through. 

It was certainly slightly easier having a summer build-up for the European Championships than a winter build-up for Manchester or London. So, I would be keen to race an autumn marathon soon. I still feel very new to the event and rely a lot on my coach Mara Yamauchi for her knowledge and experience to guide me, particularly on how to manage the race itself.

What’s your target time?

Firstly, a good experience would be nice. Then I wouldn’t grumble too much if I ticked off a PB. But ideally, the Hallamshire Club Record of 2:12:37 would be the goal. Quicker than that is a bonus.

What’s the perfect post-marathon munch?

Pizza. Don’t want to see Maurten or gels for a long time after. 

Post London what is your next challenge?

I’ve not quite decided yet. There are a few races I have pencilled in, but as for the next challenge, I’ll likely take some time post-London to chill out and then decide what I want to target.