5 Key Marathon Sessions with 2:14 Marathoner Thomas Do Canto

Thomas Do Canto has been a familiar face on the Australian road running scene for more than a decade, but only recently has he taken the plunge into marathon running.


After winning the Melbourne Marathon on debut in 2016, Tom ran a breakthrough marathon at the 2017 Fukuoka Marathon where he worked his way through the field to finish in 2:14.59. Despite some untimely sickness and increased family commitments in 2018 with the birth of his second child, Tom is looking forward to a busy year of racing in 2019.


The Long Run caught up with Tom to find out which key marathon workouts he’ll be doing in the lead up to his next race.


1. 5 x 2km Repeats

Elite Marathon Session- 2km Repeats


I’ve been doing this session since about 2006 when I was coached by Phil Moore. Probably the most memorable instance of this session was also the same year on a trip to Canberra to train with Marty Dent, Philo Saunders, Erwin McRae and the rest of the Canberra group. I was 20 and completely out of my depth against much more accomplished runners but managed to hold on for the majority of the session. It was a good lesson in how hard those guys work to get to where they are.


The session is a great chance to get some faster, sustained running in. If I’m going well, the pace that I can hold for the 2km reps should be at 10km pace or slightly faster. It’s a long session and a lot of laps so it takes a fair bit of patience and concentration to get keep the reps even. I like to do this session a few weeks out from a 10km or Half Marathon – I get a lot of confidence from being able to hold a solid pace for 10km of running.


In recent years, I’ve done a similar session with Run Crew where we will do 3x650m grass loop (roughly 1950m total) with a 90sec-2min recovery between. It’s become a staple session in winter and one that I really look forward to, particularly when I can work with guys like Matt Hudson and Matt Cox – it definitely makes it a lot more enjoyable.


Session: 5x2km (90sec – 2min recovery between reps)



2. Long Run (20-25min Tempo at the end)

Elite Marathon Session- Long Run


The long run is my favourite session of the week. It’s also my most consistent, even in an interrupted week I will always get out for a long run on Sunday. I enjoy doing the quicker threshold stuff, but for me, nothing is more rewarding than slogging it out on the street for a couple of hours and being home in time to get breakfast with my family.


There are different variations of the Long Run that I’ll do depending on the time of year and training phase that I am in. Generally, long runs will range from 2 to 2.30 hours with pace dependant on how hard I have run for the rest of the week. In a week where I haven’t done any (or only one session) then I tend to do long runs a bit harder to make up for it.


My favourite Long Run 2.30 hours with the last 20-25 minutes at marathon pace. I will usually average around 4-minute kilometre pace for the first 2 hours of the run and, all being well, work my way down to marathon pace towards the end. The key for this session is feeling within yourself for the first part of the run and staying hydrated throughout.


Session: 2.30 hour long run with the last 20-25-minutes at marathon pace.


3. Mona Fartlek

Elite Marathon Session- Fartlek


Mona Fartlek is a staple of the Australian distance runner diet. Named after Australian marathon legend Steve Moneghetti, the session has become a rite of passage and a universally comparable session for Australian distance runners. It’s a good gauge of fitness- there’s no hiding.


The session only takes 20-minutes to complete, which means that with a warm up and cool down, you can be done in less than an hour – a great option for all the working runners. The beauty of Mona Fartlek is that it can be tailored to suit your training phase and your event. If you’re preparing for middle distance, you can place more emphasis on the hard sections and take a slower recovery between.


For long distance runners, Mona fartlek is a great alternative to a standard 20-minute tempo. The overall distance covered will be similar to that of a 20-minute tempo, but the perceived effort is much higher.


Session: 2 x 90sec, 4x60sec, 4x30sec, 4x15sec (1:1 work to recovery). For most runners, there is a temptation to measure the overall success of the session by the total distance traveled. But remember, this isn’t a 20-minute tempo, make sure you’re increasing the pace on the reps – not just effort.


4. 8x80m Hill Sprints

Elite Marathon Session- hill sprints


8x80m Hill Sprints isn’t really a typical ‘marathon workout’, but for someone who isn’t naturally fast and does the majority of running at marathon pace or slower, it’s a really important one. I’ll typically do this session twice a week (or as often as I can manage) at the end of easy runs.


Find a hill (road or grass is fine) that is somewhere between 10-12% gradient. The goal of the session isn’t to get tired, it’s simply to get your legs ticking over faster up a steady incline. Recovery needs to be sufficient to allow all of the reps to be completed at roughly the same pace and the same effort. For me, that means walk back recovery in between sprints.


Hill sprints are great for neuromuscular fitness, they give you the opportunity to work at near maximum levels and challenge the nervous system to activate a large number of motor units to generate high force. Focus on keeping your stride length consistent – if you’re losing form towards the top of the hill then you’re going a bit too quick.


Session: 8x80m hill sprints at the end of easy/recovery runs


5. 16km Tempo Run

Elite Marathon Session- Tempo Run


16km Tempo is a great gauge of fitness and can be done a number of different ways depending on where you are in the marathon cycle. Early in the marathon cycle, I’ll do the tempo as more of a progressive run where the emphasis is on hitting the last 20-minutes at marathon pace or quicker. I’ll use the first part of the run as a warm up and then work my way into it. It’s one of those sessions that you can do on a flat or an undulating course and you’ll get a different, but equally beneficial training effect out of it.


I started doing this session in 2015 with English marathoner Ben Moreau when he was living in Sydney and have continued to do it with Run Crew since then. We’ll do a typical 3-4km warm-up, drills, strides and then complete the session around the white fence in Centennial Park.


It’s roughly 50-minutes of steady running which gets more difficult each lap. I really enjoy this session because, when done in a group, it gives you a good sense of how that pace is going to feel on race day. If I can do the session at somewhere between half marathon and marathon pace then I know that I am in good shape.


Session: 16km Tempo run at Half Marathon to Marathon Effort. Complete the session on a flat or undulating course depending for a varied training effect.


Tom is a Podiatrist in North Sydney balancing full-time work with the commitments of a growing family. He plans to run his next marathon in early 2019.