Debut Marathon adventure – the first week of training
In last week’s blog post, I explained how I’d decided to commit to training for a marathon. In three weeks. In this week’s post, I talk through my training plans and the first of those three weeks of training.
T minus day 1: The day before I had decided to commit to training for and running a marathon, I’d done my local parkrun (Long Eaton parkrun, at West Park), jogging there and back too (amounting to 10k in total). My parkrun time was 18:21 and it had felt hard (my PB is 17:04), with little power in my legs. Looking back now, it makes me wonder how I managed to put this run to one side within 24 hours to commit to running more than 7 parkruns in one go after how I’d felt in this 5k…
The first week of marathon training:
On the Sunday, 30th April, I went for a morning run with my partner. Prior to this run, I’d spent a lot of time researching dates of marathons and was working out which one to enter. Later on that day, I took the plunge and entered the Worcester Marathon on 21st May. In the aftermath of receiving the confirmation email of my place, a surge of adrenalin hit me, panic set in and before working out my training plan, I decided to see if I could at least run a half marathon right now.
I resolved in my mind that if I could do a half marathon on demand, then three weeks of hard work and training should help me to go the full marathon distance. I ran this half marathon in 1:35. You can see it here: https://www.strava.com/activities/965147007
Whilst I tracked and uploaded all my runs using Strava, I kept all my marathon-specific training runs private and instead, just shared the details with my partner and also with my great friend, Dave.
It was at this point, at the end of the half marathon when I felt tired and started to realise what punishment I’d let myself in for, that I knew I would have to think seriously about fuelling strategies for my increasingly longer runs. I was perspiring a lot and when I initially stopped running and started my stretching, I got that familiar light-headedness I always associate with the beginning of a tough period of training. This was going to be the toughest training programme I’d ever done.
After spending a lot of time researching fuelling strategies and reading endless articles about the dangers of not training properly for a marathon, injury horror stories and an overwhelmingly negative and pessimistic internet on the subject, I decided to pull myself away from it all and focus on what I felt would work and how I would plan my training programme.
I decided that I needed to do a lot of mileage in the next two weeks, and then have a mostly restful final third week. I also decided I needed to ensure I ran regularly during the week, with my long runs taking place at the weekends.
So, my routine was going to be this:
Run hard on a Tuesday and a Thursday focusing on my target marathon speed over half-marathon distances and then do a long run on a Sunday for the next two weeks. Then, just a hard run on Tuesday leading up to the marathon on the Sunday. This means I trained for a marathon doing 8 runs.
I should also say that I did go to the gym occasionally during this time too, lifting weights and doing strength work, although less than I had been doing, as I wanted to be as light as sensibly possible for the marathon. It is a huge, monumental effort anyway. I don’t want to be carrying excess weight around 42.4km with me!
Day 2, Monday 1st May: REST
Day 3, Tuesday 2nd May: I had read one article that suggested that whilst the long steady runs are great for endurance, you also need to inject some pace in shorter runs too, not least to help you work out what speed you might be able to maintain for the marathon distance. Given that my target was 3:04:59 or better to qualify for the London Marathon, I worked out that if I aimed for 4:17/km pace then this would give me a finish time of 3:00:36. Whilst getting under 3 hours would be the icing on the cake, I wanted to plan to need every second possible. Aiming for this pace would give me the buffer I imagined I might need as I tired towards the end of the marathon (which I was fully expecting I would). With this in mind, today’s run was 4 x 5k efforts, aiming to run at 4:17/km pace or as close to it as I could.
I knew I’d be running these reps quite hard and I wanted to ensure I completed them, so I decided to use my lightweight Saucony Virrata running shoes for this session.
1st rep: 21:12, 4:13/km average pace. https://www.strava.com/activities/968188287
2nd rep: 21:12, 4:14/km average pace (same as above, but Strava says slightly different!) https://www.strava.com/activities/968188289
3rd rep: 21:21, 4:15/km average pace. https://www.strava.com/activities/968188309
4th rep: 21:30, 4:17/km average pace. https://www.strava.com/activities/968188296
I was really pleased with my final 5k effort. This was a tough session and I had chosen a mentally difficult route of using the same loop for my second and third reps, with the last effort a time trial run home.
I had also invested in some High 5 energy gels and used them for the first time in this speed session. I decided that for today, I would just have one after each 5k rep as I recovered, as the advice I read suggested that one gel every 20 minutes is as much as the body can process in one hour anyway (60g of carbohydrates every 60 minutes). I would later find out more of the science behind this, but that’s for a future blog series on my running trials at Loughborough University.
Day 4, Wednesday 3rd May: REST, SWEEEEEEET REST!
Day 5, Thursday 4th May: Today’s run was a 10 mile time trial, trying to keep at marathon pace for 10 miles, tuning my body in to the pace I wanted to run at for the marathon. I felt quite fresh heading in to this despite Tuesday’s efforts and managed to average 4:18/km for the 10 miles (or 16km). Despite running into a headwind for the first 8k, my halfway time was bang on, meaning I must have tired in the second half as I was running with a tailwind back home. https://www.strava.com/activities/971221482
For this run, I used my Skechers Sonic Go Run trainers. At present, I was undecided as to which pair of trainers I would use for the race day; Skechers, or my Saucony Kinvaras. Both have more cushioning than my Saucony Virratas and I was starting to see that although I like wearing shoes without too much cushioning, the marathon was going to demand I made some changes to adapt. I wanted to make sure I could cope as well as possible with being on my feet for so long. I’d also read that it is not a good idea to train solely in one pair of trainers when training for a marathon as this can have an adverse effect on your feet. Changing it up seemed to be the best way to ensure my feet didn’t get lazy.
Day 6, Friday 5th May: REST
Day 7, Saturday 6th May: REST
Day 8, Sunday 7th May: I had been mentally preparing for this day. If it didn’t go well, I could imagine how crushing a blow it would be with only two more weeks to race day. Now that I’d achieved a half marathon a week before, I wanted to increase my longer runs as follows. Today: 30km, then next Sunday 38km, then the full 42.4km on race day.
The main reason I work in kilometres is mostly because I find it an easier unit to work in. I also like that I get feedback from my Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch (the link takes you to the latest model, the 235) more quickly by using this unit of measurement.
One thing I really loved about my marathon training was the freedom it gave me to explore further afield. Take today’s run for example. I decided to hit the canal path and see how far I got. I managed to get halfway between Langley Mill and Cotmanhay from Toton and saw a lot of the canal I’d never seen before. It is so picturesque too, so this really helped when I was feeling tired and during my low points.
The two main foci for today’s run were to reach 30k and to run for 2 hours and 20 minutes if possible. The reason for these numbers? From 21.2 km to 42.4km, means I needed to step up the distance considerably for each of the two long runs before the marathon. I also wanted to consider time on my feet too. If I could run for 2 hours 20 this week, knowing I had done 1:35 the week before (45 minutes more running time), then I could attempt to be on my feet for 3 hours in my final long run a week before race day (a further 40 minutes running time).
I was really pleased and relieved with the fact that I achieved both 30k (in a best time ever of 2:22) and that I ran for 2 hours and 24 minutes. My legs felt like they were aching to the bones towards the end of this run and I really enjoyed sitting down when I got home, after the all-important stretch out first.
The run can be found here: https://www.strava.com/activities/975608163
For once, I wasn’t too worried about the pace I ran at (average pace of 4:42/km). I know that I tend to race faster naturally and for now, my goals were distance and time focused. The speed I will work on in mid-week sessions and hope that I do enough of endurance and speed work for things to come together perfectly on race day.
It’s after runs like these that water and a protein shake are the best things in the world. I’ve never tasted such amazing water as after a really long run!
First week of training done and it’s looking positive so far. I believe I slept well this night!
Have you ever trained for a marathon? How did you approach your training regime for it?
Bonus: If you’re interested in running shoes and are unsure about the decision-making process, perhaps my YouTube video which explains my purchasing decisions for my existing range of running shoes might be helpful for you?