12 things I learned from training for a marathon in three weeks!
I know. It was a daft thing to do in the first place. However, you can read the first part of my blog series about my marathon adventure here.
There were 12 main things that I learned by training for a marathon.
- Training and resting are equally important. I really savoured my rest days, enjoying the fact that they were genuinely serving a purpose and that they were honestly earned.
- Practising race day essentials is, well, essential. My long runs were always run in race day conditions. I.e. I ran them at a similar time of day to the race day marathon start time, I used the same hydration and fuelling discipline and where possible, ran in the same kit that I would be using on race day.
- Get your hydration right! Having just watched the Breaking2 television documentary about the Nike attempt to break the sub-2 hour marathon barrier, I was absolutely shocked by Zersenay Tadese’s admission that of his previous 5 marathons (3 of which he failed to finish), he’d never had anything to drink during the marathon. I thought that this was a given; that everyone, let alone an elite Olympic-medal-winning, Half-marathon-running legend, knew that it was essential to replace fluids lost on a distance as far as the marathon!
- You need fuel as well as water. It was clear to me at least, that with burning off all of this energy with the effort of running so far, I needed to try my best to replace this loss with as much energy as my body could take, whilst still running hard. I chose High5 Raspberry energy gels and thankfully, my body approved of them! I planned to take a gel every 15-20 minutes throughout the race. Therefore, I was going to take 9 gels. 8 to use every 20 minutes, with a spare one just in case I had a tough moment in the race and needed a bit of an extra boost. Fuelling is something I’ve learned a lot about recently. In a blog article coming soon, I will go into more detail about this!
- Your mind is equally as important as your body. In my long runs, in my tempo repetitions and during the race itself, I had so many dark moments; times when I could have just stopped running and walked instead. Times when I had to snap myself out of settling for ever decreasing expectations that my mind would conjure up as solutions for my suffering or vulnerability. A weak, or progressively weaker body can find these suggestions increasingly appealing as the mind attempts to bend the body to its will. Mental strength is important and can be learned!
- Accountability is a powerful tool. Having a sense of accountability can really help you to go out for that training run when it would be easy to stay in. For this, I chose two people close to me. If I’d wanted more people to know what I was doing, I would have told them. As it was such a crazy idea, I didn’t want to keep explaining myself to people. I wanted the support from my ‘inner circle’ and the freedom to get on with my training without undue scrutiny.
- Not everyone else will live and breathe your marathon journey! Not even your nearest and dearest. Remember that you are more than just someone training for a race. Don’t bore everyone else to death with your endless calculations, article reading and plans for future running sessions. Keep some of that planning to yourself!
- Train hard – it will make the race easier. Like the t-shirt on my running merchandise page, ‘train hard…race easy’ is a great saying to remember when you’re finding a training run difficult.
- Tracking my efforts really helped me to see the progress I was making. This helped to spur me on, especially when you feel like a run didn’t go so well. I use Strava and I really do like this app, my social network on it and the positive accountability it provides. Reflecting on your running is something I am planning to talk about in a future blog post.
- Respect the distance! Running a marathon off the back of three weeks of training can be done, as I’ve proven. However, it won’t give you the best time you’re capable of and won’t give you the insurance of knowing that you’ve trained your body well enough to prepare for 26.2 miles. You can read my race day account here.
- You need to eat sufficiently! It might be difficult to get the calories in that you need in order to ensure you don’t lose weight dramatically. Your diet can play a massive part in benefiting your running, so choose what to eat wisely! I also make use of Whey Matrix protein milkshakes as they not only help me avoid losing too much weight, but they help my muscles to recover well too. Avoid processed foods and excessive sugars – use a marathon as a great way to up your game in eating healthily!
- Run with others who have a similar goal / speed. I couldn’t do this as I’d decided to keep my effort under wraps until I’d done it. Running with others at the right pace for you can play a massive role in helping you to achieve the results you want. If you can find someone with a similar goal for a forthcoming event to train with, that is ideal!
So, what would I do differently next time?
- I would extend the training period dramatically. I would aim to give myself 16 – 20 weeks to train for my next marathon to allow my body to acclimatise more gradually to the mileage demands. I am certain that this longer period of training will lead to a faster time. I can’t wait to realise my goal to run a sub-three hour marathon!
- I would publicise my race far more widely. I would be doing a more traditional training plan and would feel comfortable telling more people about it.
- I would schedule in a few shorter races (10 milers, Half Marathons) to practice my marathon race pace and preparation.
- I would co-ordinate my running so that more of it was more sociable. Running with others is such a great thing to do and miles fly by far quicker when you run with others. I would include a run to and from running club runs to build mileage realistically. I would also seriously consider taking up run-commuting again.
- I would choose a more high-profile and flatter marathon. I really enjoyed the Worcester Marathon, but I want to run a big-city marathon next and savour the energy and encouragement of the crowds, like I enjoy watching on the Virgin Money London Marathon or the Great North Run events.
What have you learned from running a marathon? What would you do differently next time? I’d love to hear from you!
Look out for a new Runner Profile coming on Wednesday!