My marathon experience: Part 2
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
If you're coming to this blind, I suggest you read part 1 just to get some background. This piece will cover the whole traning process, and then I'll finish with a part 3 which will cover race day and the aftermath.
Now, let's get into it!
At the moment I'm feeling alright. I'm covering 23 miles this week, split over four runs (Tue = 4 miles, Thu = 4 miles, Sat = 12 miles, Sun = 3 miles)
I've been mixing this between runs on the treadmill, and out in the fresh air. This is more for the weather element if anything, sometimes I'm just not the mood to get drenched after a day at work. Or even worse, when the wind is so strong you actually get pushed backwards and can't hear your headphones!
I'm also doing a technique now of running for nine minutes, and walking for one minute. A friend of a friend did this for a marathon and raved about it, and I have to say I'm loving it. It means you have lots of little aims rather than looking at the big picture of what's ahead, which makes it much more manageable, and actually increases my pace overall.
I'm going to need to get looking into electrolyt gels soon though, and taking water with me on the longer trianing runs. Someone told me your body can get to 13 miles with nothing, but after that you need things with you to get to the finish line.*
I also splashed out on a new pair of trainers the other day - Hokas. Never had them before, but I went to a running shop where they analyse your run and then work out what shoes you need. It was something I'd definitely do again! No extra cost, and the trainers were £120 which was within my budget.
*When I started looking into this I got VERY OVERWHELMED. There is so much out there about what you should eat/drink in preparation for the race, what you should take with you and how often you should be taking gels and drinking. After researching and some helpful advice from a Facebook running group, I settled on Torq gels every hour, and drinking water frequently.
Well this was...a day. It was hot, it was hilly, and my wave didn't set off until 12.15pm due to the number of events they had on that day. Despite these challenging factors, I got a new PB! My previous HM distance time was 2hr34mins. On the day I was aiming for 2hr30mins and I actually finished in 2hr29mins so I was very chuffed!
It was a 10.5k route that we had to do twice and I really couldn't get into this race like I wanted to. I kept my pace and everything, but I just didn't get into the swing of things until the end of the first lap. I was finding it difficult, I wasn't enjoying it, and I was wondering how I'd ever do a marathon.
Despite these niggling thoughts, I got into it in the second lap and my training kicked in. I had my parents there to support me, and I even managed a sprint finish.
At the time I was worried that I'd found that race as hard as I did. But now, a few days later I can look back on it and be happy. Yes my time and pace were fine, but it was how I found the race that worried me. However, I've now reminded myself about the differences that will be in place for the marathon:
It's October so we're not going to be running in that level of heat
It's much flatter
I won't be setting off at 12.15pm
The timings threw me that day because I'm used to getting up early, having breakfast and then starting my long training run ay 8am. This was midday so I had breakfast and then just managed to have a snack around 11pm. So not only did the times mean I was running in the heat of the day, but I was also running on a couple of snacks rather than a substantial meal.
All in all, I'm happy with how it went and it got me buzzing for the marathon. I've still got a long way to go, but I'm about to enter month eight out of 10 in terms of training so the end is in sight. I've just got to build my long run up from 14 to 20 and then I'm there. Bring it on.
I had some physio in June when I started to get a bit of knee pain. It wasn't too bad, but seeing the physio put my mind at ease as she taped me up, recommended a better knee support to what I was prevsiouly using, and exercises to avoid the pain. Last year I had pain on the same knee but in a different place, so ever since then I've been sticking to flat routes as hills cause it to flare up, and I wear knee supports on any runs more than five miles long.
As I write this I've just got back from a 16-mile run. The training plan I'm on (which you can see here) has had to be played around with a bit so that I can fit in all the runs I need. So I ran the 16-miler on August 20, I've got the 18-miler on August 29, and then the big 20-miler is on September 25, leaving me three weeks to wind down with the distance and re-charge before the race on October 17.
It's scary how close it is now - eight weeks. I've got hooked on watching marathon vlogs on YouTube and found myself welling up watching them. I just know I'm going to cry over that finish line and although I've loved training, that feeling of finishing will be amazing.
Something I underestimated - the time taken to train. It sounds so obvious but the smaller >7-mile runs through the week are fine to fit in, it's the big rus at the weekend when you need to really factor the time in so that you don't miss it. Weekends visiting friends, in new places, on weekend shifts, or just general plans can get in the way and when you're into the long runs that take a good few hours out of your weekend, it's a bit of an operation to make sure you complete your training every week. I worked this out as things started to get busier post-lockdown so I made a table to map out every week until the race to make sure I could fit everything in.
Back to the 16-miler. It went well, I'm aching now quite a bit, but it was only in the last two miles I started to feel like I was getting tired, until then it was all fine. One thing I'm not getting on with is gels. I've tried a few types now and they just make me gag. Today I tried an energy bar and a new gel and didn't like either of them. I had a bottle of water, electrolyte drink, and a bag of Jelly Babies with me which got me through it, but I really want to find a gel that works for me as I need them to get me to 26 miles I think. People have suggested more gels to me so I'll just keep trying new things.
The distance is fine though. I'm mixing up songs with podcasts to keep me entertained and I'm loving it. For the long runs (which are always outside for me, on a track called the Cuckoo Trial) I get up at 6am, have a breakfast of porridge/wheatbix and fruit, then start running at 7.15am. By the time I get back, I have a second breakfast, shower and then nap for an hour. So see what I mean about factoring it into your plans? By the time I've done all that it's lunchtime.
Did the 18-miler today and it was fine! I've finally got the food/drink situation sorted - hallelujah! I took Clif Blox with me which are like jelly cubes, and then took one every 20 minutes from mile five onwards. I didn't end up using the Clif energy bar (which is like oaty and has chocolate chips in) as people online told me to just reach for that if I got hungry. What I'll do is the same mix for the 20-miler, take the energy bar in case, and have it with me to have just before the actual race, and one with me as an emergency energy source. As although I know 20-mile is the longest everyone does for training, there's still another six miles I need to add to that so having the supplies with me is a good idea. I also took Jelly Babies and my regular mix of Lucuzade energy drink and water. I didn't hit any kind of wall, and felt like I could have kept going too which is so encouraging!
I've now got a few weeks before I can do the 20-miler and taper it down from there due to commitments and weekend shifts, so I just hope that goes okay as then it's a three week decrease before race day! Bring it on!
It's pretty normal with whatever training plan you do that three weeks before the race is when you do your 20-miler, so there's no point trying to fit it in any earlier anyway - it's just how the schedule has worked out. Fingers crossed it goes as well as today did.
Today was the 20-miler which means two things. One - I've now completed my longest training run, and two - there's only three weeks until the race...
It was actually okay. I was started to hurt for the last three miles, but not in AGONY so I'm definitely feeling like that extra six miles on the day will be fiine with the momentum of other runners and the crowd to get me to the end.
After this run (and a nap) I went swimming in the sea and WOW that was helpful for the legs. They are aching, don't get me wrong, but I'm not walking like the tin man so that's good news. And although today I was happy when my tracker said I'd reached 20 miles, I know I could have carried on.
It's the London marathon a week today so I'll be looking out for vlogs of that which will definitely get me hyped for my marathon. I'm feeling so close to the end now and although I feel really ready, I cant believe the end is so close. It's been MONTHS of training but not once have i not wanted to run and that's really refreshing.
Now to enjoy the tapering process before the big day!
Right, that's basically all the training done now! I had my final 'long' run today which was eight miles, now I've just got a few 20-minute runs and short gym sessions before the race next week.
My race pack has arrived, I'm making a list today of everything I need to take, and then it's just a case of completing that 26.2 miles!
I have to say, watching the London Marathon last week and seeing people sharing their experiences did make me feel a bit flat. Not because of the actual race, but the social media posts like 'I hardly trained and got XYZ time' followed by a time that isn't a million miles off what I'm aiming for on the day (five hours). I know everyone is different, and I need to focus on myself and not compare, but it just felt like school again when a naturally smart kid didn't revise and then got a better grade than me on a test/exam.
Some words of wisdon from the London Marathon Facebook group have sorted me out though. I've worked so hard for this, and yes there's going to be lots of people who are faster than me, but at the end of the day I will have ticked a huge challenge off my bucket list. I'm a VERY competitive person so comparing to others is always something that will always niggle at me with whatever I do in life, but that's just me.
Wish me luck, and see you on the other side with a part three (discussing how the race went, changes I would have made, and a reflection on the whole process from start to finish).
If you can donate anything at all I would be really grateful. Here's the link to my funding page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/india-wentworth1
NEXT UP: My marathon experience: Part 3