So, I am now nearing the end of my second marathon training cycle, so obviously, I am no expert in this, but I thought I’d jot down (26 to be precise) things I have learnt/discovered about marathons and marathon training.
- Find a PLAN – There are so many generic plans on the web that you can use. BUT these are generic, so don’t be afraid to adjust them to suit you. There is no point following a plan which requires you to run 4 times a week, if you can only fit in 3!
- Put your PLAN in your diary – I find that if I write things down, or add them to the diary on my phone, then they become a priority. Or, if I have something on that day, then I will change my run day, or run at a different time of the day, so to fit in both.
- Develop a routine – Use the early part of your plan to establish a routine. Are you a morning runner? Do you go out at the end of the day? What works for you? When you know, stick to it.
- Training is the hardest part – That may seem silly as 26.2 miles is a long way, but if you complete a spring marathon, most of your training take places through the winter, when its dark and cold. Pounding the streets week after week in the dark and cold is much harder than keeping going on marathon day.
- Vary your routes – you have a lot of miles to run in the training and the same route will be boring. Find as many different routes as possible. Use Walk Run Jog, Map My Run etc.
- Pretend you’ll walk – On the days when you really don’t want to run (usually tempo or threshold (see No.7) days) convince yourself that you’ll go for a ‘little’ run, and walk when you want too. Very rarely will you actually do that, but it would have helped you get out the door!
- Vary your sessions – When you first start running, going out and running at whatever pace suits is good, but doing that for weeks on end, increasing distance will be boring and you will get tired. Slow down on recovery runs, get quality speed sessions in and then go long. There is A LOT of information on the internet about different types of session. Take it all in and use it to work for you. Martin Yelling taught me the postcode test. If you can say your whole postcode you are recovery running or long running. If you can say the first part, but have to take a breath in between, you are probably tempo running. If you struggle to finish the first part, your likely to be running threshold.
- Find Run Buddy – I used to run a lot of my training runs with my friend Kate aka Chicken. It was great as we are similar pace and we can gossip non-stop! Since moving I have found this difficult, but running and chatting will ensure that you are not running too fast on your long runs, and it makes the runs far more enjoyable.
- Use races as training for long runs – If you are going to log the miles, why not get the bling! It also helps that they have drinks stations, so you don’t have to carry drinks, and there are often supporters or other runners to help you along if you have a tough patch. The only thing that I found tough about this, was the slowing down and using it as training. You have to learn quickly that races aren’t all about chasing PB’s!
- Run Commute – If you can run to or from work, make this part of you training. I could do this last year, although it did mean that I had to be super organised, but if you run to work, you have that smug feeling most of the day. If you run home, there is a great satisfaction in reaching home and knowing the evening is yours!
- Remember breakfast – I have a young daughter, and I used to think that I would get up early and complete my runs before she even woke up. First time I tried this, I thought out by 5.30am that will be fine. But then I realised I would have to eat breakfast before I go. Setting the alarm for 3.30am didn’t seem so appealing. Last year, I did try breakfast at 4.30 and then headed back to bed – it wasn’t pleasant!
- Stretch – This should be easy, but it always goes to bottom of the list when time is tight. A huge number of runners do not even make the start line, due to injury, so take care of yourself.
- Strength Train – I wish I did this more. A strong core and glutes are important to a runner. This again is not one of my strong points. I remember commenting on a post, suggesting someone uses the Nike Training Club App. It has great workouts. Yes it did remind me, and I used it a few times, but….!! I need to put strength training in the diary in future!
- Connect with run communities – Being part of the Run Mummy Run community is invaluable to me. Reading inspirational posts on Facebook from other ladies, feeling their support if you ever have a down day, and gaining advice from some amazing people. Also connecting with like-minded people on twitter via #UkRunChat allows you to talk running until your heart is content. Family and friends that do not run, will soon get bored with you talking about running, and they will just not get how excited you are when you have gained your fastest mile or longest run.
- You will become a stats freak – I use a Garmin to track my runs, pace, distance etc and I love downloading all the data and analysing it. Comparing each run, totalling weekly mileage, checking pace…the lists could go on and on and on and on…….
- You will never have enough kit – well you will, but it will not stop you from trawling through the internet looking (and often ordering) new kit.
- Marathon training DOES NOT make you skinny. I remember when I found out I had a ballot place in 2014, I was so excited to run, but also as I thought it finally meant that I would get the fit body I always dream about! I am sure that there are lots of people who do lose weight when training for a marathon, but it is not a given.
- Pretty Feet in summer – They are a no-no! If you do a spring marathon, flip-flop season follows – this isn’t always ideal as you can often lose toenails! Not attractive!
- Runger – this is a new term I learnt. Running causes you to constantly be hungry. Running + hunger = RUNGER (especially the day after a long run!)
- Hydrate – You need to keep yourself hydrated. Sometimes just having water can be boring. I add Nuun tablets to my water to give it some flavour, but it also contains electrolytes too.
- Charity – If you are lucky enough to get a ballot place, find a charity to support. It doesn’t have to be through sponsorship, just wearing their vests is good awareness. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I run wearing the MNDA vest and try to raise money for them. My father died of MND back in 2010, and it is a devastating disease, which still has no cure. If you want to read more about why I support MND, you can here and here, but running for a charity gives you an added purpose and reason to get out and log the miles.
- Marathon cost MORE money than you think – Everyone tells you running is cheap, and in principle it is. But with kit, and race entry fees, sports massage, etc it soon adds up. Leah on Naturally Leah did a great blog on this, take a look here.
- Have a mantra– At last years London Marathon, I was starting to flag a little around Mile 19. I was thinking of taking a walk break when I saw lady in front of me. On the back of her t-shirt, it read ‘She believed that she could, so she did.’ I loved this, it really inspired me.
- Taper panic – You will always worry at the end of training, that you haven’t done enough, you are not fast enough, that the 1 run that you missed will mess up your whole marathon.
- 26.2 Miles is a LONG way – Ok, so I know this is obvious, but when you are training for it and you complete your 20 mile run, you stop and think ‘Wow, how am I going to run another 6.2 miles? A marathon is such a long way!
- It’s all worth it – All the doubts of wondering if you can do it, you live the rest of you life knowing you have!
I know there are lots of things I have missed, so please comment below and let me know what you have discovered!
If you could spare some pennies, please donate to MNDA here.