What I learned from My First Marathon, Part I

Hopefully I can get this down in a coherent fashion and don’t bore the pants off of who is left reading my blog (thank you, kind reader, if you are still with me!).

One thing I’ve learned whilst marathon training; you simply cannot do it all. Especially if you have a job where stress and overtime are constant factors. At some point you have to make choices and try to find a balance. My balance in this particular period has been to stick with the schedule as much as possible, but unfortunately that means I did not really cross-train. Unless you count the walking and biking I do on a regular basis. I also went a few times to the physio and regularly to sports massage. So, in a nutshell, I did everything I could within my means. What I do notice is that my fitness level is quite good – after my longest run in training (32KM), I was sore but nothing more than usual. Also the next day, I only really had pain in my left calf and I went to sports massage that evening and came home taped. I’m so glad that that run went well and that I did it together with Kim; this gave us both the feeling that we could both actually run 42.2KM!

Another thing I learned; carb-loading and maintaining weight is possible! I can’t believe how much I had eaten the last few weeks before the marathon and how hungry I had been! This was not like the hungries I had for years (during my 4 year “plateau”), this was different. This time around I chose different foods in which to carb-load. Fruit, yoghurt, quark, oatmeal, multi-grain bread, crackers, vegetables, nuts. Oh, and the occasional chocolate!

Marathon training has definitely been an experience. Different to Half-Marathon training and with now having run several Halfs (official and non-official) in a very short period of time, 21K now seems as “easy” as a 10K. Sounds trite but how I feel at the moment, as the hubs says, “You eat Half-Marathons for breakfast”.

Here are a few tips I have for those considering running a marathon (because now I’m an expert and these things have never been said before… haha!)

1) Follow a training plan. Really. You can go willy-nilly if you want, but if you want structure and a good feeling that you can run the distance, follow a plan as much as possible to fit your schedule and life-style. Cross-training helps too. You may not be able to train 6 days a week and that’s ok. But then train at least 3 times running and 1 x cross-training (bike, swim, do core work, for example). Don’t just run the same tempo all the time. Do I training as intervals or hill training, 1 as easy / marathon tempo run, 1 long run.

2) if you can, join a local running group to meet like-minded people who you may ultimately be able to train with. Trust me. Running for 2 1/2 or 3 hours completely alone is like stabbing your eyes out with a dull spoon. What an absolutely God-send my running group has been to me! Kim and I did loads of trainings together and when we weren’t training together we were running the races together. Which leads me to my next tip:

3) Participate in local races where possible. Seriously. Run all the races. 10K’s, 15K’s, 10milers, Half-Marathons 25K’s, 30K’s. They exist. Find them, sign up and run them. This not only covers your long runs during training, it gets you totally in the mood for the big day. I’ve run so many races since I started training that I’ve actually lost count! I found this to be really crucial to my training and my progress.

4) Skip alcohol. Yes, I said it. Don’t eat all the things just because you “can” or you are “starving”. This is hard. But possible. You can have the wine or beer and eat all the things in celebration of your 42.2 achievement.

5) Fueling is important during training. Test out different types of gels, shakes, bars (not the kind that serve beer – see tip 4) DURING your training so you know exactly what to do during the race. If you fuel properly, you will not hit the wall.

6) Respect taper week. Basically follow your schedule. Don’t take risks the last couple of weeks. You could get injured and how crap would that be if you decide to go all out your last week (taper week) of training and you can’t run the marathon.

7) Get a few massages. Sports massage. Not that kind of fluffy, nice-smelling, new-age music in the background type of massage. Go for the deep stuff. You’ll need it.

8) Rest. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. You are asking a lot of your body during your training. Get the sleep you need.

9) Test out new shoes, orthotics, clothes, hydration packs, etc., WELL before race day. Don’t do new stuff on the day! This goes for food as well!! Stick with tried and true!!

10) You will be freaked out. You will wonder if you can do it. You can. Trust in your training and you will see for yourself. If you have done everything you possibly could then you truly will be amazing. You will be a marathoner!


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