Training for a marathon is tough. I feel like that’s an obvious statement as I’m not sure anyone goes into a marathon thinking it will be anything other than pretty bloody difficult, but you know, just in case. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that training for a marathon can (at times) be (almost) unbearable. An almost unbearable moment, or more accurately 3hrs and 2 minutes worth of moments, happened to me on Sunday, when I left the house planning to do my longest ever, 20 mile, run.
Now I’m not trying to make excuses, but the weather was just ridiculous. We left the flat in brilliant sunshine, but it wasn’t long before we were fighting against the pouring rain. What was worse was the strong headwind we found ourselves running in to just about all the way down Regent’s Canal path. And even worse still? The hail – Actual hailstorms scattered throughout the day.
As the afternoon progressed, so did we, albeit at a snail’s pace. However by the time we reached mile 9 the path had started to get pretty muddy, and by the time it reached mile 14, it was almost unrunnable. Slipping and sliding our way along, jumping over puddles, paying close attention to where we put our every foot was entirely exhausting. For the first time in my life, I gave up on a run early. From setting out to do 20 miles, we managed 17. 20 miles attempt two comes this Saturday, and hopefully the weather will be kinder.
I was going to write this post anyway, but somehow it feels even more fitting now – Perhaps there was some serendipity in my pain! So, what have I learnt and what do I do to make marathon training that little more bearable?
The Right Trainers – Until surprisingly recently (or actually probably unsurprisingly if you know me) I was something of an idiot when it came to footwear. It was only after Christmas this year that I got around to taking the plunge and purchasing my first properly fitted pair of trainers, specifically for training for the marathon, having run countless half marathons and 10ks in ones I’d picked off the shelf, usually cheaply or in the sale. I’ve got Addidas Boosts now, and they feel great – Light and springy! I can’t imagine getting through all this training in an ill-fitting pair of trainers, and I appreciate now that if I’d splashed out on a decent pair earlier on I could have probably saved myself a lot of knee and ankle aggro in the past.
Music – I’m one of those people who can’t run, or at least can’t train (I’m contemplating running the actual marathon without my headphones) without music, and particularly the right kind of music. Although what this means, of course, is entirely subjective. You can read a little more about my running music choices here. However, something I’ve found enjoyable lately is Spotify which matches music to the pace you are running, which has proven to be incredibly motivating when it comes to keeping those feet pounding (or plodding) along.
People – This one is huge! Surrounding yourself with positive people when it comes to your running is very important and I mean this in just about every possible sense. There will always be the neg-heads, those people that tell you that as human beings, we are just not “meant” to run 26 miles. Often, in my experience, ironically this “advice” is doned out by those that are frequently found at home on the couch chain-eating Dorritos and watching box-sets, as though they have some secret formula as to what is “right” for someone else’s body.
Secondly, there will also be those that don’t understand. They don’t understand why anyone would want to run 26 miles, and they certainly don’t understand that it’s a massive commitment. Training for a marathon takes dedication, and is full of sacrifice. Sacrifices, for me, when it comes to drinking, and having much resembling a social life. But if friends are true friends, they’ll understand and respect that. After all, marathon training is for 12 – 16 weeks, not forever!
Find a running buddy – I’m fortunate enough to be training for the marathon with boyfriend (aka my favourite human) so I am very lucky that we can do our long training runs together. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d cope too well alone! For those runs that run (literally) in to hours, for me, a buddy of some kind would be crucial. Even though we’re both plugged in to our own earphones and not frequently talking, there’s something reassuring about someone just being there, going through this with you, sharing the enjoyment, but also sharing the frustrations and the pain.
Social Media – I’ve also been an active user of Instagram, but since I started training for the marathon, my feed has become pretty much a dedicated running account. (Apologies to all my less fitnessy-loving friends!) Since making this change I’ve picked up a small but loyal following of fellow runners and fitness lovers. The encouragement, support, and positive reinforcements I have received have been, to the least unexpected, but incredible and amazing! I’d seriously encourage anyone training for a marathon to harness the power of social media to connect with those around them pursing the same or a similar challenge or goal.
Be prepared – Before heading out on a long run, ensure that you are properly prepared. Ensure that not only do you have everything that you need but also that you are properly hydrated and fuelled. A dehydrated or empty long run will at best be very unpleasant, and at worst unconquerable.
Ensure that you have a backpack that is comfortable and fits, and use your long training runs as practice for the big day. Experiment with hydration and nutrition now, so that you’re not leaving anything to change on marathon day. Personally I’ve found High Fives to be an absolute god-sends. I’ve found them easier to digest than other gels and the sugar rush is almost instant! I bought a selection box to try all the flavours and whilst none of them are truly terrible, in my opinion, apple and banana are the clear winners
Mix up your route – For me running the same streets over and over again would be unbearable, and choose routes that are appropriate for the weather. If you’re running 20 miles and it is pouring with rain don’t run along a muddy canal path (as I recently found out!) make it easier for yourself and stick to the roads. Do some research, and spend some time planning your routes. Now that it is almost too late, I have, of course, found that The Serpentine Running Club, has posted a number of suggested central London routes for long-runs on their website!
Keep positive & know why you’re running – Sometimes easier said than done! But it is has really helped me having a clear reason, or more accurately two clear reasons, for training for and running this marathon. I would recommend, even if you’re lucky enough to receive a ballot place, fundraising for charity, not only because why on earth wouldn’t you (!) but also because it is fantastic motivation and makes everything you are doing feel that much more worthwhile. I’m refraining from going in to the specifics of my motivations for now, but watch this space, for my next blog post.
Have a mantra – When things are getting tough and you feel on the verge of giving up, it’s important to have something to fall back on, and to tell yourself to keep you going. For me I reflect on my 100km walk (aka the hardest thing I have ever done) and I tell myself that if I can walk 100km, through the night, alone, I can bloody well run 26 miles, surrounded by thousands of other people, that I have been training for for months!
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly…clap yo’ damn-self! And boast about it. Loudly. At home, at work, and on social media. Training for a marathon is tough, and you are doing amazing.
Also, on #sundaylongrunday I have been known to treat myself to a roast dinner or two, just saying.