The idea of a marathon training for someone to which running doesn’t come naturally is daunting, however the training itself could make a grown man cry. This is not to say that the image of crossing the finishing line doesn’t sound incredible, but it takes a lot of hard work and training to run 26.2 miles and the only way is by pounding the pavement.
When I decided to take up the challenge to run the London marathon at 34, I had recently given up smoking and it seemed like a great punishment for puffing away all those years, yet also a reward to remind me I was on the right track.
When this exercise epiphany occurred, I hadn’t run since my teenage years and if truth be told, it was probably still called jogging. So I was starting from nothing and the only way was up…or so I thought.
WHAT WENT WRONG
At the time I had recently joined a gym in the hopes of toning up so using the indoor running machine seemed like a no brainer. It didn’t take long before I started to develop a pain in my knee which began to move further down the front of my leg. To combat this I tried loads of different remedies from running more and harder (because that was going to work right!), changing my shoes, running with no shoes and leg stretches. Finally, after a month I spoke to a professional.
He advised me that I had shin splints which was caused by having the wrong shoes (he was right). His advice was to take a month off and then he would show me exercises to avoid re-occurrence.
This is what he said:
– Find the steepest street to run up and walk down — therefore stretching both front and back muscles
– Take wide steps and jog sideways with wide open steps to build up muscles which I rarely used
– Buy a pair of shoes that had been measured to my foot and impression
– Finally (this should have been surprisingly obvious), follow a marathon training plan
All these things helped and after a month I was back into marathon training and feeling good. One thing I will say about shin splints is they are ridiculously painful and not to be taken lightly. Time is the only real cure and if you’re on a strict deadline it could be a deal-breaker. Shin splints taught me to listen more to my body and read the signs, something any long-distance runner should do (listen to me, all of a sudden I’m some over-achieving athlete) to avoid longterm injury.
STICKING TO A PLAN
There are two goals for every marathon runner; the obvious one is the post race glory after crossing the finishing line, the other is to do it without causing injury. To achieve both of these you’ll need a clear plan. This is the one I used:
17 Week Training Plan
The only advice I can offer you is to stick to your training fiercely. If you are going to miss the odd run, it can be a mid-week run but DO NOT miss the longer runs as they build up your endurance and its better to ‘hit the wall’ at mile 21 than at mile 10.
Naturally this being my first rodeo and thinking I knew better, I did the complete opposite and never missed a mid-week run but managed to miss the longer training sessions more than I care to remember. What impact did this have? Well, I finished the course at 4hr 37 mins which isn’t a bad time but I was aiming for under four. It also meant that I ran for 14 miles which is the longest I had trained, and then I hit a wall. Things became tougher after this and even the crowd support and killer playlist struggled to put the pep back in my step. The next day I was aching and had completed my first marathon, but I shouldn’t have been that sore!
Since then I’ve run more and having recently started running again after a few years hiatus, I’ve learnt a few important lessons. Firstly, a marathon training plan isn’t open to interpretation, it’s been put together to get myself and my legs around the course without too much impact. Eat a good ‘carborific’ meal the night before and leave a little for the morning to stock up on slow release food. Stay hydrated and avoid drinks/foods that mean you will start to crash mid-event. Rehydration salts are replace minerals for the body that water alone won’t and there is such a thing as too many gels (internal body issues!).
If you’re marathon training, go to a specialist store and have your foot impression measured and a shoe fitted. I cannot recommend this enough. I used to get a sore back during my runs and it wasn’t until I did exactly this that I realised how much my shady steps were throwing other parts of my body out.
Finally I am the type of person that always runs with music and my playlists are legendary (well amongst my circles at least, but they are bloody good). In crowd supported events, it is important to save the music for when times get tough because there is nothing like having people screaming at you to keep going, to motivate you. During the London marathon, the crowd support is quite incredible, especially around the Isle of Dogs. It really restored my faith in London and Londoners as a whole. In fact the most popular media coverage from 2017 London marathon was of one runner helping another walk and cross the finishing line. This is awesome and amazing!
I’ve just completed the Hampton Court half and recently signed up for the Richmond half. If I can do it then anyone can so get yourself a good training plan, lace up the shoes and hit the parks and pavements.