I was going to do a series of posts about marathon training but quelle surprise, I forgot completely, so here is my one post about my upcoming first marathon the day before I run it. I’m hoping to do a post race article but then again I hope to do a lot of things so don’t believe me too much.
I’m running my first marathon tomorrow. It feels completely unreal that I’m actually going to be doing it. This time tomorrow I will be at the starting line, probably wishing I’d been to the toilet another time, and regretting running a marathon in May because it’s forecast to be pretty warm. I’m not even quite sure why I decided to run one. It was one of those decisions I make on an impulse that comes sort of out of nowhere, as if my unconscious has been thinking about it for a while but didn’t think to tell me about it until it had made the decision. Some part of me said I would want to do it, while the rest of me was adamant that I would never be able to. Cut to me handing over forty plus pounds for entry, and the dawning realisation that I’d just agreed to run 26.2 miles in one go.
Almost every week after that I regretted my decision. Firstly because the other people I know who were running a marathon were doing an earlier one, so they were training four weeks ahead of me. This messed with my brain a bit because I’d be trying to join them for part of their long runs and they’d be off running 16 miles and I’d still be struggling to manage 8 at their pace. That was another thing, all my running friends are pretty fast, and I am not. So I ended up training for the marathon mostly alone. I think that helped a little bit, I didn’t feel guilty for forcing someone to run at my pace, didn’t feel guilty for needing to stop to sip water (because I haven’t quite managed the trick of drinking it while running properly yet), and didn’t feel bad for getting up later then expected. Plus I reckoned it was good practice for the race when I’d be running the whole way alone in a crowd of 20,000 people.
I’m not good at following a training plan. I’m not great at plans generally. So that is probably something I would recommend – FOLLOW YOUR TRAINING PLAN! I was probably a tad too flexible with mine, switching up sessions and some weeks missing out on the tempo runs/speed sessions because my legs were sore. I ran four or five times a week, once or twice with other people, and one long run on a Sunday. It was satisfying to see the weekly mileage increase, heading up to 30 and 35 and 40 mile weeks. The first time my monthly total reached 100 and then 110 it was incredible. I’d never run that far ever.
I was never an advocate of listening to music when running but 20 miles on your own in silence is a long way. I worked out which songs I needed to hear at what points in time, and made a playlist accordingly. I worked out that the texture of gels make me want to retch and that trying to eat dried banana makes you want to vomit. I learnt that hydration tablets make the water taste weird, and that if I’m not careful I start to choke if I’m chewing something while running. I learnt that caps help in all weathers but god do you look daft afterwards. I learnt that you chafe absolutely EVERYWHERE. Each time you find and Vaseline a new area something else is sore. (EVERYWHERE). I learnt that even with the most comfy of shoes I was going to get blisters, even teeny tiny ones. I learnt that coming home 3 hours after leaving makes people question why you’re doing it. Made me question it a few times. I learnt that there will be plenty of bad runs, there will be bad weeks where every single run is painful, where your legs feel like lead. There are many heavy gravity days. I learnt that there are times when you unexpectedly meet friends on runs and it is the best thing to run along with them and chatter as you head out through fields in the sunshine, then part three miles later without clocking how far you’d gone. I learnt that once 16 miles is long way but it’s literally only two 8 mile runs, and that’s only four 4 mile runs, and you could run 4 miles in your sleep so it’s not that far. I learnt that it’s really difficult to do maths in your head when you’re running 18 miles but it’s a good way to distract you from the fact that your legs are really really sore right now. I learnt that after a long run I won’t feel hungry at all but after the tiniest of short runs I’ll want to empty the fridge. Go figure. I learnt that I’d never really imagined I could run that far but I was doing it and I couldn’t quite believe it.
People ask me what time I want. I don’t have high expectations. I hope to finish in under 5 hours but I want to enjoy it, not feel obliged to pick up the pace because I might shave a few minutes off. I want to finish the marathon and remember it because it was fun, not because I made a good time. Any time is a good time at this point, plus the slower I go, the easier it’ll be to beat it next time right?
Halfway through training I was adamant I was never running another marathon. This would be my one and only, I’ll have done it and I’d in the 1% of people who have run a marathon. No one could take that off me – I’d have run a marathon. Then my Mum caught me out when I said ‘Oh next time I’ll do this differently,’ and now I’m really considering which marathon I’d do next because May feels too warm already. I say this now, I might finish tomorrow and hate it. I might finish and be satisfied that I’d done it, and not feel the urge to run another. I also know that the hour after a race makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. The running is painful, it’s the afterwards that’s great. I know I have loved being out for three, three and a half, four hours, being alone and not having to talk to people. I have loved seeing my body do things I never thought it would be able to do. It’s been nice to know that even when I hated what I looked like my body was dragging my brain around miles and miles of roads and paths and scenery and that was incredible.
I’m both excited and nervous for tomorrow. I have a check list, I’ve got my number, shirt, and my super worn in trainers. I’ll be bricking it in the morning, but I’ve got a plan so that’s one thing less to think about.
Good luck to anyone who is running a marathon tomorrow (or ever, like man, you’re brave) you got this guys 🙂