Kayleigh here, Hannah’s friend, club mate and occasional training partner .. And now guest blogger! Nice to meet you all.
Fist of all – please let me apologise for the lateness of this post. When Hannah asked me to fill in whilst she took a well earned break, she advised Monday was my deadline … oops. I’m sure she won’t have time for my excuses whilst she is hurtling up and down mountains in Wales … so I’ll just crack on!
As you know, dear reader, Hannah is a fantastic runner who has recently gone from strength to strength. She’s a determined little bean and after setting her goals she works damn hard to achieve them. Once upon a time, I saw Hannah as a vest to chase in a race, a marker, a realistic target … now her coat tails are way out of my reach!
So, when I received a club place for the VLM at the beginning of this year, I couldn’t help but feel a little pleased that I would be the first out of the two of us to attempt the 26.2. (Sorry Hannah, but its true. A little triumph that eases the pain of the 2 hour HM barrier that still separates us!) For once I would be able to be the torchbearer, the way maker, the big sister to pass down wise words.
Well … wise or not, in the light of her Autumn race, I’d like to share with Hannah (and you!) the things I learned from completing my first marathon:
Not setting a target time is NOT a cop out
The one question everyone asked me – even the non-runners – what time are you aiming for? This is a perfectly harmless question that, at first, I simply refused to answer. I just want to get round I’d say, especially at the beginning of my training. I wanted to enjoy the experience of my first marathon without the pressure of running a specific time. I worked out a roughly realistic target to help me with my pace during training, but I kept it close to my chest.
Eliminating this pressure really helped me to enjoy my training cycle. It kept me relaxed and I often really surprised myself at the distances I was training my body to run. I concentrated on those achievements, rather than how fast I was able to run the miles.
However, this mellow approach began to slip after I completed a 20 mile race in 3.22 with enough bounce at the end to want to carry on running. What if … I started to think. What if I pushed a bit more here, saved a bit of time there, I could do it in 4.30. Then I picked up a 4.30 pace band at the expo. Then I wore it. So much for no target time.
(I did manage to hold this 4.30 pace for about 14 miles, then ran a huge positive split to finish in 4.59.28. But I’m pleased to report, that this did not impede my enjoyment and I am most definitely NOT disappointed with my time)
There is no hiding from the fact that it will probably be the hardest thing you ever do
I knew the marathon would be hard. Everyone told me so. And the longer training runs weren’t always a walk in the park. But NOTHING can prepare you for those miles when it gets tough. And it really is something you can only appreciate once it is over. But as our club coach, Tom, put it frankly in the pub afterwards – we wouldn’t do it if it was easy. It’s meant to be hard. You will earn that medal!
It will consume most of your waking thoughts
Even running a marathon for fun ends up taking over your life for a few months. Embrace it! I willingly surrendered and submerged myself in all things marathon. I listened to podcasts, I read articles and books, looked at club mates results and studied their splits. My diary was full of training notes, countdowns, sports massage appointments. I would consult the back of the kitchen door (aka my training plan) whenever someone asked me if I was free for a catch up. But its only for a few months …
You can eat what the heck you like
Within reason … kind of. Your portions will get bigger. You can always have desert. And two breakfasts are essential.
You’re likely to read tons of conflicting advice about your carb intake and protein consumption etc., but my advice would be: listen to your body. You know what fuels it, you know what disagrees with it, and no article in any running magazine written by someone who has never met you can tell you otherwise.
Everyone gets emotionally and physically invested in a marathon – including the spectators. Even the sturdiest of Yorkshiremen come close to tears!
London Marathon Sunday is ALWAYS the HOTTEST day of the year
FACT. Apply suncream, even if it is cloudy.
You will want to do it again.