My first marathon: Week 9

Well, this week couldn’t have been more different than the last few! After some difficult weeks of accumulating tiredness from marathon training, frustration at the unwavering humidity that made tough sessions tougher, and weeks of unsuccessful job applications (I recently found out my contract is unlikely to be renewed), I had become quite glum. Marathon training wasn’t turning out to be the fun I had hoped because I was struggling to give it the chance it needed. I decided that I had a choice:

Either I quit being anxious about the things I can’t control and give myself a chance to enjoy training for my first marathon, or I just pull out of the race and try again next year.

Never one to quit, I took the first option and have spent this week reshuffling my priorities and allowing marathon training to sit near the top of the list. The result has been enjoyable. I’ve been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s new book, ‘The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition’ and, though it’s not as good as ‘Racing Weight’ it’s been a good tool for getting my training eats under control – especially now I’ve reached the halfway stage and want to eat everything in sight.

I’ve also decided to stop chasing the oversubscribed jobs at the moment – it’s a killer for anyone’s confidence and it’s made me a bit sad. Instead I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up some bar work that fits around my part-time library job and will hopefully start a voluntary placement with a local sports group in the Autumn. I won’t be rich, but for now I will be far more relaxed and will learn some really great new skills.

I’m so glad I didn’t pull out of the race because my souvenir t-shirt arrived this morning in the post and it’s a good one!


80s comic book font and a wild pig snufflin’ under a New Forest tree – I’m getting excited again!

I will write a bit more about my new food and recovery knowledge in the week, but for now here is my week in training.

This is Week 9, the last week in my training plan’s middle ‘running strength’ section that has focused on marathon pace running and long, threshold paced sessions. It should have included my first ever 20-mile run, but I signed up for a 10K race on the weekend and will run my 20-miler at the start of Week 10, my easy week. This will still leave almost a whole week between my two long runs. So before you all start worrying that I’ve broken the cardinal rule of marathon running and skipped a long run, I haven’t. I’m just totally exploiting my abundance of spare time!

Monday: Threshold intervals
Scheduled: 6 x [1 mile @tempo; 2-3 minutes rest]
Actual: 10 x [0.5 mile @10K; 90 seconds rest]
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about marathon training so far it’s that marathon legs are heavy. We all get warned of this, but the reality has been quite strange. Though I feel very strong and very fit, I don’t feel the bounciness that has accompanied previous training schedules. Whereas half marathon and 10K training has left me feeling swift and agile, marathon training has left me feeling like an ox – firm, steady, determined and strong, but not quite so nimble. With a 10K race scheduled on the weekend I therefore decided that I needed to inject a little bit of speed into my legs to give them  a chance to practice turning over quickly for a change. I halved my the length of my intervals, halved my recoveries, and upped the pace from low tempo pace to 10K pace. It felt so good!

Tuesday: Marathon pace run (6 miles)
Although I had scheduled another 9 mile marathon pace run, the sun crept out early and London heated up fast – another 30 degree day! I decided that I would rather focus on nailing that marathon pace and sacrificed a few miles. I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do, but it felt good to run a steady, fuss-free 6 miles over bumpy North London. Regardless of its effect on my training, this run was very good for the soul.

Wednesday: Rest day
I’ve been doing 30 minutes stretching every afternoon as part of my ‘better recovery’ mission, but I did a little extra yoga too on my rest day. On previous rest days I’ve done a cross training workout using the Nike Training Class app on my phone, but I made this Wednesday a very peaceful one. It felt strange…

Thursday: Progressive run
I had a hill session scheduled this week, but when I saw that my running club were doing hill training on Primrose Hill I decided to try that out instead. When Coach Tom found out I was racing on the weekend though he rolled his eyes and banned me from the hill… I felt like a bit of an idiot for even contemplating it to be honest, but I really miss those sessions! Instead he packed me off to do a progressive run – 10 minutes easy, 10 minutes steady, 10 minutes tempo. I nailed it, but every time I looped past my clubmates I felt like a naughty schoolkid lapping the playing field because she’d been banned from sports day!

Friday: Rest day
My 10K race was scheduled for Saturday morning, so Friday was dedicated to more rest and more stretching.

Saturday: 10K race
During this Spring’s half marathon training I PB’d at 3 consecutive 10K races, knocking my 48:48 down to 46:33. I secretly hoped that I would bag another PB during marathon training – after all, I’m going to be getting fitter, right? However I had totally underestimated marathon training and did not realise the full effect that long, steady run training would have on my new found speed. My goal for the race was therefore adjusted to run as fast as you damn well can and see how close you can get to that PB.

More importantly, I became concerned with how I felt during the race. A touch of nausea at 6-7km has become the norm as I creep over my lactate threshold and push through the burn. I knew that my legs probably wouldn’t turn over so quickly during this race, but as long as I didn’t get that sicky feeling sooner I could be happy in the knowledge I am no less fit.

I ended up finishing in 47:24, 50-ish seconds slower than my PB, but was really chuffed with my effort as a mid-training MOT. At no point did I get that sicky feeling. In fact I tried to pick up the pace in the second half and felt like my lungs could have worked with me to achieve it. My legs on the other hand had different ideas and continued their pace with metronomic intent running eerily even km splits…

Sunday: Steady run for the sheer heck of it
I woke feeling like I wanted to run. I checked my training plan and was sad to discover that I wasn’t supposed to. Fuck it, I thought and ran anyway for 5.5 miles at whatever bloody pace I fancied. It was a celebration of running, of relaxing, of making it halfway through the monotony of marathon training, and of just being outdoors in the sunshine.

It was also a celebration of my new crop top and the fact that I no longer give a crap if my stomach is ripped enough to be bared in public, because I’m a trainee marathon runner.

Next week is a rest week, sandwiched between my first 20-mile run and a very tough progressive run next week. I’m totally ready for this shit.


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