Hi friends! I had a great 10 mile race this morning out at Ballater for the Deeside Runners Ballater 10, and finished in 1hr 38mins 15secs. Race report will follow tomorrow as usual, but whilst I’m recovering here’s a post about marathon training, with some things everyone who’s thinking about running a marathon needs to know.
Also – in case you haven’t noticed or are reading this in an RSS reader/email subscription; Redwinerunner is now on facebook! If you’re a fan of the blog you can ‘Like’ the blog by clicking on the Like box on the right over there to receive ad hoc updates, pictures and links from around the blogosphere. I was in two minds whether to do this or not as I was concerned it might seem a bit narcissistic, however I’ve met so many readers recently who’ve given me such kind and lovely feedback on my writing that I figured there’s an audience out there who might like it (hello!).
Anyway I do hope everyone’s had a great weekend of running – I’ll leave you some questions:
Who’s been racing? Any new PBs? How is everyone’s Loch Ness Marathon training going? Do you have any must-share marathon training tips? The grosser the better!
This post is the precursor to a count-down series of 8 posts marking the last eight weeks of my training programme for the Loch Ness Marathon. Beginning next week, I plan on posting a weekly review of my training and thoughts on a Sunday evening. For now however, here’s a list of lessons I’ve learned so far. There are a lot of training guides and blogs out there with opinions on how best to get oneself to the start of a marathon; but somehow none of them mention the grizzly parts of the training which no-one wants to talk about. I can only presume that in the end once the finish line has been crossed, memories of these little agonies are swept to the darkest parts of the mind by the euphoria of success;making you want to do it all again right away. Here’s my full disclosure guide to the early stages of marathon training…
1. Your feet are toast.
Runner’s feet are the stuff of legends. Ladies; once you start training for a marathon, you can kiss goodbye to well pedicured toenails because if you’re doing it right by the mid-way point you’ll likely be missing a couple. Having properly fitted shoes will help, but there’s really nothing you can do to avoid this. Repeated pounding to the toes will cause blisters to form underneath the nail, the nail will lift off the nail bed and cause large amounts of pain. After your run you’ll need to soak your feet in water to soften the skin and then relieve the pressure under the nail by draining the blister with a sterilised needle poked down the back of the nail. Once the blister has dried out, the nail can carefully be removed – in my opinion it is more comfortable to remove the nail than to have a semi-detached toenail moving about in my socks whilst I’m running. Sooner or later you’ll work out what’s best for you though – but watch out for black toenails caused by blood blisters under the nail, they’re pretty gnarly. Wear your nasty feet with pride! You’ve earned them!
The Badger refuses to have me put these near him unclothed 😉
As your mileage builds you will be hungry like you’ve never felt hunger before. Get used to eating yourself out of house and home and always make sure you’ve got a fully stocked fridge for the days around your Long Run. Be smart though and eat sensibly; runners need carbs but not ridiculous amounts of them all the time – typically one mile ran = 100kcal burned, so adjust your food intake to replace what you’ve burned. Marathon training is not a free pass to eat whatever you like! The night before a long run have a carb heavy meal, afterwards fill your body with protein to aid muscle recovery.
Make friends with pain, and in your training you’ll never be alone. From the agony of the final miles of the long slow runs of the weekend to the exhaustion of your speed work – unfortunately the presence of pain won’t end there. Getting up in the morning, your muscles and joints will complain and your feet will be howling. Get used to what’s normal for you though and consult a professional if anything gets too bad. Most of this time you can stick with the no-pain, no-gain rule…and if it ever gets too much, think about crossing that finish line and clutching the medal you’ve hungered for for so long and suddenly it all seems worth it. At least for me anyway.
4. Weight Gain
Marathon training is not for weight loss. Despite doing more physical activity that you’ve probably ever done in your life before, chances are the numbers on the scales are going to creep up rather than down. You can’t train on a calorie deficit or you run the risk of burning out and getting an injury; besides, your growing muscles need fuel to support them. It’s probably a good idea to put the scales away if you’re sensitive to an increase in your numbers, and remember – scales don’t measure what’s inside; if you’re training for a marathon then you’re full of awesome (which weighs more than laziness :P)
5. GI issues
Do you know how many times a day you poop? Do you know how long it takes for you to poop in the morning after you get up? Do you find yourself looking for thick bushes as you go about your daily business? If so then congratulations; you’re training for a marathon. Running and digestion aren’t always the best of friends and chances are it will take you a few months to get in sync with yourself – probably most of what you learn will be through experiences such as the first time you eat something spicy the night before before a long run, the first time you don’t poop before a race, and the first time you eat bran flakes and wholemeal toast for breakfast before a run. Pro tips for pre-run pooping – coffee as soon as you get up gets the digestive system going, spicy food the night before or meal before a run is not a good idea, wholemeal/whole grain foods whilst great in theory need to be balanced with starchy white carbs pre-run/race to keep things…solid 😀 What?! I said there’d be full disclosure up above – if you’re already a distance runner you know you’re nodding and wistfully remembering the first time you made these mistakes. You need to get to know your body and how it functions – in ALL regards!
6. I have a husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend?!
Training for a long distance race will take up a lot of your time. I’m going to say this again; training for a long distance race will take up a lot of your time. A few months in, your life is going to consist of the following: sleep, work, run, eat, sleep. Maybe not in that order, but that’s about it. Chances are if you have a partner that’s not a runner, you’ll be spending a lot less time with them which is a shame, but hopefully they’ll support you in your endeavours and will be there for you every inch of the way. A supportive partner can be a huge benefit – training for a distance race for the first time is really hard. I’m finding it really hard. Badger’s not a runner but knowing he’s got my back and that he’s waiting for me at the end of every finish line means the world to me. He’s picked me up, dusted me off and put me back on my feet more times than I care to remember. Don’t neglect your partner or best mate no matter how much your training schedule takes over your life – make sure to schedule date nights/hang out time on your rest days and decompress with them. Try not to talk about the goddamned marathon; chances are you’re thinking about it approximately 23 hours a day anyway so do everyone a favour and talk about something else and give yourself a break.
7. You will want to sleep all the time
Right now, for me, any spare time is potential a) napping time b) eating time. You’re putting yourself through an exhaustive training schedule for the first time and your body is struggling to keep up. Now is not the time to try and be super-productive – try to indulge yourself if you can; if you find yourself lying on the couch falling asleep in front of the TV the day after your long run then just go with it and snooze. Hopefully any spare family members about will be sympathetic and leave you alone – if not, then you get a wild card strop opportunity and you can snarl at them and stomp off to bed. This may, or may not, have happened to me recently… Seriously though, get as much sleep as you can. P.S – after-race naps are the best.
8. Once upon a time, you had a social life…
Remember those days, not long ago, when you’d get a text mid-afternoon saying “Hey lady! How’s it going? Not seen you in ages! Going out with some of the old gang tonight after work for drinks – interested? XXX” and you’d be delighted to join your old friends for buckets of Chardonnay and jagerbombs until the early hours of the morning. Of course you know what’s coming – if this spontaneous plan occurs on a long or mid-length run day you won’t be able to go; you’ll agonise and try to rationalise it for a few minutes, but then you remember how guilty you’ll feel for missing a run, and how hungover you’ll feel the next day so you can’t even make it up tomorrow…and you turn them down. Again. The first couple of times you do this it will be hard, but the weird thing is after a while it becomes less of an issue. Perhaps a mix of your friends knowing that Thursday night happy hour is a no-go for you as it’s mid-length night, and your increasing dedication…at some point you’ll realise that your social life has changed. I went out for dinner last week with my friend Jo and when we were catching up I realised I hadn’t actually got new news to share – all I’d been doing was running, or recovering. There was a time when I would have lambasted myself for being so boring, but secretly I felt kind of proud that I was doing something few of my friends have ever dreamt of. On the other hand don’t get me wrong – they don’t call me the Red Wine Runner for nothing and I’ve become the master of running with a hangover, but at some point my wild lifestyle dialled itself down a notch without me even noticing.
9. Learn to do your own washing
How do you feel about laundry? Are you a secret slob who double runs in your running kit or do you insist on fresh shorts every time? Either way you’re going to need to choose between a) buying lots more washing powder and b) buying lots more kit. With four or more sweaty runs a week that adds up to a lot of sweaty shorts, tops, bras and socks. If you’re a bit manky you can re-use some of your kit, but obviously nothing feels better than a pair of shorts freshly scented with whichever ridonkulous fragrance Lenor is infusing their washing power with these days. Black diamond anyone? What the hell does a black diamond smell like anyway?! On the other hand marathon training is a damn good excuse to go and buy some shiny new kit – you WILL need it. Jen at This Runner’s Trials has an excellent post HERE on why ladies shouldn’t re-use their shorts… Oh, and do your own washing – your partner will love you for it.
10. You WILL find out what you are made of… and you might not like it
At some point, marathon training will lay you bare and expose weakness you didn’t know about. When you’re tackling something so tough, it’s inevitable that you will have to overcome some obstacles and in most cases with this, it is going to be mental. It’s at this point that all the advice in the world is not going to help you and if you really want it, you just need to harden the F up and get on with it. For the majority of your training the challenge of completing the marathon will be greater than you – it’s your job to prepare yourself as well you can and at some stage there will be a tipping point. If you put the work in, the distance will come within your reach and suddenly it will seem a whole lot less impossible. The journey you take to get there will be all your own however; for me, I’ve realised how pathetic I can become mid-race if things don’t go my way, I’ve learned the fragility of my mid-race mentality and how quickly I can turn it around away from my favour. You can only get over these humps by sheer bloody minded perseverance – you have to figure out where to believe in yourself from somewhere because no-one else can do it but you.
Now go put your shoes on and go for a run.