Manchester Marathon week is here. Even typing these words out sends a wave of nervous excitement through my body. 16 weeks of training are nearly up, and its all going to come down to one day - no pressure then right!?
Last year on London Marathon week I sat and contemplated the things marathon training had taught me:
So this year I thought I would do the same.
1) Introducing 'The Curse of Marathon Number 2'
For my first marathon I just wanted to run it. I had dreamed of running the London Marathon for as long as I can remember, and to be one of the thousands of runners pounding the streets of the Capital was an incredible feat in itself. I had a vague time in mind - 4 hours - but really just wanted to be able to say I ran 26.2 miles. This year though the runner in me has come out; I want a PB, I want to beat my time, and I want to go sub 4 hours. The pressure has been applied, and I have self inflicted myself with the curse of Marathon Number 2.
2) Don't be afraid to challenge yourself
With the PB hunt on, I have been pushing myself even harder this marathon training cycle. I have been following a plan for an optimistic 3hr 45 min finish time - which I know I probably will not get. But, if I want to knock 15/20 mins off my current marathon time, the only way to try to do this has been to push my body, not just further, but also differently to last time. Intervals, hills, tempo runs have all been in there, often with demanding pace requirements. Have I met all the pace suggestions? No. But have I tried? Yes. Did I enjoy them all... next question!!
3) Look after yourself
Sounds a bit stupid really, but you cannot underestimate not only the commitment marathon training takes, but also the effect it has on your life. I have woken up on days and felt so incredibly tired that I have wanted to cry! I have crawled into bed at 5pm for a 20 min nap, before wearily putting my running gear on. I have reluctantly succumbed to my bed at 7pm on a Friday night instead of attempting to fight sleep anymore. The overall tiredness combined with the near constant hunger has been difficult at times. I also have changed my job since the last time I was marathon training, and am now considerably more active on a day to day basis. All these factors add up and are aspects you need to be aware of in order to keep yourself happy and well.
4) Training is better with friends
I used this one last year, but it is still so true. Without a doubt you need people around you when marathon training who can and want to understand how you are feeling, and who are there to support you. This training programme I have also completed a lot more of my training runs with a friend. Its never bothered me running alone before, I can switch my mind into the most random of places and tick off the miles, and I know I can still do this if I want to. But I have to admit running 20 miles with someone else is a lot easier than over 3 hours out by yourself! A balance is good.
5) Explore further than your front door
I am never running past my own front door again - I have promised myself that. I used to do this all the time when marathon training last year; partly through fear I may need to stop and having the security of knowing home is just there, and also through lack of route knowledge.
It used to mess with my head though, and I would hate running past my street knowing I still had many more miles to go. I have enjoyed exploring even more areas around my hometown this training programme and I am lucky to live in a city which within a few minutes you can be out in the countryside running through idyllic villages and rural landscapes. It makes such a difference to me.
6) What is a treadmill again?
As you can probably guess from my love of running outside and exploring, I have ran on the treadmill only once during this marathon training programme. I lasted 15 mins before whacking the red stop button! I didn't do a lot of treadmill running last year, but usually once/twice a week I would find myself on the belt. Now I cannot even imaging doing that. I do not think the treadmill is forbidden, but personally I find you cannot beat the natural challenges of running and training outside.
7) Fall in love with your Foam Roller
I have spent way too much time with this piece of foam! I promised myself I would use it more, and when Santa bought me a lovely purple Nike yoga mat for my home that was it - we have been inseparable since. Some days I have wanted to foam roll badly as I could feel the tensions in my muscles, other days it has hurt too much to even contemplate. Sometimes I have literally worked one or two tight areas, whilst others I have been lying on my living room floor for whats seems like ages carefully ironing out my legs. My overall increased usage has definitely helped though.
8) Never outrun the joy of running
This is a quote I often see posted on social media and its true. There was one week during my training that I almost didn't want to run anymore. I was tired, it felt like all I was doing was running, mentally I was drained, and I felt generally under the weather too. It all just hit me. My friend spotted my change in attitude first, and this alerted me. The thing you love should never become a chore, and when following a training programme, I guess its easier for it to seem like this. What did I do? I put a little less pressure on myself that week, mixed my plan slightly to take a rest when I wanted rather then when it was telling me, and I tried to stop thinking about running as 'training' remembering why I love to run in the first place.
I am always learning as I run - and hopefully the lessons I have applied from my London Marathon training last year will be rewarded on Sunday when I line up at the Manchester Marathon start line.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...