1) Summer Running
This is the first marathon I have trained for during the summer, having previously undertaken the somewhat more traditional spring marathon. There have been some questionable ‘summer’ training days as you would expect in Great Britain, but there have also been some joyous days of glorious sunshine and warmth. On these long, light days it has meant that it feels almost acceptable to wake up at 6am and fit a run in on a busy day, and likewise heading out late evening is not a battle against darkness. If you think you may struggle with time to fully train for a marathon, I suggest you try a summer race. Just be ready to accept the truly awful runners tan you will inevitably gain!
A slight downside to marathon training in summer is the consequential thirst and dehydration the heat can bring. I found I could no longer get away with completing a long training run without the need for a water stop. This trick was suggested to me a while back but I was yet to fully embrace it until this training cycle. I have been carrying a couple of pound coins in my running belt whilst out on particularly warm and long runs, which allows me to stop at a shop for water. There’s no carrying a bottle or wearing a hydration vest, and even when going into the countryside there’s always a little village shop open to nip into. Just be ready to accept some slightly strange looks as you stand there at the counter pouring with sweat!
After hitting the wall at Manchester Marathon earlier this year I have explored the use of running with gels during my training, having previously utilised a handful of jelly beans as extra fuel. I was dubious of gels before, thinking I preferred the feeling of ‘real’ food. But I am now a convert. I have found gels easy to take and I feel they have given that energy hit I need when I have begun to flag on a long run – it may also be psychological, but if it works it works! I am not saying that gels are the answer for everyone, but if like me you are a bit sceptical, I would say there is no harm in trying – just not for the first time during a race!
4) Enjoy Yourself
Do not let your marathon training stop you enjoying other races and events. I entered a couple of 10ks during my training programme and although they didn’t really fit with my training plan, I made it work, switching long runs and swapping rest days. I did not want to allow myself to become so preoccupied with following such a rigid plan that I missed the chance to enjoy a race day. Although not a race, the same goes for parkrun. Some might say that pushing myself as hard as possible around a 5k on a Saturday morning is not the best idea the day before a long training run; but I think if you do not find time to include what you enjoy then there is a risk that you may become a bit resentful toward your marathon training.
5) Trust the Training
The first few weeks of my training were not great in terms of how I physically felt. I was a way off the paces I had previously been running and my body just didn’t seem to be capable of what it used to be. I stuck with it, determined not to let this get me down, and over the weeks the improvements have developed, my pace has quickened, my body has changed, and I am physically and mentally in a much better place than when I started nearly sixteen weeks ago. This has led me to remember that training is a long term process – do not expect instant results and be willing to stick with it through the tough times in order to gain the rewards.
6) Remember Why You Run
Looking back at my Manchester Marathon experience, I became very preoccupied with running a sub four hour time and was also tempted by the fact I may be able to try for a Good For Age time for the London Marathon. My obsession with time is something I am leaving behind as I head to Berlin. Yes, I still want to run sub 4 hours, but what I really want to do is complete another marathon in an amazing city, amongst thousands of other runners, and relish everything that makes running a marathon so amazing. I was also due to be running in Berlin with my friend, however injury has meant that sadly she will now be cheering me on from the side-lines. To say I am gutted for her is an understatement, and it has made me realise how lucky I am to be running this race and how I am not going to sacrifice my happiness for the sake of a clock time. Berlin beckons.