Training For My First Marathon
Running a half marathon was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. This was largely down to the minimal training that I did. So when I signed up for a full marathon, I decided to take training a lot more seriously. Here is what I learned when training for my first marathon.
2016 was the year I decided to run in my first half marathon. I didn’t take training particularly seriously as I thought “I’m a fairly fit guy, 13 miles isn’t that far”. During the half marathon, much to my surprise, I quickly realised that 13 miles is very far and I thought my legs were going to fall off! As I finished the race in the most agony I’ve ever been in, I promised myself that I was never going to run again. But after I stopped walking like a puppet from Thunderbirds, it dawned on me what a huge achievement I’d accomplished and with that feeling I’d decided that it’s only right that I sign up for a full marathon.
There’s More to Running Shoes Than You Think
I’ve been running on a regular basis now for over 3 years. I quickly realised that it’s painful to run in regular trainers and that I’d cause myself an injury. So, I splashed out on the brightest, flashiest running shoes on the net and ran in those. I didn’t encounter any problems as I was only casually running 5K distances every few days. When I ran my first half marathon I felt pain in all of my muscles and joints in the lower body. However, I just put this down to poor preparation.
Training for my first marathon, I’ve pushed myself to run further distances. This is when I started losing feeling in my feet and my joints and muscles would hurt for days after a run. I realised that something was wrong, so I visited my local running shop where they analysed my gait and running form (which I’ll move onto later) and cross referenced it to the shoes that I was wearing. I was wearing completely the wrong running shoes! They told me that the style in which I run means I overpronate, so my foot hits the floor on the outside first and then rolls inwards causing pressure and strain on my ankle, heel and tendons. My current running shoes offered no support to my running style, so I was fitted with a structured shoe that helped my foot strike the floor in a neutral position alleviating any pain I was experiencing when running. It’s safe to say I don’t think I would’ve made it past mile 6 if I didn’t get the correct running shoe.
Get Your Gait Analysed
During my research to completing my first half marathon, I kept coming across this term of ‘gait’. I discovered that this was an analysis of how you walk or run and it’s extremely important to prevent injury and improve your running performance. I previously talked about the pain I was experiencing when running long distances and this was explained when I got my gait analysed. Not only was I overpronating when my foot was striking the floor, I was also taking too large stride lengths which resulted in my heel hitting the floor first. I previously thought that this was the correct way to run, but I was told that this was like ‘driving a car with the brakes on’. When the heel strikes the floor first, then you’re losing your momentum and causing shock to travel up your heel. Instead, I was told to practice striking the floor with my entire foot by shortening my stride lengths. If I carried on running in the style that I was, then I would’ve only been running for 5 years before any permanent damage set in.
Learn How To Fuel Correctly
Fuelling during a race was something that I never considered before I ran a half marathon. During training, I never ran a distance where I needed to fuel. I was out on a run and back home again before I need to fuel or re-hydrate. So, when I ran my half marathon I was just drinking water and sports drinks at every station without considering whether I actually needed it or not. This resulted in cramps, stitches and bloating so I was feeling sick during the race.
Whilst training for this marathon, I’ve been researching the best times to fuel and what to fuel with (energy gels, sports drinks etc.) but ultimately, it’s a lot of trial and error as everyone is unique and will have their own threshold for when their body needs that boost of energy.
Post Run Recovery
Again, this is something that I never considered when training for a half marathon. I didn’t really experience enough pain or discomfort to think that I should be looking at post run recovery after my training. Running longer distances means I experienced more DOMS than I ever had before. Due to this, I invested in a foam roller which I use to massage my muscles after every run. Now I find that I feel fresher the day after a run and my recovery time is much less.
Nutrition is also another thing I needed to consider when training for this marathon. I used to just assume that I could eat what I like because I was running so much and burning a lot of calories. And while I didn’t gain or lose any weight, I felt like I wasn’t recovering as quick as I should’ve done. Eating what I wanted also used to resulted in a lack of energy whilst running so I wasn’t fulfilling my potential when training. Now I’m eating more carbs and healthy fats after my runs to reduce the recovery times which results in me being able to run more frequently and for longer.
I’ve decided to give myself plenty of training time for this marathon. Every article and blog post I’ve read when researching have all said 16 weeks. So that’s why I started training in June for a marathon that is in October. I already feel like if I took this approach with the half marathon then I would’ve breezed it. There’s no substitute for actually hitting the road and running so unfortunately there’s no way around this. You need to plan ahead!
Incorporate Strength Training
I was never planning to do any strength training for the duration of my marathon training. However, when I got to point where my lungs were outlasting my legs on distance runs, I soon realised that I need to build strength and muscle in my lower body if I’m to have any success in my marathon. I’ve started spending 1 or 2 of my training days per week to strength training in my lower body and core. This means doing weight lunges, squats, leg raises, leg presses, dead lifts and box jumps. After a few weeks, I felt stronger in my lower body and as a result my endurance improved and I could run longer distances easier.
At the time of publishing this, I’m just under 4 weeks away from my marathon. I feel physically prepared but maybe not mentally. Perhaps that’s something that can’t be trained until I actually run the 26.2 miles. The only thing left to do now though is to bring on the marathon!