Three lessons from my first ‘training’ marathon

I’m glad this is rest week (see below). Yesterday, I did a marathon – a proper one with drinks stations, folks in fancy dress and everything. For most of the 12,000 people that ran the Brighton Marathon, it was the end of months of training. For me, it was a warm up for June’s 186 mile Marathon des Cote (MdC). Not ‘just another’ training run, of course. It was, hands down, the best run of my year. And I learned a lot.

Three lessons from my first ‘training’ marathon

Three lessons from my first 'training' marathon

Go slow

Only a sociopath would be immune to the atmosphere of a marathon. And Brighton – Britain’s second biggest after London – has atmosphere in spades (see the tweet below). So there’s a risk of getting swept away in all the festivities and free jelly babies, running too fast and ending up injured. It’s easy for ego to get in the way, push for a PB and end up unable to run properly for weeks afterwards.

So yesterday I started with the runners expecting to finish in between 4.5 and 5 hours. But the atmosphere ended up getting the better of me. I maintained a steady 10 minute/mile pace for the first 23 miles but went hell for leather for the final 3.2, running my last in seven minutes 48 seconds. That’s fast for me. I finished in a little over four hours 11 minutes. That’s 10 minutes off my previous personal best.

Don’t forget why you’re running

Of course, a PB wasn’t yesterday’s aim. I did it because I needed to get the miles in and didn’t want to see a place go to waste (a friend had pulled out because of injury, so I took his place). But totting up the miles wasn’t the only reason for doing it: for one, it was fun, but it was also a chance to test how I’d built fitness over the months and gauge how well I was progressing towards my final goal.

That’s the Marathon des Sables 2019, with two big runs (the MdC and the Snowdonia Ultra 100) before that. My motivations are partly selfish – I love running, pure and simple – but I’m also doing it for diabetes charities T1International, JDRF and Diabetes UK. I missed a trick by not wearing their logos on my top or publicising what I’m doing. The crowds were huge. If one person had taken notice, it would’ve been worth it.

Look after yourself afterwards

This is the toughest thing. There was one thing on the minds of most people crossing the finishing line yesterday (including me): beer, lots of it. And the alcohol free lager they were giving away for free to all competitors didn’t quite cut it. So Brighton’s pubs and bars were rammed with runners showing off their medals and toasting their endeavours. And rightly so.

That’s what I would have been doing, if the thought of the 70 miles or so I need to do next week after this week’s recovery (or the 60 miles a day for three days I have in June) hadn’t been looming large in my mind. Instead, I walked home with a protein shake to a hot bath. Then I got my six year old daughter to walk up and down my calves and thighs (a great sports massage) and contemplated going to bed.

The contemplation didn’t last long. Me, the Mrs and the kids did end up in the pub. Of course you have to look after your muscles etc after a marathon, especially if it was in preparation for a bigger challenge. But you also have to look after your resolve to continue training. For me, beer is the answer to that one. The only thing crazier than doing a ‘training’ marathon in the first place would be not rewarding myself with a few pints after.

Disclaimer: I have no medical training. I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, a physio or a sports therapist. I am just a type-one diabetic and former fat bloke with a stupid idea. This blog is my account of following that idea to its conclusion. Do not attempt anything similar without seeking prior medical (and psychiatric) advice.

  One thought on “Three lessons from my first ‘training’ marathon

  1. April 16, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    That’s why I need to have a kid–so they can walk up and down my calves and thighs! (jk, but that sounds divine!)

    Liked by 1 person

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