Reflecting on my first marathon
When I was training for my first marathon (Edinburgh Marathon Festival) back in 2015, though I was filled with good intentions and armed with a good training plan, I did miss a few of my longer runs. Training largely went well, but work and life did get in the way at points, which I’m sure has happened to many folk training for a first marathon! The result of this was a painful stint around the 18-20 mile mark where my legs had had enough and weren’t listening to my desperate pleas to keep going. After a bit of a stretch off and a couple of miles of running/walking (along with some great encouragement from the crowd and fellow runners it must be said), my legs finally got on board with the task at hand and carried me the rest of the way. Whilst totally happy with my time, I thought that for the next one perhaps I’d better up my training game to try and avoid the same situation.
Learning from the past
When I found out I had a place in the London Marathon, after a brief period of celebration, my thoughts immediately turned to a training plan. This time round my training would be well thought out, planned and executed with military precision – well, more so than last time anyway! As a guide I looked to the BUPA intermediate marathon programme. We often recommend BUPA plans to customers as they have a great range from 5k to marathon distances and from beginner to intermediate level. I knew from last time that I needed to incorporate different types of runs into my training – long, interval, tempo and easy runs every week. Each run has its own particular set of benefits and it is important to cover them all. Long runs to improve endurance. Intervals to improve aerobic fitness, strength and speed. Tempo runs to get your body used to running at race pace and easy runs to enable your body to recover and prepare for the next day of running.
The next thing I had to plan out was exactly when I would fit in all these sessions. Working in retail, my shifts vary from week to week and can include weekends, so the usual long run on a Sunday type plan wouldn’t necessarily work for me – which is fine it just means my long run day can vary according to my days off. I also find it hard to get up early in the morning to fit in runs before work (apparently I’m more of a night owl with respect to training!) so post-work run commutes are a staple in my training. In addition to this, I am lucky to have the run cub at work on Monday evenings; we have our Run4It Edinburgh Race Ready Series on at the moment which is an interval session based workout, geared towards people running spring events.
This kind of group training is amazing for intervals, as it’s much easier to stay motivated with others’ there, holding you accountable. You feel compelled to push harder and see the session through to completion. And it’s a chance to meet people and share experiences! I use treadmills at the gym when I have to. Either when I don’t want to run home with all my gear or when I think the chances of me getting home and then heading straight back out for a run are slim! It’s handy to have the option of indoor running, particularly if the weather is really bad.
I also have an additional weapon in my training armoury this time around: a GPS running watch in the form of a Garmin. Whilst not everybody will need or want a running watch, I find it incredibly useful for maintaining a particular pace if I am doing tempo runs, or for programming interval sessions. Gone are the days of manually checking the time to know how long to run for. I also enjoy listening to music on my runs and my watch enables me to do this via a nifty Bluetooth connection to my headphones, which replaces the need for taking my phone out on runs with me too. Bonus!
So, after getting myself a fresh pair of running shoes and some new running clothing for training through the winter months (lots of thermals and reflectiveness!), I had everything I needed to make a good go of training.
Almost halfway there!
I am currently in week 7 of my 16 week plan and it is going more or less smoothly.
Touch wood, I haven’t suffered from any severe running related injuries in the past, and with the exception of tight calves and an uncomfortable feeling in my right arch, this time round, my body seems to be coping quite well (furiously pedi-rolling as I write!). So far, I’ve completed all the training sessions as planned, with the exception of a few easy runs which fell by the wayside on busy weeks or when I was really tired. I’m also pleased to report that so far no long runs have been shirked!
I have been more adventurous in my running routes this time too, running through places I have never been before. It’s really helped as new scenery provides a welcome distraction when you are beginning to flag! I usually spend ten minutes mapping out my long runs on Strava before I head out, after getting advice on new routes from my colleagues at work, so that I know exactly where I want to go or the hills to avoid (sometimes you just want a flat route!).
With all my preparation I’m hoping for a (relatively!) pain free, enjoyable marathon in April. I’m hoping for a time under 4 hours so I really just need to stick to the training plan and I’m sure everything will fall into place. Ultimately, I’m just really looking forward to being part of one of the biggest marathons in the world and soaking up the atmosphere on the day; experiencing the camaraderie of the runners, running past the landmarks of the capital and listening to the cheers of the crowd! Wish me luck!
Read part 3 of Emma's London Marathon Journey