Paris Marathon Training: Over half way!

(Well ok, technically I’ve still got weeks and weeks to go – but I’m over the 13.1 mark!)

The past couple of long runs have been a bit of a way off what I thought I’d be capable of by now. Lots of 12:00+ minute miles, heavy legs, aches, pains and grumbling.

As a result, I was quite nervous when I headed out this morning for 14 miles – I had no idea if my body would even cooperate over that sort of distance. But I figured I’d give it a go anyway (despite the SNOW as I left home!)

Miles 1-3 were uncomfortable, to say the least. I was supposed to do the first 10k as an out-and-back along the river path, but it was iced over, so I turned round and headed for my standard (hilly!) loop instead. My calves were extremely tight, and my legs were aching and heavy – I was really worried that I’d have to cut the run short. The weather went from snow, to sleet, to rain, to wind, to rain, to (finally) sunshine.

Miles 4-5 were better – after a few breaks to stretch out the niggles, my legs loosened up a bit and things started to settle. Still a bit tired and heavy, though.

I met my friend at 5 miles, as she wanted to run a 10k (I was supposed to do 7-8 before I met her, but thanks to the route change and various breaks I fell behind a little.) Chatting took my mind off the legs, and we settled into a comfortable pace quite quickly, which was nice. A runner passed us in the opposite direction at about 8 miles and my friend called out ‘HIGH FIVE, DUDE!’ (it worked), which made me laugh out loud. Just what you need on a long run! 🙂

It was at this point that I went to take one of my gels, only to realise it went out of date last June. Running fail. Luckily, by tweaking my route a little I could stop off at Sainsburys for CHOCOLATE at the 10 mile mark – obviously the most effective substitute 😉 This meant that this was the furthest I’d run since Brighton without a gel, and I was pretty impressed to find that I felt pretty comfortable from miles 6-10 without one! Peanut butter on toast for breakfast was clearly a good call.

14milesI counted my friend down to the end of her 10k, which was mile 11 for me – and she waved me off for the last 3. Those were a lot tougher than the rest, and I ended up taking a short walking break almost every half mile. At 13, I passed her (we were doing laps of the park – her walking, me running/jogging/shuffling) and she gave me a cheer, which was hilarious but brilliant 🙂 When I saw her next, I was 0.9 miles from the end and she jogged alongside me, with a ’14 miles! Yeah! You can do this!’ and a bit of a whoop and a cheer. Got quite a few looks for that, but it gave me the energy to pick up the pace for the last stretch! (Why can’t every run come with a cheer squad!?)

When I looked at my Garmin, I saw that my final mile was under 12:00 – a great sign, given that the last 2 were shorter runs and much slower. But it wasn’t until I got home and uploaded my run data that I realised just how much of an improvement this week was:

14m split

An average pace of 11:32 (30 seconds/mile off last week’s moving pace average, despite the breaks), and an average moving pace of 11:14!

I was even more excited to see that the average moving pace of FIVE of those miles was under 11:00, and only one was over 12:00!

I guess the hard work is finally starting to pay off 😀



Brighton Marathon Training Day #1

Runners are a friendly bunch, aren’t they?

Obviously we all knew that already, but it was really noticeable yesterday. I went along to the Brighton Marathon Training Day by myself, feeling a little nervous, but the minute I sat down people started chatting to me. Although I was in a room full of total strangers, everyone was SO approachable. It was wonderful!

I met people who had never run more than 10k, to people who had run dozens of marathons (at paces that I can only dream of!) They were all different ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds, and it reminded me that ANYONE can be a runner. You don’t need to run fast, you don’t need to be stick thin, you don’t need to have been doing it all your life – you just need to get out there and run.

The thing I really love about the running community is that you can chat to a sub-3hr marathon runner about your recent 1hr 10k, and not feel inferior – instead, you get tons of encouragement and support, and are made to feel great about GETTING OUT THERE AND TRYING. That really is all that matters 🙂

The session was run by the Run Lounge Coaches (although it was just Nick there this time), with the help of the BM race director, the guys from Saucony, and the physios from Body Rehab.

The session was titled ‘Let’s Get Organised!’ and covered tons of interesting topics:

  • How to plan your training around the months ahead
  • Getting the right kit for this winter
  • How to fuel my running and surviving Christmas!
  • What training is required – the key elements explained
  • Stretching and core conditioning workshop
  • Intro from the race director

They gave us lots of Gatorade and High5 goodies, which is great as I haven’t used either of those brands before, and as they’re the event sponsors it’ll be their products handed out at the aid stations. They also gave us a water pouch to try out, which I’m obviously going to accidentally explode all over my face:

Yesterday made things feel very real. They started by showing us a video of the 2013 Brighton Marathon – it had loads of clips from the finishing line, and I swear, the tension in the room was crazy. It suddenly seemed to sink in that it would be US crossing that line next – in just 132 days! Is it weird that I got a little bit emotional watching it!? (No tears, of course. I’m way too tough for that!)

One of the sentences in Nick’s opening presentation really stood out to me:

There will be weeks when you ask yourself what you’re capable of. But the fact that you’re sitting here now, tells me that you’ll all be fine‘.

The session was encouraging, and gave me the confidence that I’ve been lacking so far. Honestly, the motivational speeches by themselves made the session worth paying for! The presentations were funny, interesting and full of loads of useful tips. They also answered every. single. question, even if they touched on topics that were to be covered in future training days.

There were a few points that really interested me. The first was the idea of training by time, rather than distance – especially for the long runs. They pointed out that if elite and novice runners both aim for a 20-mile long run before the taper, the elite will run it in around 2 hours, whereas a novice would probably be running closer to 4.(Think about the difference in recovery time – after a 3-week taper, the elite will be starting the marathon on fresh legs, whilst the novice may still be recovering).

Studies have shown that the benefits in relation to effort significantly decrease past the 3-hour mark, and that runners shouldn’t aim to run for more than 3h-3h15 for their longest training run (or, as mentioned, they may not be fully recovered in time for the marathon).

This is something I’m really going to stick to  this time round – during my last training cycle I put way too much emphasis on the miles, and not on the time. I think that was part of the reason I got injured – I spent too much time on my feet during my long runs, and as a result I didn’t give myself enough time to recover in between. They suggested that it would be better to run for slightly less time, maintaining your marathon pace for the second half (to get used to running at marathon pace on tired legs), than plodding along at a much slower pace for an extra hour. Makes sense!

Nutrition was another big topic yesterday, and something I really don’t know much about! One of their tips was to reduce the size of your 3 main meals, but to regularly snack in between, to keep your metabolism working at a higher rate (burning more calories at rest – win!) and to maintain your blood sugar levels. They said that this would actually aid recovery, and train your body to store fuel as glycogen, rather than fat (making it easier to access during your next run!)

The idea is that if you let yourself become hungry, your body will already be lacking the extra calories it needs to repair your muscles (similar to thirst indicating that you’re already dehydrated). This is something to carry over into the marathon – fuel before you feel the need (i.e., before you deplete your glycogen stores), so that by the time you finish, you body already has the energy it needs to begin the recovery process, rather than being in calorie deficit. Much more efficient than an ’emergency refuel’ after you cross the finish line!

They also mentioned something that I’ve never paid enough attention to – iron levels. I became a blood donator a few years ago, but the past few times I’ve tried to give blood, I’ve failed the hemoglobin/finger prick test they do beforehand, due to low iron levels. In fact, at one point I was borderline anemic, and prescribed iron tablets. But I had never considered how it would affect my running.

The thing is, we all know that iron is involved in transporting oxygen to your muscles via your red blood cells, and being on the low side would inhibit this process – which isn’t what you want when your muscles are working hard! (Duh) ..

There’s also the side effect of low energy, and generally feeling run down. Again, not what you want when training for a marathon!

As I know that I have low iron levels (they suggested heading to your GP for a blood test if you’re unsure) I’m going to get back into taking multivitamins with iron, and increasing the iron-rich foods in my diet (as well as having more vitamin C, which aids iron absorption). It’s something worth thinking about if you find yourself feeling tired, run down, or lacking energy!

If any of you guys are training for Brighton, I can’t recommend these sessions enough. At only £20 a go, they’re a steal! As well as the presentations, they offered a stretching and core conditioning workshop (which made every runner in the room groan in discomfort, but REALLY WORKED, and was definitely a bit of a giggle); gait analysis; half price physio checkups/sports massages, and HUGELY reduced Saucony kit. I’d never bought any Saucony gear before the weekend, but I fell in love with the stuff I saw yesterday, and nabbed a few bits 😀 They even had running shoes reduced to £25! Insane!

I’ll definitely be going to the other events! (And I won’t skip the group running session next time ..)