500 + miles
3 pairs of shoes
100+ pounds of ice
A lifetime of memories!
Now, clearly I'm no expert given that I've run a whopping one marathon. However, I learned a lot about training and what to expect on race day from following other bloggers so I wanted to share my experience as well. Here are some of my thoughts/tips for each stage of training.
Training: A lot of people questioned the training plan I followed since it included zero cross-training/strength training. I was also a bit surprised when I first received it but I figured if it's worked for hundreds of other runners then it must be effective - and it was! Whichever training plan you chose there will be a few universal traits:
- Be prepared to wake up early. Super early. Unnaturally early. As your long run distances increase most plans will have one 'medium long' run during the week. For a few weeks we had 10 mile runs scheduled on Tuesday which meant I was waking up at 4:20 a.m. to get started by 4:40.
- You'll be in bed by 10 p.m. on Friday and to tired to go out Saturday nights after running that morning. This wasn't a big deal to me since I rarely stay out late but if you enjoy going out every weekend that may change once in training.
- Running isn't cheap. When running casually it is an extremely cost effective form of exercise. You basically just need a pair of decent shoes and your good to go. For a marathon you need: 2 pairs of running shoes, high quality workout clothes, race registration, and gu's/chomps. That's about $400-500 alone. Add in optional items like a gps watch, unexpected doctor bills from injuries, or a training plan like I participated in and the cost can easily be $500+. Worth every penny, but be prepared to budget for it! I advice to get high quality clothes because I went through 3 pairs of $20-30 shorts that all left me with chafing or feeling uncomfortable before I splurge on a $50 pair that I worse on almost every run for the last month of training. You'll also need at least 2 pairs of shoes since you should replace them every 300-500 miles and chances are you'll hit that mark right before the marathon. Take my advice and buy a pair of new shoes about 2 months out. You can keep your old ones to run in more after, but don't wait until the last minute to get new shoes. Even if they are the same brand/style you never know if you might get a defective pair!
- Train with a group or running partner if at all possible. Yes, I could have trained alone but having the support of a group helped push me out of my comfort zone. Worried about being the slowest in the group? Don't be! On more than one occasion I was the last to finish - know how much I care about that? Not at all. Training with a group lets you meet others who are all suffering through the same thing you are. I've never been so open talking about bathroom issues with other people before I ran with a group.
- It is possible to gain weight while training. I put on 8 pounds in 4 months. Not a huge amount, and I'm confident most of it will come off after a few weeks, but it was unexpected. I used the 'training for a marathon' excuse a few to many times. I also did add on a few pounds of muscle (I'm convinced it's all in my calfs.)
Me at the Double Bridge Run!
Taper/Marathon Day: I had a great marathon run, didn't hit the wall, and was running again 2 days later! I owe it all to 4 months of solid training and a two-week taper period where I tried to do every possible thing 'right.'
- During taper you may start to go insane. I was literally on the verge of tears almost daily just being overwhelmed (in a good way!) with the thought of finishing the marathon. Your life will literally revolve around the marathon and from those in my group who had families it can put a strain on your relationships. If applicable, make sure your partner is away of how much time and energy this will take you.
- During taper start taking vitamin C and zinc to ward off any illness. Historically many runners will get sick during taper so be sure to give your immune system a boost!
- Don't cut calories during taper. Yes you are running less but you need to get your body ready to do something incredible so stock up and don't worry if you feel a little bit heavier than usual.
- Don't try anything new on race day. When training you'll do a few long runs between 17-20/21 miles. Treat those as mini-marathons. Wear what you think you'll wear on race day, and eat the same things you plan to during the marathon.
- Make lunch the day before the marathon your biggest meal that day. I ate a light dinner so that I could try to have as little as possible in my system on the run. When running your body will start sending less blood to your digestive track so it makes digesting things very difficult. The less you have in there the better! Also, try to stop drinking water about an hour before the race. Hydrate super well the 2-3 days before and you'll be fine. My biggest fear on race day was having an emergency bathroom situation and I didn't have to stop once.
- Enjoy the race! Seriously. Don't start counting miles down in your head, just focus on the mile you are on. I didn't even really think about how much distance I had left until I hit the halfway point. At the end you will be exhausted and counting down the seconds until it's over but try to soak up the moment your crossing the finish line. Mine was such a blur I can already hardly remember it!
Recovery: These are things you should really be doing after every long run. Like I said before, anything 17 miles and up should be treated as a 'mini marathon'.
- Keep walking after you cross the finish line. Try to walk for at least 5-10 minutes. Your body has been running for 4+ hours and coming to an abrupt halt can be a shock to your musculature system.
- Immediately refuel with some high quality carbs. I went with a Vega recovery shake, a banana, and an oreo. Hey, I'm not perfect.
- Foam roll when you get home and immediately get into an ice bath. The bath may suck worse than the marathon but it will be worth it!
- Your soreness should be at it's worse the following day. The day of the marathon I actually cleaned my house so I wasn't to sore then. The next day I went for a walk of 2.5 miles and it took me over an hour! By Day 2 I was running again. I was diligent about stretching/foam rolling every day and adopted the 'active recovery' mentality.
No matter how you prepare there will always be things that come up.
Unexpected pain/injuries.Unexpected problems with shoes you trained in for months. Starting to see a trend? Expect the unexpected. Even if you think you are doing everything 'right', I can promise you something will come up during training (or on race day) that you will not be prepared for. My best advice is to address any problems that arise as soon as possible. My extreme achilles pain and shin splints were rectified within days after Paul introduced me to trigger point therapy. The unbearable pain I had in my left foot after running in defective shoes was alleviated by putting in inserts and lacing my shoes lower. Most problems can be fixed, but you have to address them immediately!
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. If I'm still in Pensacola next year I will 100% be training with Running Wild again for marathon #2!
Are you thinking of running a marathon? What would your biggest fear be?