7 lessons learnt training for a marathon
Last year I took on the Yorkshire 3 peaks marathon for Candlelighters. In a brutal 7 hour run it tested my physical and mental capacity to the limit. Midway up the third peak i’d say it was the closest I’ve ever come to being beaten. Every 20 steps I had to stop, breathe and let my muscles recover before going again,
But I finished it and in a respectable time too. Below is a picture of me with Brian Curran the Chairman for Candlelighters, a fantastic charity in Leeds.
This year I decided to do another challenge and take on the Leeds Half Marathon on the 13th May supporting Run for All and the Asda Foundation and raising money for Save the Children. If you can spare a quid or two to support me I would appreciate that. Click HERE to go to my Just Giving Page.
So with that in mind I thought I’d share 7 learnings that I’ve had from this training camp. These are pretty random in nature but if you are planning on doing any kind of physical challenge in the future they will certainly help you.
Here we go…
Volume is the killer not intensity
I’ve been training at or around my target race pace of 4:45 minutes per kilometre which will bring me home in 1 hour 40 minutes (21 kilometres in total).
When I run under that speed for shorter distances of 3-6 kilometres my body handles that fine.
When I run longer distances and try to hold that pace or even let myself go slower it hurts. Handling the volume is really important. It’s taking me 2-3 days to recover from 8-10 km fast runs, but closer to 4 days to recover from anything over 12km. I’ll probably do one more run of that duration before the actual event and that will be a full 12 days prior to the race itself to allow myself to recover fully.
You can eat anything you want when you’re burning serious calories
Words of joy for some of you I’m sure. In short, sign up for a marathon, do the training and you can eat anything! Whilst I know it’s not always healthy, when you’re recovering from an intensive run session you’re body craves carbohydrates and the easiest way to get them is through sugar! There have been some serious biscuit sessions I’m not going to try to lie to you!
Foot management is key
A bizarre one here. Often soldiers say that the thing they are taught early on in their training is to look after their feet. It doesn’t matter how strong and motivated you are if your feet are ruined you’re going nowhere!
Recently I’ve been getting some heel pain in the morning probably from the volume so I’ve ordered a heel pad to manage this. My trainers are prescribed with extra stability to avoid pronating and I’ve been rolling my feet out with a tennis ball to relieve the tension. It’s really helping.
Strength training is out the window
Today I did a very basic strength session and it was super tough. It was a session that normally I would smash through and even with lower weights it was still very challenging. The reality is that I hadn’t recovered from yesterdays run and their is a nervous system fatigue that goes with high volume race pace running. More than likely next week I’ll do my final run before a week taper and I’ll maybe do some upper body weights that final week just to keep ticking over.
I mentioned this before in this post but hill running is critical for many reasons.
Firstly it gives you the strength in your legs to actually get round in a decent time.
Secondly it gives you the confidence that you are able to run up the hills.
Thirdly it takes the stress off your ankle and achilles as the impact is less on hill running than on the flat. This is important when it comes to overall stress management.
Sessions that are working well for me are:
Outdoor undulating running.
Treadmill 2 minute sprint 2 minute run x 5.
Treadmill 1km hill run 1km jog.
Muscle memory through speed training
My strategy for my target time of 1:40 is simple. Run fast on the flat and downhill and survive on the hills. The challenge I find is that at the top of hills when it’s flat or starts to descend my legs are fatigued due to the hill.
Sounds obvious right?
What happens though is that the flat and downhill tend to slow down due to that fatigue. I’ve been using a specific tactic I call run offs to combat this. Essentially running up the hill on the treadmill for 4 minutes then doing a 1km sprint which forces me to increase pace and survive.
But in addition to that I am having to do speed work to actually remember what running fast feels like. A 5 x 400m sprint session is working well for me for this and means that I have the confidence to run on the flat and sprint downhill.
Don’t get Ill
Two weeks ago I went out for beers with friends on the Saturday then out for a meal and drinks with family on Sunday. Monday morning I did 13km as fast as possible. Thursday I was ill with a cold and sore throat.
I took a week off and still wasn’t right. It literally cost me two weeks of training time. I think I’m good now but only late this week.
Lesson learnt. Don’t mix boozing and hard training if you want to stay healthy!
So there you have it. But what about you? Do you have any tips that will help me in my training? Please let me know by leaving me a comment on social media on through the blog. Links are below.
Thanks as always for reading and keep on pushing forwards.
To your strength and success,