It’s been ten days since I completed the London marathon, as a first timer there are definitely a few things that I wish I’d known before I signed up, so I thought I’d share my experience here for anyone that may be thinking of signing up for 2018.
So the first thing I’d say . . . is that the training is a HUGE time commitment. Ideally, you need to train for at least four months to prepare physically and mentally, especially if it’s your first time. That time is not just the hours that you spend out on the road but also the time needed before and after. For example, after each long run I would do a ten minute ice bath before having a hot shower, followed by twenty minutes of stretching and foam rolling. I also had to make time to visit a physiotherapist for regular sports massages for my legs and hips. Some days after a long run I was so tired that I’d fall asleep on the sofa at 8pm. It was a big challenge for me to stick to the structure and the discipline of the training plan. I usually run and workout because I want to and because I enjoy it. I didn’t like the feeling of obligation, that I had to get out and run whether I felt like it or not. Especially in January and February when the weather was freezing!
Reality check . . .
You have to make some sacrifices if you’re serious about training and you want to give yourself the best chance of getting to the start line injury free. I don’t drink alcohol very often so this didn’t bother me but other friends that were training for the marathon, found it quite tough to give up their ‘wine after work’ due to their early morning training run comitment.
Oo yum pasta . . .
My marathon training diet also impacted everyone else in the house. I do most of the cooking so my high carb diet was enjoyed by the whole family! Luckily we all enjoy mountains of spaghetti and garlic bread.
Trial and error . . .
As soon as you can, start trying different ways to fuel your body before and during your long runs. I didn’t get this element right on the race day and I really struggled through the last seven miles. During my training, I often had stomach pains which resulted in me running home to use the loo. It might sound funny but the fear of pooing your pants on race day is a genuine concern for lots of runners. I figured out that I couldn’t eat veggies the night before a long run and that dry carbs were the best breakfast. Some toast or a croissant worked well. I was always a little bit worried about the energy gels upsetting my stomach so I only ever took one or two whilst training. That was fine for up to three hours but after that my energy levels crashed and I felt terrible. In hindsight I should have fuelled a lot more throughout the race.
So after all of the hard work and preparation is done, it’s time to take on the most epic 26.2 mile race of your life…
Team work makes the dream work . . .
Get your cheer squad and make sure you make a plan to see them along the way. I couldn’t have got through it without them. First up was my Mum at mile three, then my running buddies were at mile six. I saw Jude’s beaming face in the crowd with Rob at mile twelve, he was so excited and it gave me a massive boost! Later on at mile twenty one I saw my sister and my brother, I was really struggling and I was so grateful they were there. Plus the support on the day from the crowd is absolutely mental!
Get to know . . .
Make sure you reach out to people for advice and top tips. There are lots of runners out there and they all love to talk about running! 🙂 I got some great advice throughout my training and that really helped me on the day. Except for when I crossed the finish line and as I hobbled towards the bag collection, I saw people taking off their trainers and putting on flip-flops, I was mega jealous as my feet were so sore and no one had told me about this very important info. Fail.
My advice would be to go to some of the talks at the expo on the day that you collect your race number. They’ll tell you everything that you need to know, including the logistics for the day. Travel, meet points, safety etc
Lastly, if you manage to bag a space in the race, go for it! It wasn’t easy but I’m so glad that I took on that challenge! I’d be lying if I said that I enjoyed every minute of it but it is life experience that I will never forget. We never really know what we’re capable of until we try.
Here’s my London marathon video highlights –