For those of you who don’t know, I ran my first full marathon two weeks ago. I trained for a solid 3 months leading up to the event and I hired a coach to help balance my Flywheel Sports class load and my training regimen. It was a long 3 months and I definitely learned a lot about my mind and my body during that time period. Although I’ve been running almost all my life and I’m very close to many marathon runners, there are many aspects of training and the race itself that I was confused by, or just didn’t know. Like how I would feel after the race for one – but we’ll get to that tortuous one at the end.
Your training will hurt. A lot.
I remember texting my friend Tara and saying “Is marathon training supposed to be so unbearably painful?” She said something so revolutionary to me… “I mean, if it were easy a lot more people would do it.” Mind. Blown. I know, I know, how could I just have hopped on the marathon training bandwagon and not expect to feel some discomfort after running 17-20 miles for my long runs. The thing is, that you start to feel pain in places that you wouldn’t expect. Like your tendons, and ligaments, and toes, and joints – you know? I was expecting for it to be more of a muscular pain that I was used to. The lactic acid buildup I could handle – just not pressure on the side of my knee from my IT band getting tight due to overuse injuries, or my hamstring being overly tight/ pulled for the entire 3 month period. Let me tell you one thing – once my body started getting used to the fact that I was going to be pounding the pavement for hours at a time – conveniently during the last weeks of my training regimen – it was so much more enjoyable. I used to not understand how marathon runners did it… trained all the time under so much discomfort, but for me, once my body got accustomed to it, I actually found myself saying that I could continue to do this.
If you get all excited in the first few weeks chances are you’ll probably get injured.
Not saying this is true for everyone, but a wise friend once told me that my training runs needed to be s-l-o-w. I didn’t listen, and I didn’t put too much emphasis on recovery. I got injured. Taking care of yourself is honestly half the battle with marathon training. I probably spent more time foam rolling than actually running.
Cross Training – Major Key.
Having access to so much low-impact but high intensity work (Flywheel) during my training pretty much saved me. Although I would not advise 9-13 classes a week like what I was teaching through my training, I’d definitely say that giving your joints a break from the repetitive pounding they get against the concrete is definitely nice. Just keep in mind that since the motions in cycling and running are very similar, one must take the same precautions and recovery steps as with running.
Tapering Actually Sucks.
Tapering is when you begin to slow down your training and let your muscles recover before your big race day. It usually takes around two weeks. I was under the impression that when you slow down your training, that your body starts to feel better. The first week of my taper I actually had the worst run from my entire training program. I was out of breath, my legs felt heavy AF, and I had to stop and walk like 3 times (which I hadn’t done in any of my other runs). I called my coach freaking out and he was so calm about it… my race was next week! He told me that because my muscles and my body had been at a “Go, go go” for the past 3 months, now that I gave it a small break, it was rebuilding and under the impression that I was not going to continue putting work on it. Apparently, this time period makes you not only feel heavy as hell, but your body craves food to rebuild which makes you more hungry during a time that you are working less. This is perfect regardless of what your goals are because you need to carb load anyway the week leading up to your race. If you continue to work through this week with a lighter, but not too easy load, your body should feel just right for race day.
GU Is Life.
Everyone has his or her personal preference of nutrition during the race. I love my GU because I feel like my body processes it very quickly and it gives me bursts of energy throughout the race. This is not to say that everyone should eat GU’s, but that nutrition is a key component of performance. Whenever I would feel like my body was depleting too much, I slapped a half a GU in my mouth and came back to life. I know that race-day nutrition is something that is well known, but not necessarily how often. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really pay attention to how often I should eat during a race until this last one. I would just “wait until I started feeling down to eat.” My friend said something once again revolutionary, “I heard that if you wait until you start feeling depleted then at that point it’s basically too late and the nutrition will not do much to bring you back from that point.” WHAT?!? Mind. Freaking. Blown. Same with water. Drink your water, Have half a GU every 4 miles and run your best race.
Miles 20-23 Freaking SUCK.
Yeah you think it won’t and the entire race you may say things like “how bad could it be?” or “I feel really great right now,” but there is something about that time period in the race, because it’s the last stretch before your final stretch, that really tests the depth of your self-motivational capabilities. Make sure you have GU’s left (I was running out), make sure you set a goal for yourself or you play a game with yourself or find a running buddy, whatever you have to do. If you can make it to mile 23, you can make it through anything.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Cheer.
Believe it or not, one of the main things that got me through the race was knowing that my husband was going to be waiting for me at a certain mile. Thinking “I have to stay on track so he can be proud of me” made me push myself even more than I thought I could. Same with a little cheer gang that my November Project family set up for all participating runners. It made the distance between each mile seem so much shorter and it broke up the race in a way that was so manageable mentally.
Literally nobody talks about this part of the race – the aftermath. I guess it’s because they don’t want to scare you by telling you that you won’t be able to walk for two days afterwards, but you won’t be able to walk normally for at least two days after your race. The morning after I woke up and wanted to flip over in my bed but my abs, back and arms were so sore I could not engage anything enough to flip. I have never had my abs be sore after running. Ever. Another weird thing was that my shoulder joint (only the right one) was really sore. I also chafed under my arm, right where my sports bra line was from my arm rubbing against it. Not to mention that I chafed everywhere else like my back where my leggings tag was and other less convenient spots. After your race you will probably still want to eat everything, except you won’t be working out. I actually managed to stretch enough the day after my marathon to teach a Flywheel class which seemed like the worst idea on the planet but it was so amazing to see all of my riders and it really helped loosen up my legs a lot. I continued to teach my regular class load of 9 classes for the rest of the week, which I feel helped me recover much faster. I would definitely suggest getting off your feet and moving around as much as possible. Anything low-impact and stretching based.
Although all of these aspects may seem like they are completely negative, the emotional experience, feeling of accomplishment and the overall achievement of something that seems so unattainable far outweighs any negative associated with marathon training. If you haven't done it, don't be scared or intimidated, just pay attention to your trainers and professionals and above all, listen to your body.