This evening, Pete, Sara, Paula and I held a Marathon Meeting; as in a meeting about marathons rather than a very long meeting! This year will be Pete's 20th marathon, so he has more than a wealth of experience to share which meant that along with Sara, who's also run quite a few already, Paula and I have been left this evening feeling more knowledgeable, better prepared and definitely even more enthused.
If you are running a marathon for the first time, then I'd highly recommend trying to catch up with someone who has done it before. The interaction between us meant that I was able to get some great tips on my training plan, which I am going to adapt slightly on reflection of their advice, as well as the opportunity to sound out what works best for them in training, racing and post-run recovery; reading a book just doesn't quite match up to that.
So, what did I find out? Well... as Paula and I went on a Magathon-Marathon / Janathon, marathon 5k run following the marathon Marathon Meeting, it's quite late now so I'm going to share what I have remembered as the 3 most important things we discussed:
1. Try out drinks and gels now in the training runs. This seems obvious, but I've still not got used to running and drinking, and I've not yet found a gel that settles on my stomach. Pete recommended trying different brands out and seeing what works best, which is going to take some trial and error. Until now, I've run up to half-marathon distance without taking anything on board (except a few jelly babies which don't seem to work), not even water, so this needs to change. One thing I'm going to work into my training plan is fuelling my run, on any distance that sees me running over 1 hour.
2. Take a bag to the start line full of food, drink, a change of trainers and warm clothes. When we run races, Paula and I do that thing where you dress like a tramp and leave your scruffy 'warm-up' clothes in the charity pile before setting off. We then usually meet someone at the end, who'll have a set of our actual clothes for us to put on. We hadn't considered the logistics of this at such a large event as the VLM and also, as Pete pointed out, we'll want warm clothes and food etc. as quickly as possible. So, we're going to use the baggage area this time meaning we'll have access to all of this almost as soon as we're over the line, and we'll be looking fresher (for all the food we've stuffed into us) by the time we see our friends (and have our photos taken!!).
3. The Marathon really, really, hurts. In fact, it hurts more than anything else (except maybe childbirth... but I don't know because I've never done that either!). That's not a tip! I hear you cry... but yes... it is; in fact, bizarely enough, it was maybe the best one of the night. I've been worrying that my long runs are hurting so much, that it's a sign that I can't do this... that if I can't even run 14 miles without being in excrutiating agony at the end of it, then how on earth will I run the Marathon? But that's the point isn't it? This is an endurance event; it's a test of your body. In order to achieve it, you have to push yourself right to the edge... right past the point you thought you could, then out even further than that. Of course it hurts; and I shouldn't be afraid of that pain. So the next time I'm running and I start feeling those familiar twitches and aches, I'm going to remind myself to keep pushing; because the training pain is nothing, the marathon will be something else again!
So rather than leaving me thinking: 'Oh my word... what AM I doing?!', I left thinking 'I can do this.' stepping up that feeling of positivity I gained in my run yesterday, one extra notch; because as Pete said, and Sara agreed: 'The feeling you get when you approach the finish line is an amazing feeling of achievement that makes all the miles, the hard work and pain worthwhile. Have fun!'
Distance: 3 miles
Weather: clear but with a cold wind
Feeling: Really good and much stronger in my running.
See my run here.