Here’s what I learnt after my first marathon
An honest account of what I learnt after my first marathon by Darren Walters
I had always looked at people running marathons before I attempted mine and thought; "It can't be that hard can it?".
I had done a few half marathons and thought the prospect of running it twice seemed ridiculous, but I still didn't think it would be quite as hard mentally and physically as it was...
Here are just some things I wish I'd known before taking on the challenge:
- Three months training is not enough! I had a basic level of fitness but my three months training did not allow any time for niggles and illnesses, which are rife at that time of year. I would allow yourself at least 4 months if you have a basic level of fitness and around 5 months if you are starting from scratch.
- Your social life HAS to change. I did not realise the impact marathon training has on your social life. With long training runs on a Sunday, I had to wave goodbye to my Saturday evenings out and when I did go out, I was conscious about what I was eating and drinking. If you really want to accomplish a goal, you have to give up on other (less important) things and learn to prioritise.
- You fall in love with new sports gear. I never thought I would get more excited about buying new sports gear, than I would buying new shoes or handbags! The excitement at new trainers or new high tech training clothes is bizarre. And you honestly believe that if you have them they WILL of course help you run faster and for longer!
- Marathon training isn’t just about running every day for as long as you can. Ignore any training programs that tell you to just run, run and run. It’s so important to factor in strength and conditioning training into your programme. I actually only ran 3 times a week and on the other days I did Pilates, strength training and circuits. Mixing your training not only has huge benefits for your physical and mental health, but also helps to protect your body from injuries.
- You do not need to consume huge amounts of sweets and energy drinks during the Marathon. Despite what others say, it’s so important to test out sweets, gels and energy drinks during your training runs. I did not get on with too much sugar as it actually made me feel sick. So instead I had mixed fruit and nuts. Everyone is different so it’s important to find what’s right for you.
- Injury is inevitable. Marathon training puts a lot of strain and pressure on your body, so don’t be surprised if you get injured at some point. Common injuries are Runners Knee and Plantar Fasciitis. I'd highly recommend finding a great reliable Osteopath and Sports Massage clinic. Have monthly appointments to ensure your body is in as good a condition as possible. It’s also a great opportunity to have any tension released.
- Don't be too hard on yourself and do not set an unrealistic goal. The most important thing is for you to finish the marathon so try not to focus on the time it takes as this will put too much pressure on you.
- Accept that you will hurt. Nothing could have prepared me for the aches and pains during the training and after the marathon. This is why I wish I’d started having sports massages earlier into my training. But the feeling you get when you finish far outweighs all of this!
- Stretching is essential. Ignore what anyone else says, stretching throughout every day is so important. It took me a while to realise I needed to do this during the day and not just before and after training. Don’t rush your stretching. This can actually be the most important part of your training.
- Don’t give up. There will be times when you want to throw it all in. Trust me. You will be tired, emotional, aching. But it’s important to remember the reason you chose to do the marathon and the huge sense of achievement you will feel afterwards.
- When’s the next one. Not everyone will get this feeling but a few days after (once the pain had eased) I was already Googling the next marathon!