Thinking of a title for my blog took approximately 0.3 seconds. Admittedly, I’d just watched the far more interesting Brittany Runs a Marathon a few nights ago, so it’s a shameless mix of blatant plagiarism and bandwagon-jumping.
I’m not much of a jumper, but I do run….
…and I have signed up for my first marathon….and my name is Wendy.
A running buddy suggested I blog my experience (thanks Claire), perhaps it will be useful to others?
I do talk about running a lot, and I will happily admit I am not an expert, or even an experienced runner. I’m perhaps best described as an enthusiastic novice….so decide for yourself if you want to read on, or not.
Over the course of the next 18 weeks, I’ll blog weekly on my experience of training for a marathon. I’ll make an effort to add photos and links to things I’ve found useful. The marathon is in Gent, Belgium (ooh lala, a fancy place for a first marathon you may be thinking. It’s one of my favourite cities, and I get a wee holiday out of it). The date is 29th March 2020. I’d tell you one of my all time favourite drunk stories from when I last visited Gent….but as this is my first blog post and a bit long-winded, I’ll save it for another post.
I’ve been running just shy of one year. It’s been a brilliant year. Prior to this, I was a couch potato. I couldn’t have told you the first thing about pace, heart rate, gait, the relative importance of rest day….personal bests, strava segments, how to lace your running shoes, isotonic drinks, smart watches, tempo runs, fartleking (actually, still not sure what that is) and the runners favourite topic…how to plan a race around your bowel habits.
Since then, starting off with the brilliant couch to 5K program, I’ve run numerous 5K’s and 10K’s and half marathons…some with brutal hills. And parkrun, as a local and a tourist. I’ve nabbed a few Strava crowns and I took part in a team relay 24 hour race. We came second. I decided I wanted to run a marathon in the afterglow of the relay race.
This all sounds rather gloaty and effortless. In keeping with my self-deprecating Scottish roots I have also; fallen flat on my face at parkrun, in front of everyone, had to take an al fresco toilet break during a run and had some truly cringeworthy photos taken of me towards the end of a race (shared on social media, of course). I’ve bought around 20 sports bras, but I wear the same three in rotation. I also realised wearing a running ‘skort’ was a terrible idea, 2 kms into a half marathon when the wind kept catching it and revealing more than I’m comfortable with for the remainder of the race.
So anyway, moving swiftly on.
I found it quite difficult to find a training plan to suit my running ability and goals. Like my running shoes and clothing size, I sit halfway between accepted norms. Somewhere between a novice and an improver. While researching training plans I was watching a bunch of YouTube running videos one night, and I came across the name Hal Higdon. I checked him out and bingo, a running plan for an inbetweener like me.
With a few tweaks (the training days didn’t really work for me so I switched Mon/Tues) I giddily input all the runs into excel and calendar. It’s an 18 week plan, the longest run is 20 miles, there’s no speed or hill work and I can fit the rest of my hectic life around 4 runs a week, if I skip cross-training. It’s doable, I think.
Training Schedule – Week 1
- Mon – 3 miles easy
- Tues – Rest
- Wed – 5 miles at Marathon Pace (*more on this below)
- Thurs – 3 miles easy
- Fri – Rest
- Sat – 8 miles long
- Sun – Rest/Cross Train
Next up was the 5 miler at marathon pace. That’s the one I’ve been working towards in the last few weeks. It went well.
*Until recently, my focus was always on getting faster. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a boost when you run so fast you want to puke, but bag some Strava bling and a ‘harder than usual’ effort…however, I really can’t see me nipping on like that for 26.2 miles and finishing. So I’ve been learning how to run slower (aka sexy-pace). With a bit of trial and error I’ve discovered that’s, for me, around 6:00 min/km (or 9.39 min/mile in old money). That should bag me a none too shabby first marathon time of under 4.5 hours…give or take.
By Thursday, I was fighting the urge to go for a full on sprint fest/interval session. What the actual? I have never been a fan of this. I thought about my new-found desire to push things harder than the training plan allowed, while running 3 miles easy and decided it was probably a blip, my propensity to rebel maybe. Anyway, the run was over sooner than I wanted.
Saturday came around soon enough. A proper ‘baltic’ sort of a day. Below freezing, but bright. My first long run would surely tame the beast within and satisfy my craving for something more challenging. I set off early, but still managed to catch various people. My good friend Caroline warming up for her triathlon club meet, a couple of parkrun volunteers on their way to their marshall point (including my running friend Beverley I later discovered), a couple of older gentlemen who flagged me down to tell me that I was a bit early for parkrun (winking at each other conspiratorially at their apparent brilliance and on-fleekness) and a lost dog situation that required me to stop and confirm that I hadn’t seen the owner, but that I would let them know if I happened to pass them (I didn’t, hope the dog was microchipped).
I hardly noticed the miles flying by with so many distractions! But it was a satisfying distance, and I didn’t speed off, and I was left feeling I could run on…which I think is the idea. And there was pretty light. My butt was frozen though…I almost searched Amazon for heated running breeks. Do they exist?
On Sunday, I was supposed to rest or cross train, I thought maybe a swim. I did neither, my teenage son decided that he would like to try running (this is after months of resistance to the idea). If you have teenage children, you will understand that their minds can change in a flash. I wasn’t going to let that happen. We went for a run/walk together. He managed 5K. He wants to go out again next week!!
So all in all, a good first week.
It was also our running club prizegiving on Saturday. I won a trophy for the most improved! Delighted!
That’s me second from the left, grinning from ear to ear.
Until next week…thanks for reading.