Marathon Training Lessons: Anything Can Happen
In 8 days, 21 hours, and 37 minutes, I’ll be running my first marathon.
36 minutes and 41 seconds.
36 minutes and 29 seconds.
I know these exact numbers because there’s a countdown on the live streaming event page. That’s right, you can watch all 3500 runners competing in their events, including me. I’m hoping to sweat, shuffle, and struggle my way across the finish line at about 11:30 AM local time, but anything can happen.
Did you get that? Anything can happen. It’s the number one thing I’ve learned about marathons.
Training for this marathon has been challenging. The things I thought would happen didn’t. The things I didn’t expect slammed into me and laughed in my face.
What I Thought Would Happen
I thought FOR SURE my ilio-tibial band syndrome would flare up, rendering me immobile and dashing my marathon hopes for all eternity. Besides a little bit of niggling pain in my knee and hip joints…nothing. Apparently, slow and steady training does win the race.
I’d Get Tired
Because, you know, marathons are hard.
I did get tired, but if you take pain out of the equation it’s surprising how much ground you can cover before you have to stop from exhaustion.
What I Didn’t Expect
I’ll try to make this cringeworthy topic short and sweet, but I can’t touch on my marathon training experience without mentioning my first setback. I’ve had a dime-sized cyst on my upper back for six years. Doctors said it was nothing to worry about and that wasn’t worth removing unless it got infected.
And, of course, that happened. Within six weeks of training, the cyst was red and slightly swollen. A week later, it was the size of a ping pong ball, shiny crimson, and painful ALL THE TIME. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital with an enthusiastic young doctor slicing into and squeezing the bejeezus out of it. I missed one long run as a result, but now you’d never even know it was there.
So. There you go. If you want your cyst removed but the doctor won’t do it, train for a marathon.
Did you know that the human body can only store enough fuel to keep it going through two hours of exercise? I didn’t.
But it explained everything. When Jared and I first started tackling runs of over 14 miles, I consistently lost my shit at about 2 hours 20 minutes into the run. I’d eventually come gamboling to the finish point like a drunken colt, wild-eyed, and huddle in the fetal position, feeling sick. Jared was fine.
After considering the possibility that long-distance running just wasn’t my thing, I realized that I need to fuel up during long runs. Jared’s dad started meeting us at the 90 minute mark with Gatorade and food. After I stuffed half of a banana, peanut butter, and honey sandwich into my mouth, washed it down with water and Gatorade, then followed with a piece of homemade granola bar, I was sweet. No more nausea.
It slipped my mind that in all this running, there was one body part that was going to take the brunt of the abuse.
Well, two body parts, really.
My feet are now two gnarled stumps of thickened skin, perpetually swollen toes, and battered soles.
You’ll notice I did not include a photo. You’re welcome.
I run in minimalist-style shoes (New Balance minimus trail & Merrell trail glove), which I love – I do think that they’ve improved my stride and reduced my ITB pain.
However, there simply is not enough cushioning under the ball of my foot for the repeated slamming against concrete, asphalt, turf, and trail. Jared runs in Altras – also a zero-drop shoe, but one with more cushioning and a wide toe-box. I wish I’d gotten a pair of those.
I started taking anti-inflammatory pills for the long runs, and that’s helped. Now I’ve got a weird, sore, wonky toe formation on my left foot and an occasional twinging pain on the top of it. At this point, I’ve stopped asking questions.
My feet are pissed off. I get it.
If I Could Do It Again
- I’d train in a pair of Altras for the long runs & NB Minimus for the short ones.
- I’d eat more during all of the long runs.
- I’d get two GPS watches, one for each of us. It can get difficult to manage distance when you and your running partner run at different speeds.
- I’d have gotten my cyst removed before training (although I tried to do this and was dismissed).
And you know what would have happened?
I’d probably be writing a different list of unexpected complaints. Because that’s the thing with marathon training. You do all you can, but you’ve got three main jobs:
2. Take what comes at you
3. Keep running (unless you get properly injured, in which case, don’t)
8 Days, 21 hours, 3 minutes, 43 seconds to go.
*All photos from the Hunter Valley Running Festival website.*