Marathon Training Lessons: Anything Can Happen

In 8 days, 21 hours, and 37 minutes, I’ll be running my first marathon.

Hunter Valley Running Festival

Here it is. 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

ITBS

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

Inflamed Cyst

Hunter Valley running festival

This can take your mind off of cysts.

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.

Nausea

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.

Foot Pain

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.

Hunter valley running festival

Hunter Valley Gardens.

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:

1. Run

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.*

8 Responses to “Marathon Training Lessons: Anything Can Happen”

  1. Marabeth Holland Reply July 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Wait-you figured out how to fuel…or did I help? Hee hee!

  2. Good luck. Make me proud, prove all this marathon business comes from your mother’s side. 😉

    • I can’t wait until it’s over. The idea to run came from the Hudson part of me, but I think the stubbornness to complete it is definitely a Fitzpatrick trait!

  3. Wow. So soon! Best of luck and I hope there are no more unexpected issues. I didn’t know that fact about the energy. I always feel sick when I eat anything – or even drink much – during a long run, so I didn’t do it during training and then I felt really weird after accepting jelly babies on the day of the marathon! It’s great that you’ve taken training so seriously and I have confidence you’ll get a great time!

    • Thanks! I’m so pumped for it to be over. I was never an eater, either – I preferred to get up in the morning and run first thing. Now I eat an hour before long ones and a little bit during. They’re going to have jelly beans at ours, so I’m fully planning on eating some!

  4. I feel like this whole, “your body only stores enough fuel for two hours of excercise” thing should be way more common knowledge than it is!! That would have been really useful to know when I did that week long bike ride and fought the urge to vomit for 90 percent of it.

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