I have a question; does the perfect marathon training/ preparation exist? Is it possible to go through the entire 12-16 weeks without any setbacks? Without injury, illness, personal problems, family issues, or work related interruptions?
Is there a way to avoid all of these things? It is realistic to expect marathon training to be plain sailing? Surely somebody out of the hundreds of thousands of people that have trained for a marathon has had everything go to plan?
I wonder if anyone has managed to follow a training plan exactly as they set it out at the start of training. Without missing a single session, cutting a session short, taking a detour to miss out on that last hill rep, or even adding a few extra miles on or going too fast when it’s meant to be an easy day? Surely being that rigid wouldn’t be a good idea even is it was possible?
I’m training for my 7th marathon, (8th if you count the 70 mile Ultra we did last summer) and I’ve never had the training go smoothly, I thought however this time could have been the one. I wasn’t expecting perfection, as such, but something pretty close. I should have known better. I think it was very naïve to have assumed that something wouldn’t have gone wrong.
My previous track record.
Marathon 1: Manchester April 2012 – just 6 weeks out from the marathon I could hardly walk after injuring both my knees, I was patched up and told not to run another marathon. Try swimming instead they said! Pfft. I hobbled through in 4.27
Marathon 2: Liverpool October 2012 – I didn’t pay attention to the medical professionals and not long after crossing the finish line of Manchester I applied for the ballot for London and entered Liverpool. Knees still causing problems, I was told yet again to give up marathon running after London. As a last ditch fix the physio made me new orthotics two weeks before the marathon without having time to run them in – they gave my blisters, blisters! – Just to top it off during the marathon I somersaulted over a cats eye at about 13 miles, smacking my hip on the tarmac. I still finished. Although I did collapse as I crossed the finish line and gave mum a bit of a fright! Finishing time 4.12
Marathon 3 London April 2013 – I don’t actually remember the preparation for this marathon that well! I remember making some very bad decisions on race day, like trying to make up the minutes lost at the congested start far too quickly and consequently burning out at half way. I remember trying to look like I wasn’t already hitting the wall passing the TV cameras on Tower Bridge! Finishing time: 3.55
Marathon 4 Manchester 2014 – I wasn’t having a very good time personally on the build up to this one. I was having relationship issues with my fiancé at the time, going through a period of depression, and ended up in hospital with a bad stomach the week before the race. I remember going to see the physio for a bit of pre-race prep as I was worried about my knees and he told me to forget about my knees, they were the least of my worries and to go home and eat as much as I physically could to make up for not having consumed anything for 3 days! I don’t think he honestly believed I was going to make it to the finish alive! I had an email from him the day after the race asking if I’d seen the inside of an ambulance or if I crossed the finish line on my own two feet. 4.00.51 I would have been pretty annoyed with the 51 seconds had I not gone sub 4 before!
Marathon 5 Manchester 2015 – Potentially the most successful so far but I ended up throwing my toys out of the pram on every long run I attempted, I think my only successful long runs were races! finishing time 3.51
Marathon 6 Yorkshire Marathon October 2015 – This one was a disaster from the start! Problems with my ankle meant I didn’t get to run over 13 miles in the build up to the race. Thinking I’d be able to wing it on the training I had done for the ultra that summer I ran anyway. I ended up walking when my ankle eventually gave in at around 16 miles. 4.17
I do wonder what I would actually be capable of achieving if I could just have one marathon where everything went, not perfectly, but at least 85% to plan. The more disastrous marathons I clock up the more I want the chance for it go right but the less patience I have to go through it all over again!
A marathon is a massive commitment, it’s so frustrating to get so far to the end of training and have the possibility that one tiny little thing could screw the whole thing up and ruin months of preparation.
The real test isn’t avoiding problems and potential mishaps but how we deal with them when they come up. Having a contingency in place for when the worse happens and knowing your limits and when it’s ok to push on.
One of the biggest challenges isn’t the marathon itself it’s getting through training and be able to stand on the start line feeling prepared. The marathon is the reward for all the hard work. Being a good marathon runner isn’t just about what happens on the day it’s about the months of preparation, over coming issues and making it to the start line.
Don’t give up!
There are 40 days left until the London Marathon.
For me that means; one more 20 mile race, 2 more long runs, a half marathon race, a taper and a good helping of carbs!