For me it feels like marathon training really starts when I do my first long run over the half marathon distance. Up to that point I’m still in my comfort zone, but beyond that I start to feel less comfortable, knowing the challenge that lies ahead as I build up that long run towards the big day. This weekend I had a 15 miler scheduled in, and I woke up to grey, dull, damp weather, which didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm, but I wasn’t going to not do the run, so I just decided to get on with it!
A big part of the challenge for me with marathons has been nutrition. I initially went with the liquid gels (Lucozade and the Science in Sport ones) but found that after three or four my stomach started to reject them. I tried the Shot Blox and fared slightly better but they still caused stomach issues. Not only did they make my stomach feel bad, but it had the knock on effect of making me not want to take on water, so as you can imagine this is not an ideal scenario for the latter stages of a marathon!
Last year I decided to make a conscious effort to cut back on the gels, limiting myself to a maximum of two ideally, and taking a cereal bar with me as a little extra boost. That tactic actually worked in the London Marathon last year, I had no stomach problems and my performance wasn’t compromised in any way, so I intend to try and keep that kind of approach this year.
I decided not to take any gels with me on my 15 miler, in fact it was cool enough to go without water, and it was all fine. I wanted to try and get off-road as far as possible, so I headed for the section of that Greensands Way that runs just to the south of Maidstone. Having followed that for a few miles I dropped down to the River Medway at East Farleigh and picked up the new cycle path that’s under construction. I was aware I might not be able to follow it all the way back towards town as it’s still under construction and sure enough after half a mile or so I had to double back and pick up an alternative path away from the river, dropping back to the new path a few miles further on. From there I headed towards home and made a slight detour up a newly constructed footpath as I was curious to see where it came out.
In the end it turned out to be a really enjoyable run, I was just inside my target pace of 10 minute miles, there were some nice muddy patches along the way, and doing a decent chunk of the miles off road meant my legs didn’t feel as bad as they would have done if I’d stayed on tarmac.
One other point of note from last week, I went to my first track session for a couple of months, and whilst the session (3 x 2k) went fine the conditions were horrible. It was misty and murky and as we started the session the rain started to come down harder and by the end we were all soaked and cold!
With half-term coming up and bringing a few busy days with it I’ll have to ease back for the next couple of weeks, but it’s been a good few weeks, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the most important phase of my training and continuing a to build up my long runs towards 20 miles.