26.2 Lessons I’ve Learned During Marathon Training

1. Not all runs are good runs – but that doesn’t make them bad!

Sometimes you’ll go on a run and realise that your whole body hurts and your legs feel heavy. Then your phone will run out of battery right in the middle of your favourite song and when you don’t think it could get any worse it starts raining… hard. I had one of these runs last week, following an equally bad run the time before that and thought to myself – WHY am I doing this to myself! I ran a really slow pace and felt demotivated at my lack of ‘progress’.

But although this run was not ‘good’ in the sense that I enjoyed it, that didn’t make it bad. Running at a slower pace for longer actually means your body can start to burn fat as fuel rather than carbs which is not only good news for weight loss, but also for training your body to burn fat for energy efficiently – which i’ll definitely need in the marathon!

2. Set Goals – whenever, wherever!

Setting goals to challenge yourself are great on any training run, whether it be speed intervals, like wanting to run the next half a mile before a certain time or sprinting to the next lamp post. Setting yourself little challenges will stimulate your mind and keep you focused during your run as well as pushing your fitness.

3. Have a training buddy

Going running with Steph is one of my all time favourite activities. We share the experience, adventure and achievement together! She also makes sure I get out of bed in the morning even when I don’t want to.

4. But running alone is almost meditative 

When I do go out on my own, I’ve learned to partner with the voice inside my head. Only allowing encouraging, peaceful thoughts and dispelling any negative ideas such as ‘oh no this hill is too much’ or ‘why the hell am I doing a marathon’. Learning how to self-sooth and self-motivate is incredibly powerful and has changed the way I feel about myself.

5. Over-training is easily done

The running bug has made me crazy to exercise! I would run every day if I could but knowing how important rest days are, I’ll stay away from the road…. but the pushed myself in then gym, thinking because I’m not running that this is ok. It’s not! I became injured and had to have a week off…. which was torture!

6. Listen to your body

Our bodies are very good at sending signals to us when things aren’t quite right. Niggles can easily become injuries, so don’t ignore that twinge in your groin or the inflammation of your knee. Rest, Ice and Relax. It’s better to have a week off now than need 3 months off after you’ve pushed it too far and miss your race!

7. Be nice to yourself!

Don’t be your own worst enemy. You need all the support you can get when your marathon training and the most important source of that comes from within! You CAN do it and you are FABULOUS.

8. The body seems complicated – but everything actually makes sense!

I started getting pain in my left knee which became very tender and meant I needed a few days off. I went to the physio and through my treatment learned that my knee pain was being caused by the imbalance of my pelvis due to a previous injury from a year ago in my groin. My weak hips had therefore displaced my weight meaning my left leg was carrying an unequal burden than my right – the side of my groin injury. Finding this out and correcting the imbalance felt like solving a murder mystery!

9. Don’t be cheap when it comes to your body

Yes the physio session might cost £40 – but was is the price of losing your health and activity? Don’t let the expense of treatment put you off seeking what you need. If you don’t feel right you should definitely go to see a physio, it will be worth it – I promise!

10. Yoga is the perfect compliment to running

Hip flexors and hamstrings are the source of many runner’s agony and I’ve found that yoga is by far the best way to tackle the associated tightness of running. Try to do at least 2 sessions as week – it works wonders not only for your muscles but also really chills you out!

11. Equally – Invest in dedicated foam rolling time

Whether you buy a foam roller for casual use while you’re watching TV at night, or use the foam rollers at the gym, foam rollers are a god send for runners! You can read more on the benefits of foam rolling here.

12. Find the right shoes!

Easier said than done. Finding the right running shoes is ESSENTIAL and can be hard task. Do you over-pronate, supinate or do you have neutral stride? Whichever way your foot lands when you run, you need to make sure you have the right shoes or risk injuries as your mileage increase. I had custom orthotics (insoles) made at my local Sporting Pro shop – it was £40 and very much worth the money once my body got used to them!

13. Cut your toe nails really really short!

Or prepare for pain.

Although, you should probably prepare for pain regardless! Everywhere hurts!

14. The cross trainer is really useful for runners!

You can do speed intervals and fitness training without the impact of pounding concrete. All the training programmes I have seen recommend cross training in place of a run at least once a week. I like to do 10k and splitting each km into 0.5km moderate speed, 0.5km sprinting. Try to beat your last time!

15. Trust your training programme

I’ve been using the Virgin London Marathon training plan (even though I’m running Stockholm). The most important thing I’ve learned from this is to trust what it says and rest when it tells me to. Also not to run 15 miles when i’m down for 12…

16. I could probably win every Man Vs Food challenge since I started long distance running

I have an insatiable appetite. I’m talking starter, main and dessert for every meal and still hungry kinda hungry! On long run days, this goes through the roof! I make sure to have healthy food around me so that I indulge in fruit and nuts and dark chocolate rather than 5 easter eggs.

17. You can never have enough running gear!

In fact I think I do so much laundry now that my washing machine packed in today.

18. It’s important to find what nutrition works for you

Many runners begin taking gels when they hit the longer distances, but I just cannot stomach them – even with practice. If you have a sensitive stomach like me, then it’s important to find what works for you during training runs. For me – it’s raisins, banana and coconut water. Coconut water replenishes electrolytes lost during exercise without being horrible and sugary like a sports drink. It’s my superhero on long runs!

19. I love working towards a goal

Without the marathon there is no way I would be training like this and getting up at 6am to make sure I can clock some miles that day. Having a deadline looming over me in the not so distant future and having to set myself targets is hugely motivating.

20. I feel myself getting stronger throughout my runs

Sometimes i’ll start running and feel like I’ve already run 15 miles! But a magical thing happens around mile 4/5 for me – I find my stride and suddenly nothing feels more natural and wonderful than to keep placing one foot in front of the other, zone in and focus.

21. Running has made me a happier and better person

Maybe it’s all the endorphins or maybe it’s the sense of achievement each time I beat a PB, but running has made me a much happier person in every day life and I have so much more energy than before. Running feels like free therapy for me – it’s my me time, where I don’t think about anything or anyone else except myself, the route and my music. I feel like i’m on top of a mountain and it’s the best feeling in the world!

22. It’s ok and necessary to be gross

Snot rockets, weeing in a bush at the side of the road and spitting like a camel. Yep.

23. Protein porridge is the best pre-workout fuel

50g oats, 200 ml almond milk, 1 scoop vanilla protein, peanut butter/banana/fresh berries – whatever topping you like, this is the best breakfast before a run!

24. SQUAT

You can’t squat enough, it’s so important to condition your legs and glutes.

Did you know that your glutes power most of your running stride? Keep them strong by squatting and doing core exercises such as kettle bell swings and dead lifts.

25. I’d rather stay in to go on a run or do a yoga class than go to a bar

If I do go out, I just feel rubbish for days afterwards which not only messes with my training but also makes my body feel sluggish and yuck! We have one body, we should love and nurture it. I’ve learned that my body likes lots of sleep, food and activity – so I will do as it wishes 🙂

26. I can do something I am scared of!

I never considered doing a marathon before. I’m still very nervous about the actual race and how I will do, but so proud of myself that I am giving it my best shot. Don’t say no just because you fear the unknown, embrace it and try!

26.2 My family, friends and boyfriend are the best ever

Without their support, this whole thing would be meaningless.

 

I am raising money for Centre Point in memory of my Uncle Carl who died suddenly in January this year. If you would like to make a donation, please visit my Just Giving page here

 

 

  • Lydia Lyons

    Hi Sylvie,

    I know Steph through a friend (Jess Drury) and saw your post on Facebook.

    I am running the Manchester marathon on April 19th and your blog was SO good to read, thank you!

    My knee went yesterday on a short run and today I can hardly walk, I’ve been in panic mode, so it was reassuring to read that you experienced a similar problem – I have now booked myself in for physio appointment.

    Good luck with your marathon, hope it goes well :).

    Lydia,

    x

    • Sylvie Hall

      Hi Lydia,

      Thank you gorgeous! Haha oh god marathon training is so much harder than I ever anticipated isn’t it? That’s a bummer about your knee, good shout getting booked into the Physio for a check up and MOT!

      I just had another session yesterday and was basically just stretched for an hour… It hurt but it was heaven!

      Please let me know how you get on