5 Ways to Tackle the Post marathon blues

You feel so fantastic after crossing that finish line of the marathon, and it tides you right through  to …ooh, about 24 hours later. Then the blues hit. Here’s our guide on how to avoid it – 

After spending 12 to even 20 weeks training for a marathon, and pretty much the last fortnight leading up to the marathon obsessing over every little detail, it’s small wonder that the majority of runners spend the next week feeling really down.

It’s partly because you are left with a huge vacuum where all that training and obsessing used to sit in your diary and your mind. Now real life prevails and any of those problems you have been pushing to that side of your brain marked, ‘deal with later,’ will rear its head.

Not a big deal if that was ‘see friends.’ Not so great if it was, ‘sort out job, I hate it,’ or relationship woes.  But the other reason for such a slump is purely to do with your body’s physiological response to running that far and the impact this has on your body’s hormone response.

During the race itself, you are in fight or flight response,  cortisol flooding your body. The result? BIG comedown. Added to that, all those ‘rundorphins,’ you get from the flood of serotonin, that is released with exercise is suddenly gone.

So, how do you avoid getting the post race downs?

Go for a run

You may think, ‘Ouch, are you kidding?’ but a gentle run will not only help you ease out your muscles, particularly if you foam roll first (see our how to videos on YouTube here), but it will help to boost your mood. No heroics though! Your body does need to recover so don’t go off on an interval or tempo session.

Meet up with your non run friends

Running can get obsessive, no more so than when training for a marathon or ultra when it takes up so much time. The temptation when you’re on the post race high is to jump straight back in again and sign up for another one. But remember, there’s a whole world out there of friends and amazing things to do, and see with them.

Reconnect and go to that exhibition that you kept meaning to go to but never had the time, or for a drink to that amazing cocktail bar that you knew you’d just fall asleep in if you’d gone during your training. It does you good to keep perspective – just don’t spend the entire night regaling them with tales from every mile of your marathon.

Eat well

After a marathon, the post race ‘I can eat what I like,’ can sometimes extend for days, if not weeks. Doughnuts still for breakfast anyone?  Yes, your body needs carbohydrates to help replenish your lost glycogen stores but not to the exclusion of all else. Plus, this is likely to be contributing to your post marathon blues.

Sugar is a dopamine hit, causing more of that serotonin to be released followed by a massive slump. Eating a well balanced mix of proteins, slow release carbohydrates and healthy fats is the best thing you can do to help your body to recover and to help you pick yourself back up.

Streeeeetch

No, your leg stretch against and foot hanging off the kerb calf stretch straight after the race is NOT what we mean. Try a good yoga class of if no time for that,  try some of our free yoga recovery sets on our YouTube channel.

Yoga is a form of mediation and creates a relaxation response, working with the parasympathetic nervous system. Parasympathetic stimulation causes a slowing down of the heartbeat, lowering of blood pressure, increased blood flow to the skin and viscera, and peristalsis of the GI tract.

This will help your body to recover more quickly as well as helping to undo the harmful effects of stress.

Enter an inspiring race!

Now, this is the one that most marathon finishers do almost immediately, but we’re going to caveat it by saying THINK about the race that you really want to enter before you get carried along on the tide of endorphins and press, sign up.

All too often we see runners sign up to another road marathon, quite soon after the one they’ve just finished and burn out.

Think back on your training and all the things that you thought when you were doing it…were you dreaming of hitting the trails? Then sign up to a jaw dropping, sight seeing trail run. Got fed up with run training during the training? Then check out a triathlon, sportive or a swimrun such as BrecaSwimRun.

And then check your diary…can you fit the training in, are school holidays in the middle of it going to make that impossible, what about your work/family/life…are you giving yourself enough time not just to train but to be able to juggle everything else in your life?

If you can say yes to all of that, go for it! And do share what race you’re going to be doing next.

#grtwproject26.2 ‘I said never again but….’

With just two weeks to go before the Virgin Money London Marathon, our project26.2 first time marathon runner, Catriona Ward Sell reflects on the unexpected discoveries she’s made on her marathon training journey….

 

Easy running is difficult!

Tara, my coach at GRTW, has probably found my tendency to run too fast concerning. Maybe I can contain my pace on the day – but maybe I can’t. I know she’s right, though; blowing out on pace early on at London will mean disaster.

I take encouragement from the fact that I managed my pace well in the Oundle 20 miler last month – despite other females speeding off, I raced my own race, managed to catch many of them to finish 3rd female. But it’s difficult, some days, 5-minute kilometres feels like walking, and I struggle in the moment to believe it’s beneficial. Other days, especially after a heavy gun run session (Ed: Cat is in the Army) or a long run the day before, 5 minute kilometres are exhausting. If you’d told me at the start of marathon training that I would have struggled at this pace, I’d have walked away with dented pride. BUT I’ve learned that slower running is not to be ashamed of, and is necessary.

There’s so MUCH slow running

Tara has taught me that 80% of my running should be kept at that conversational pace, with 20% hard running. Previously, my training would have been the other way around – I love fast and hard sessions. But running slower has made me appreciate and feel the benefit of harder sessions more. It’s been hard sometimes to stay motivated to run slow, but it is proving worthwhile, and has taught me to look at the bigger picture.

Marathon training is SO expensive

When I was starting out, someone said to me they were disenchanted with running as it is now “a rich mans sport”. Then, I laughed – how expensive can putting one foot in front of the other be? Now, I agree.

Running has become a lucrative industry, and someone like me could be easily be priced out. The one running watch I’ve ever owned is a freebie I won last year – I wouldn’t own one otherwise. It’s fit for purpose, if you don’t mind it taking 250 metres to catch up. Compared to the mini computers that other marathoners wear on their wrists, displaying everything from lap splits and recommended recoveries to virtual pacing in real-time, mine is a cute child’s toy.

Similarly, I’ve jogged past many runners sporting the latest waterproof shoes and wind cheaters, and can’t help but note that my Karrimors have seen me through all my marathon training (and more). When it rains, I put plastic bags inside my socks. As for waterproof jackets – well, skin is waterproof, right?

None of this equipment is necessary, but it helps, and the surprising cost of marathoning must put people off. But I’ve chosen to deal with this through seeing a flip side; however misguided and arrogant this is, I take a pinch of pride in knowing that others may have gear, but I have very well-trained legs. It sounds obvious, but if I was to give one piece of advice, it would be to stay away from industry magazines which review all kit with a 8/10, and avoid comparing yourself with others: use your energy to concentrate on simply moving your legs forwards.

Weight gain

I appreciate this is my own fault, but at the start of my training, I turned vegan, logged calories, and quickly lost several kilograms – which I needed to. As mentioned in my last blog, I was feeling light on my feet and hitting my paces easily. A review of my diet mid-plan, and I started to concentrate on eating healthier rather than calories. Three weeks later, and I’d lumped all the weight back on.

When you’re eating healthy food AND logging ridiculous miles, it’s so easy to overeat – it seems justifiable. But healthy food has calories too.  As for the confidence to wear a running vest, let’s not go there, or I’ll cry.

Weight gain, dodgy sunburn and freckle lines, blistered feet, veiny knees, marathoning, surprisingly, can hugely negatively effect your body-confidence, even if your running confidence is stronger than ever. No race photos, please

I’ve entered another one!

I’ve said multiple times on Instagram NEVER AGAIN. The relative tedium of longer slow running, the frustrations at my lack of running equipment, the embarrassment at my own body, the sore knees, the lack of time in a day for multi-hour runs, the friendships it strains, there’s been plenty of times I’ve sworn I’m never marathoning again.

And yet… the other day I found myself googling the Waterford marathon, Ireland. To return home to take on such a big running feat would be a homecoming like no other. To race in the beautiful town in my home country, which taught me to love sport in the first place,  well, there’s something romantic, exciting and slightly terrifying about it.

So I’ll leave you with surprising fact number 5, and a part of me is still in disbelief: marathon running, for all its sins, when coached in good hands, is addictive. Who would have thought?

 

Girls Run the World offer personalised one to one virtual coaching. For more details click here

And don’t miss our NEW digital training platform which puts you in charge of your own training, providing a range of online products and services to make you stronger, fitter, faster, injury-free and more flexible. Check out the new platform here. 

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Five things that have helped me through the taper terrors.’

If you’ve still got a few weeks before your marathon, read about how our #grtwproject26.2 runner, Marie Knight coped with her first experience of marathon tapering

Reviewing all that I’ve achieved

Looking back at my training plan on Training Peaks, which GRTW use for virtual coaching, along with my weekly updates on  Instagram has helped reinforce how prepared I am for this race…and how far I’ve come in 13 weeks. Six miles felt like a Long Run in the week after Xmas and soon I will be running 26.2 miles

Yin Yoga

Despite my doubts about this yin yoga at the start of my training (I usually need yoga to be more dynamic otherwise I get agitated which is probably the very reason why I need to do more of this kind of stuff!) it has been really good for settling the noise in my head and reminding me to focus on one thing at a time. (PSSST! Check out our 30 Day Recovery Programme launching May on our online training platform – want to sign up for an exclusive discount? Do it here).

The Girls Run the World mental strategies worksheet

This has helped loads. I was asked to write down specific runs which went well and why, and ones that didn’t go great and how I’d change my strategy to ensure the outcome was different if I did it again. Reviewing this has helped me focus on strategy and gain confidence in remembering everything that I’ve done well and that there are reasons when things didn’t.

A hot toddy with lots of whisky

These were medicinal to start with to help with a cold but appear to have have continued since the cold cleared….:o)

 Relaxing baths

I’ve spent a small fortune on fancy bath oils and Epsom salts over the past few weeks.

 

 

As with many marathon runners, another main driving force for Marie is that she’s running it to raise money for a little girl who is close to her heart. You can read about her story here. GoFundMe site for Team Ufi

 Want to join our FREE Facebook community here for further support? Click here.

#grtwproject26.2 ‘I’m riding a rollercoaster of emotions.’

Pre marathon anxiety is now kicking in, not least what to wear. Is planning your marathon day outfit as complicated as choosing your wedding outfit?!It’s beginning to seem so for Rachel Sparkhall 

With the second four week block of training provided by Girls Run the World, Tara completed, it certainly feels like the clock is starting to tick fast and training intensity is ramping up.

Nerves are rumbling around and whilst I’ve completed all the training and hit the required mileage, I’m riding a roller-coaster of emotions.  ‘Can I get my nutrition right on the day and not need to dash to the loo?  Can I control my pace well enough so that I hit the time I think I am capable of but not blow up too early? ‘

As the big day gets closer, I find myself becoming absorbed in details such as outfit planning; wanting to look smart to  vs just being really comfy in worn out 10 year old leggings. It seems that everything associated with running a marathon is all consuming, justifiably so I guess, after all 26.2 miles is a really long way!  A niggle that can be tolerated for an hour is manageable but chafing or leggings that ride up or down is unacceptable for 4 hours and needs much more consideration.

Rachel tries out her gels and outfit for the day

 Unlike the first training block, I’ve not had one bad week where I’ve felt completely fatigued, just the odd run where I have lacked energy or motivation.  A particular tempo session stands out where even the 10 min mile warm up pace felt hard,  let alone the speed sections  But overall, I think my body and mindset has adjusted well to the format of running every other day. 

I have relaxed my attitude to other commitments I used to have with other fitness classes which has helped me to keep the balance with energy levels, life and work.  And the lower mileage week at the end of the four week block was very welcome, especially as I was hit with a really bad run of migraine which was not ideal prior to my strategically planned Cambridge Half Marathon, a stunning race setting where I was able to put some of the training and advice to the test.

   Tara had provided me with some excellent guidance on pacing strategy to use, as well as nutrition and timing throughout the race. I had a set pace to target and hold throughout the race, and to try and lift and run faster in the last few miles if I felt strong enough. 

To be honest, I’d felt so awful the 2 days before the event, combined with wet and windy conditions, I had no expectations of a fast time, even on a flat course. However, I ran strong even with all the weaving and although I struggled to lift the pace and finish strong, I achieved a PB by over two minutes and learnt some very good lessons about runner traffic congestion and what to expect on a very busy Paris marathon.

Rachel with her Cambridge Half Marathon medal

This run was a massive confidence boost and really underlines the consistency of the training plan and improvements it is bringing to my running.  On a bad day, feeling pretty crappy, I still ran a really good race. I continue to trust in the training.

I am looking forward to the final block where the highest mileage will be achieved, with more focus on race strategy and pacing so no doubt a few tough weeks ahead before taper begins.

Girls Run the World coaches provide personalised one to one virtual coaching to female runners and triathletes of all levels from around the world. From coaching women whose goal is simply to run their first half marathon or ultra, to those aiming for personal bests, we are experts in coaching women. For more details visit our mentoring page.

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Keeping a food diary has helped prevent me chain-eating biscuits’

For the first time, #grtwproject26.2 runner, Marie Knight, believes that running the marathon really is possible. And how to ensure that she doesn’t eat herself out of house and home as the miles increase 

Marie even had time to learn to ski within her training

When I was growing up, The Wizard of Oz was one of my favourite films and never have Dorothy’s words ‘I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ felt more true.

I’m writing this feeling very pleased with myself for having finished my long run, 17 MILES. This is the longest distance I have ever run, and more than I’d normally cover in a total of seven days running in my normal running world. 

Approaching the end of block 2 of GRTW project26.2, and with just 6 weeks to go until the Brighton Marathon, it’s not a surprise that my running mileage has increased considerably, but it is a surprise to discover how good I feel about it. Today was a prime example of waking up with a multitude of reasons for not running.

It was a perfect Sunday for staying inside with coffee, newspapers, Netflix – dark sky, horizontal rain, and gusty winds. But the great thing about having a race approaching and a tailored plan to ensure that you make it to that goal, is that you feel compelled to get out and run and it holds you accountable. 

The leap in mileage this month has been accompanied by a massive increase in my appetite. And whilst it’s been tempting to use this as an excuse to chain-eat cake and biscuits, it has made me much more mindful about nutrition, the value of what I put into my body and how this effects my running.

I’ve noticed that when I’ve had a few days of quick food on the hop, or lazy cooking that isn’t really ticking all the right boxes. As part of project26.2, we were all asked to complete a food diary over a weekend which helped me understand more about how I was feeling both during and after the different types of run that I do.

I can quite often feel headachy or nauseous at the end of a long run and looking at my food diary I could see that I wasn’t drinking  enough water on the days before a long run. Hints and tips from Coach Rachael have helped me adapt what I eat and drink, and more importantly, what time of day I am eating it.

The two big revelations for me is that I rely too heavily on sports rehydration salts to hydrate (I thought the salts were helping!), and that by bringing my meal times forward by an hour or so here and there, I can remove the need for unnecessary snacks. The result so far is feeling better fuelled and feeling more settled during and after each run.

Everyone told me that marathon training is all consuming and I can confirm that this is true – joyfully so! But as well as noticeably building up my strength and mileage in February, I also managed to enjoy a full week away from running for some much-needed holiday time. I am not sure my legs would 100% agree that the holiday was a true rest from running given that I decided to put them through a different kind of punishment instead by learning to ski.

It was amazing to go away and feel confident and fit enough to give this a go. I’m not sure I would have done this three years ago and a lot of this confidence has come about from my running and the different events I’ve done in the past, knowing how much the human body can do if you give it the chance. It was a good reminder that completing the marathon is definitely possible!

A week off in the middle of training like this would normally have felt like a ridiculous thing to have planned, and put me in a spin about what a disaster this would be for the rest of my marathon training. However, part of the point of a personalised training plan is that it works around your life and the plan was designed to work me hard in the weeks before I went away to allow me this week of ‘rest’.

My plan is giving me a new-found respect for proper rest and recovery. Despite giving my legs and feet the shock of their life by spending a week in ski boots, I came back from my week in the Alps feeling well rested and ready to get back to running. There was a 16-mile run scheduled for day after I returned which initially felt impossible, but I managed to get out there and complete nevertheless. 

Rest and recovery remain a key feature in my training now that I’m back from the mountains albeit that it sadly involves a lot less cheese-based cuisine. Sleeping is my super power; my friends often joke that I could sleep standing up and I think I’ve come pretty close a couple of times this month. I’ve noticed a definite need to sleep more in February as the miles have increased and particularly after the interval sessions which did not normally make up part of my weekly running routine. These seem to work me harder than the long distances.

Sports massage and foam rolling are also regular components which is a lot less easy to make myself do than heading to bed an hour early but are still a necessary evil. My feet in particularly are feeling tight which apparently is a result of tight calf muscles and hamstrings. I now have a whole selection of beastly but annoyingly effective foam rollers dotted around my flat so that I can roll whenever I have a free moment or chance to watch the tele. I definitely prefer the deep baths full of fancy bath oil to treat tight muscles and aide recovery, but they don’t seem have quite the same effect. On the plus side, I’ve stopped arguing and ranting at the TV and radio because I am now too busy grimacing on the foam roller.

 

How Yin Yoga can transform your running

Read about Girls Run the World founder, Rachael Woolston discussing the benefits of yin yoga in Women’s Running magazine.

And if you fancy joining our 30 day Yoga Recovery programme for marathon runners, sign up for our launch offer on our NEW digital training platform created for female runners and triathletes inspired by goals HERE. By signing up, you’ll get access to a limited number sign up offer.

How to achieve your running goals by doing less

Want to know the secret for unlocking  your perfect running year? Achieve your personal bests and stay injury with one simple tip…

You might assume that the key to having your best year ever is all to do with how you train, how often and how challenging it is. But actually it’s far simpler than this as we revealed in a recent Facebook Live in our FREE Community Group.

All you have to do is plan your year. This one simple thing enables you to avoid the pitfalls that can derail even the best runners.

Planning your year…

Helps you to avoid injury

If you avoid injury, you remain consistent in your training and that will ensure the biggest improvements.

Reduces stress

When you’re juggling training with work and relationships, it gets stressful. It’s easy to get carried away with how much you love running and enter lots of events. But eventually, you’ll get stressed about it and start thinking, ‘oh god, I’ve got this race next week, how am I going to do it? And I haven’t seen my friends for ages and who is going to look after the kids?’

You want running to be an empowering and enjoyable experience, not one where you end up stressed. Planning helps you avoid these pitfalls.

Helps you to avoid overtraining and have planned recovery

Something that has been come up a lot in the blogs by our gRTW Project 26.2 runners is the benefit of recovery, both in terms of slow runs and time off entirely.

If you’re short on time because you’ve entered so much, you’ll often see women going out and just doing the hard stuff as they think it will get them fitter quicker. It mainly just means that you’re not giving your body time to recover. It’s in recovering – which means not racing all the time, that your body adapts and gets stronger.

Ensures you maintain your #runlove and motivation

Have you ever stopped enjoying running entirely because you suddenly feel like all you’re doing is training and or racing? It happens a lot. And it just means that you’re not putting in the right effort or attention to your training anyway. Do less. Not more.

 

So, here’s how to plan…

 

Spend some time looking at which races you really want to do and decide on a few A races, the ones that mean the most to you, either because you have a target time in mind or it’s a beautiful race that you’ve just always wanted to do in a stunning location.

Now, create a hand drawn breakdown of your year, broken by months and by weeks. You can use different colours to denote fun races that are just with friends, those that are important key training races and your A races themselves.

Most importantly, don’t forget to also add big work events, holidays and family engagements which will all impact on how successful – or sensible it is – to enter a race near that kind of time.

Once you’ve done that, add your a races, and then work from that, adding events that will help you to achieve your A race goal, which can be anything from wanting to achieve a PB or simply to finish and enjoy the race feeling strong. and training on the way to that A Race.

If you write it on paper, you can see more easily whether you’ve put too many races close together – or whether you are inadvertently thinking about a race that’s very close to your holiday.

There are a lot of fantastic race websites out there. FindARace.com for example to help you plan. Improvement comes from enjoyment, consistency and not getting injured.

If you’d like to see the full video of how to have your perfect running year, join our FREE Facebook community here.

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Having a virtual coach keeps me accountable – and running even when I don’t feel like it’

The final of our four winners of #grtwproject26.2 winners, Rachel Sparkhall, 43  reveals how accountability and b-run-ches have been so important for the first four week block of her Paris Marathon training…

Taking part in fun events can help to off load the stress of marathon training

Race: Schneider Paris Marathon

Target: 3  hours, 59 minutes

I read a quote this week, ‘the marathon is the victory lap’ and this struck a chord – it will be the culmination of 14 + weeks of not only running an amazing amount of miles but also the thinking time and juggling of work/life as well – I think the mantra ‘this is the victory lap, enjoy it’ might really help me on race day!

Running a marathon has never figured high on my bucket list until last year when I completed the South Downs 100KM Ultra Challenge. If I could cover 100KM with a run/walk/run method in 16 hours and survive training through the hottest summer in decades, then maybe, just maybe I could run a marathon? And so I was delighted when I won the #grtwproject26.2 competition to win a mentoring package worth £300. 

GRTW coach Tara initially loaded a four week block of runs on Training Peaks, which was brilliant as it allowed me to see the progressive mileage and speed work build up and I found the alternate run days worked well, allowing me recovery time and to also plan life around training rather than it dictating it. 

It meant some early mornings and dark evening runs, but I’m fortunate that I work from home on some days which allows me to be more flexible. Still, training for a marathon can be all consuming.  To compensate, I integrate my longer runs with coffee/cake or breakfast get together’s.  This means I have a destination to run to which is more motivating than constant laps/loops on the longer routes. 

In the first couple of weeks, I had a few issues with picking the right routes that suited the tempo and interval training and had a couple of rather frustrating watch malfunctions. All I really wanted to do was run and perform well, so I invested in a Garmin watch and I got this nailed.

Old watch vs new Garmin

If anything, the runs have been slower than I’ve been used to but with that, came more focus on tempo and interval work which forced me to actually start doing them rather than just reading about them.

I think the most important point to make about training with GRTW  can be said in one word – ACCOUNTABILITY. With all my training runs planned and any other training recorded, I’m motivated to get my trainers on and do the session, particularly as Tara can see my exact results on Training Peaks. 

The first 2 weeks flew by but by week 3 I hit a wall. I felt fatigued and had taken a lot of medication for migraines which I’ve suffered from for years, so every run became a challenge. 

Usually, running helps me feel like i’m cleansing my system of any medication but intense exercise can also trigger a migraine attack so it’s a double edge sword.  It’s very easy to curl up in a ball and drown myself in the vat of sugary products even though I know that it will only make things worse.

A hilly run on my third Sunday long run was awful and if it had not been for my coaching plan, I wouldn’t have gone.  The first hill run was truly awful and I stopped wanted to go home, but then I thought about Tara and the effort she was putting into helping me and I thought about how I’d feel if I failed to hit my goal. GOT.TO.KEEP.TRYING. Hopefully this extra little push is going to make all the difference in getting me closer to that sub 4 hour goal.

A beautiful but brutal run

Thankfully, week four has been a recovery week with less mileage and it’s been a fabulous week. Although the weather turned colder, each run was enjoyable and I ended it with the 10K London Winter run.  A fantastic fun themed event where 20,000 participants descend on London to run amongst penguins and snowmen, it was great to go as part of a group and enjoy the social aspect.

The London Winter Run 10k

I started the run, semi frozen in -4 temperatures and with the niggling doubt that I’d lost some speed with all the longer runs I had been doing but was pleased to see that I was achieving 7.30min/miles on course and ended with a PB of 48.10 on what is a flat but very busy course. 

Roll on the next block of training. Now, less than ten weeks before I stand under the Arc de Triomphe.

To  follow the journeys of our four Girls Run the World marathon training winners, follow #grtwproject26.2 on Instagram.

If you are interested in having a personalised training plan written by Girls Run the world or our mentoring package, please email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Having different training zones has transformed my running’

Our third #project26.2 runners, Kerrie Flippance, shares how recovery runs and training zones has transformed her running…while she contemplates a 5am start as she juggles marathon training and motherhood 

Kerrie at her weekend cross country race

Manchester Marathon will be my first marathon and I ‘panic entered’ last August after reading a friend’s Facebook status which led me to believe it was about to sell out. To date there are still places left!  After I entered, I tried to forget about it, ignoring all my friends’ excited social media messages about who was training on what days and where could we run to vary our training.  I was in denial. 

Until I received an email from Girls Run the World, informing me that I had won one of their amazing marathon coaching packages. I never win anything, well except four tickets for a gig from a phone-in competition in 1992.  I was filled with excitement and utter terror.

 

My first thought was, ‘If I have a coach, I’ll actually have to run 26.2, I can’t make an excuse on the day that I’m not well enough or or fake an injury.’ And I also knew that I’d have to stick to a plan and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to. A month into my plan, it has been the best thing to have happened, having Rachael from Girls Run the World as my virtual coach.

Receiving my first two weeks of the training plan (they’re delivered in two week blocks to help accommodate what may happen within a fortnight), it was great seeing all the varied sessions and to be given ‘zones’ based on my pace, something I’d never thought about before. 

Although I’ve always done a variety of training runs, a long slow run and a weekly track interval session, I’d never really thought about what my pace was and the importance behind knowing different zones and how they impact progress and recovery; for instance, there’s a pace for recovery runs, one for interval work, tempo work, etc. Now I can really bore my husband and non-running friends with even more talk about running! But, more importantly, I now understand how training can improve my running.

BUT over the first two weeks, I was shocked at seeing five rest days in my training diary and that made me panic! I knew the importance of rest days, I’d read about it time and time again, and been told so many times by running friends that I needed a rest day, after I’d moaned about how tired I felt.  But FIVE days off running? 

This has been one of my biggest learning exercises so far.  I’ve followed the plan to the letter and the rest days have been tangible.  I use them wisely by following the stretching, yoga or core work that’s been set on the plan or go for a swim.  For the first time ever, I’ve never felt tired on a run, a first in ten years of running.

I know this may not be the case throughout my marathon journey but I am surprised by how good I feel and this is down to a plan that is personal and allows my body to recover ready for the next run. 

I felt pretty rubbish for a few days during week three of the training block after competing in our county cross country champs, but I’d raced hard.  And whereas usually, I get to the point where I want to slow down, and feel like the hills and the mud are breaking me, I was able to keep pushing.

My two running pals, who normally catch me at the half way point, still caught me but rather than the distance between us growing, we stayed together. It was the most consistent performance I’d put in for a cross-country race, and I believe this is down to a carefully tailored plan.                                    

My high so far was my long 15 mile training run last weekend. I’d been dreading it as I had only ever run that far once before. Plus, the training plan specified to run the final three miles at my marathon pace! No way was I going to be able to do this, I thought, not after already running 12 miles. Rachael warned me that it would be hard and I really thought that this run was going to be my first ‘fail’ on the plan. 

But I ran the 12 miles at the easy pace recommended by Rachael, and I felt pretty good.  I’d run with my husband for the first four miles and a friend for the next seven miles, but told her that I wanted to run the last four on my own so I could focus.

My watch beeped to let me know when to change pace and it was like someone had fired a starting gun or given me a huge slap on the backside. I instantly changed mind set and went for it and my legs went from feeling tired and sore to feeling great, they wanted to run at this pace. 

AT first I thought I was probably running too slow  when I looked at my watch, I was running at 30 seconds per mile faster than my marathon tempo pace.  The shock of feeling so in control with a good amount of energy in the tank really spurred me on, although Rachael has told me that I need to be more disciplined on future runs or risk undoing all my hard work, but it was a great confidence boost.

So far, I’ve loved my training butI live in a  beautiful part of the country with lots of trails that pass by castles, canals and cycle paths. And my training hasn’t interfered too much with life, although this will change over the next few weeks when my children’s social lives will interfere with my weekend runs (I’m envisaging having to get up at 5am to get my long run done, or worse still, doing it after they’ve gone to bed). 

So, four weeks in and I am no longer in denial, I’m excited and ready for the challenge.  I love not having to think about what training I should be doing, and whether I am doing too much or too little!  I’m not having to think very much at all which is amazing when you have a very busy life.  Rachael and my carefully devised training plan think for me and all I have to do is lace up my trainers and run.

#project26.2 ‘Marathon training is the same as any other running, just longer, right?’

In her first block of virtual marathon training as part of Girls Run the World Project26.2, Catriona Ward Sell, 31 has learned that running longer distances requires a totally different mindset…

 

Catriona, volunteering at junior Parkrun

I recall, at about age 8, going to football practice with my wee neighbour, John. Unable to kick the ball hard and fast, he became frustrated. “The trouble with practising...” he exclaimed, booting the ball away, “is that you have to practice and practice and practice, just to be any good at practising!”

Surely no truer words have ever been said about marathon running, either.

I am a middle distance runner. In my year-and-a-half of club running, I’ve reached a decent local level; I can consistently run a sub-20 parkrun, am knocking on the door of a sub-40 10k, and perhaps slightly fluke-ishly, qualified for a Club Championship place at the London Marathon by running two sub-1:30 half marathons.

I perhaps clicked “apply” to the London Marathon too light-heartedly. How different could marathon training be? You just run for a bit longer, right?

Oh, you naïve former self. Marathon training, as I have discovered with Tara, my excellent coach from Girls Run The World, is a whole different ball game.

Firstly, there is a lot of slow running.  I’m an adrenaline junkie; I like doing intervals as quickly as I can, turning the treadmill to a level where I risk flying off, or putting my pride on the line by challenging the guys at work to a race (to contextualise, I am in the Army, so extreme physical challenges are pretty much encouraged in my vocation).  Marathon training does not appeal to adrenaline junkies. Marathon training requires slowing down.

Secondly, there are a LOT of kilometres to cover in a week. This was expected but I thought the bulk of the distance would be in the once-weekly designated Long Slow Runs (in runner’s jargon and Insta-hashtags, LSRs). Nope. The distance of every run during the week will increase.

And lastly, at this stage, the types of training runs aren’t ending with my lungs on fire. This might seem like a welcome break to some of you, but I love the feeling of a hard run. It gets the endorphins flowing, and, yes, I feel more justified in reaching for an extra doughnut when I’ve reached that maxed-out zone.

Getting used to longer, slower runs has meant I’ve had to work on my mental game, find a space to put my mind.  Because, on longer slower runs, you have a lot of thinking time, and depending on how the run is going, your head can take you to some downbeat places.

Learning to focus on mental strategies with the miles

For the first few weeks, I felt frustrated and bored. The first run which I enjoyed was my second LSR. I’m new to the area in which I live, and I found a beautiful wooded trail which goes on uninterrupted for miles. I did 16 kms here after volunteering at Junior Parkrun, and both experiences helped me to remember a different side to running – its inclusivity and offers of exploration.

Neither of these are better or worse motivations than chasing PBs, which I expect will always be my main goal. But is a different side of the same medal, and deserves equal recognition within the sport.

I was also worried. My speed seemed to be zapped from my legs. A Cross Country outing with the Army in the middle of week two wasn’t in my training plan – but when, in the military, your boss tells you to run, the only acceptable response is to ask “how fast?”. Although I finished second female, I was slower than usual.

This week, however, has been much more positive. Within a couple of runs, I’ve managed to glimpse my old 10km time (4:00 min/km). Although in time I aim to be faster, for this marathon training cycle, I was scared that I was just getting slower.   Perhaps, as was first feared, that isn’t happening. Perhaps it’s just my body getting used to the extra miles.

But back to the task in hand: I’m not sure yet if I’m looking forward to the actual marathon, nor if I’ll do another one again. It’s too early within this training cycle to say, and frustrations, fears, anxiety and – just this week – some kind of nervous hope has created mixed emotions. But one thing’s for sure: John, you were definitely wiser than your 8 years. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, even feeling like you’re training for running takes a lot of practise.

Target: To finish fast

Goal finish: 3 hours, 17 mins

To follow the progress of our #grtwproject26 runners, search for the hashtag on Instagram. 

Girls Run the World offer personalised virtual coaching for all distances and all levels. For more details click here