Daring to look beyond the end of the training?

A small selection of the running kit

As the marathon gets closer, I’ve started to think about more than just training and wondering what to do on the day itself (apart from the obvious: run, sweat, gasp, agonise, hurt, etc).

Established wisdom says that the key to marathon day is to do nothing that you haven’t tried and tested in the lead up to it – no new routines, shoes, clothing, nutrition, warm-up etc.

That’s not entirely easy when the run is in another country and you will be staying in a hotel. I have no idea what breakfast will be available and I understand that the energy drink available at feed stations is not sold in the UK. We won’t be the only ones facing these issues so it will simply be a case of controlling what can be controlled and not worrying too much about the rest.

I’ve tried different approaches to the pre-run breakfast (none, porridge, toast, oat bars, fruit) and in-run nutrition (none, water, electrolyte, isotonic gels, jelly babies, oat bars, energy gels, cereal bars, dextrose tablets etc).

I’ve run in a variety of kit so I’ll have a tried and tested range of options on the day itself. So far I’ve tried out:

  • four pairs of running shoes
  • four long sleeved running shirts
  • a gilet
  • two pairs of running tights and three shorts for underneath
  • a wide range of socks (running socks, warm woolly socks, long compression socks, sports socks, double layer marathon socks)
  • many compression and thermal tops, long and short sleeved
  • a headband and several different hats and gloves
  • a running belt and an arm pouch.

Almost everything has performed well (apart from one pair of shoes that come up higher in the heel and rub my Achilles tendons), but almost all combinations used so far are more suitable for cold or cool weather. I need to try out short sleeves and a running vest (I still have the one I used in 1998 and 1999), lycra shorts without the tights and ‘normal’ running shorts – if only it would get warm enough for a wimp like me to bare some skin.

Learning so far:

  • Zips on the running shirts are good when zipped up but the neck flaps annoyingly when the zip is lowered
  • I hate carrying water, even in my running belt’s bottle holder
  • Whatever I eat when running, some of it goes down my airways
  • If I start out at a slow plod, that’s the way it carries on
  • The first mile is always horrid until my breathing stabilises
  • Every run from home starts off up a small hill – I hate that hill
  • I hate running into the wind
  • If it’s cool, I don’t need to worry about drink up to about 15 miles
  • I don’t need to worry about food up to about 15 miles
  • I’ve had no blisters but the compression socks rubbed once
  • I like running – but marathon training requires rather a lot of it
  • I love a compression top as a base layer – if it’s warm, could I run in one, without a running shirt, or is a looser fit better in the heat?

A big unknown is the time I should aim for. When I ran my two marathons in the 1990’s, each time I did only four runs over 10 miles in training – 1x20miles, 1×16, 2×13. I’ve done many more runs over 10 miles this time – 1×22 (yesterday!), 2×20, 1×17, 1×15, 1×14, 1×13, 1×12, 1×11 (and two more still to come) – but I’m 20 years older, and 20 years slower.

I suppose I’ll know more in 4 weeks time at the end of the training, but I fear that I will kid myself that I can break 4 hours, go out too fast and blow up spectacularly.

I read that losing one pound of weight means running 2 seconds per mile faster. If I could get down to 84 pounds (6 stone – 38kg) I’d be OK ……

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