My First Marathon: Part 1
I've signed up for the LA Marathon this year. I have 13 days to go and I wanted to share some of my experiences in preparation and tips. First of all, I am a runner. I run 5Ks competitively. That being said, a marathon is a whole different animal. I've never really had the desire to run 26.2 miles and I caved to peer pressure and agreed to do it. Oh well, YOLO...right? I really went into this with no real expectation of what time I should expect to finish. I took a stab in the dark and set on 4 hours, not knowing that to finish in 4 and under is a pretty big deal. That got me excited. Also, the motivation to not run for 6 hours was a pretty good incentive too. My competitive streak took over.
GEAR - Lets start with the basics. Shoes. I've always been a Nike girl, but I knew the amount of miles I was going to be logging, the shoes I train in for a 5K were going to be much different. I need support and cushioning in a running shoe. I'm not a supporter of the "natural" running shoe. I've tried it and it just doesn't work for me, but to each his own. I got a pair of Asics Cumulus 16. They sized me at at 6.5 and I bought a 7.5. They feel a little big and they look like clown shoes to me, although I'm sure no one else notices. By mile 10, my feet will thank me. I wore them everyday to break them in. Started with shorter runs and built my way up. I'm glad I did too. The tag on the tongue rubbed the top of my foot raw. Not only do I have enough time for it to heal, but I know that I need different socks. Not something you want to discover on race day. Sunglasses. I highly recommend wearing a pair. During my training I had a bug fly into my eye on two separate occasions, that kind of sealed the deal for me. I hate the way sport glasses look on me and even the lightweight pairs feel sooooo heavy. I found a pair of iGreen frames at Dan Deutsch Optical Outlook. They are amazing, made in Italy, only 5 grams and are not so much of that sporty, wrap around look. They're completely customizable. I highly recommend them. Sport belt. Ok, so this is pretty much a glorified fanny pack, but useful nonetheless. I found that as light as my phone is, after carrying it for long distances, it starts to get real heavy. I went on Amazon and got a Tapp C water resistant runner's pouch.
TRAINING - Like I said, I'm already a runner so I was in pretty good running shape going into this. I run shorter and faster so this was a challenge for me, I just don't enjoy running super long distance. I'm competitive in a 5K, so this was definitely taking me out of my comfort zone. I also do a lot of weights and high intensity training at the gym and it's not something I wanted to give up. I backed off the weights a bit and rearranged the days in which I did my high intensity training and tapered the intensity the closer I got to race day. Other than that, I didn't change a whole lot in my fitness routine except for lengthening out my runs...a lot. My running schedule looks like this:
Wednesday: Trail Run with hill sprint intervals
Friday: My long run. I started with 6 miles and added 2 miles each week until I reached a half marathon (13.1 miles).
I haven't run longer than a half and I don't plan on it. Some people really feel the need to get the distance in; I don't. I'd rather save my legs and joints. They say you can't walk for a week after the actual marathon, so why would I want to do that to my body pre race? I allow myself good recovery after my "long run" and ibuprofen has become my best friend. I think the biggest challenge has been the mental anguish. I'm not going to lie, it's BORING. Really, really boring. I lose interest running that far and overall I really just don't enjoy it. So many times I've been tempted just to stop half way on a 10+ mile run. I've had to give myself numerous mental pep talks. I've been doing the training on my own. My schedule doesn't really allow for me to get together with a running group, which I think would make it much easier. In order to keep myself accountable for the runs I need to do, I talk about it. I tell my friends, my trainer, my clients. If I vocalize it, I'm bound to it, bc (whether they care or not) I feel like I'm letting them down if I don't do what I say I'm going to. I put out the goal of 4 hours and it's become a pride factor as well.
PACING - So, for goal of 4 hours I would need to avg a 9:10/mile pace. I'm aiming for a 9 min. I've been under 8:20/mile for my long runs so far, so I think that it's doable. Obviously the second half will be slower than my first. I'm hoping to stay at an 8:30 pace for the first half and a 9:30 for the second half. From what everyone has told me, the last 4 miles are down hill, so I think I'll be able to cruise in well above a 9:00 min pace. Which brings me to my next point. Hills. Use them to your advantage. That trail running I mentioned above. It's important. Most people just completely let the inclines destroy them, but if you train right, you won't be one of them. Yes, they'll be slower and yes, they'll suck, but that interval work will help build speed and strength to power up those hills. Then there is the flip side...coming down the hill. Deceleration uses a lot of hamstring, so really work on strengthening them. And also stretching them. It can also be hard on the knees, so if you have any knee issues, be mindful. This is great time for you to "stride out" - lengthen your stride and cover more ground. Carry this through into flat terrain as well. The more efficiently you move, the more energy you will conserve. I use my iPhone Nike Run app to track my time, distance, pace, etc.
BREATHING - It's the most natural thing known to man, but somehow when we run, we really f*#k it up. As a runner, this pace, cardiovascularly, isn't a challenge for me. That being said, if I let my breathing get out of control, it quickly becomes a battle. Big, deep even breaths. Breathing too quickly can lead to hyperventilating and trust me, it's very panic inducing. Take a moment, collect yourself and take a nice deep breath in; concentrate on keeping that consistency. Some people count or time it to their strides. Find out what works for you and do it consistently.