Oh Shit, I’m Running A Marathon: 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far

Week 10 of first-time marathoner Joe's training, and he's feeling reflective (in both senses of the word)

1. The training IS the bleedin’ marathon

Obviously, the race itself (Bristol + Bath Marathon, 25 October) is going to be hard work, but I’ve come to realise that it’ll be merely the tip of a comically massive iceberg. When I look back on this experience, it’ll be the training I view as the achievement, rather than actually (hopefully) running 26.2 miles.

Why? Because the training is endless. It is without end. None of it is particularly gruelling, because you’re slowly and steadily improving yourself without pushing too hard and getting injured, so the eighth week feels no more challenging than the first. But my God, after a while, the sheer amount of it becomes insane.

I’ve been running four times a week without fail, and this week, for example, that’ll add up to five-and-a-half hours of running in all. Throw in my strength training and the faff of getting ready for/returning from a run, and it’s probably nudging the seven-hour mark. And next week it’ll be even more, and the next even more.

I’m not moaning, but… Well, maybe I am moaning a bit

I’m not moaning, but… Well, maybe I am moaning a bit. I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming, but it’s taken me aback. Somehow though, miraculously, I’ve not grown bored of running.

2. 90 minutes before a run is optimum eat o’clock

I’m sure it varies from runner to runner, but for me, if I don’t eat almost exactly 90 minutes before a run, it all goes tits-up. If I eat any earlier, I’ll inevitably be dangerously hangry by the time my run is over; any later, and it’ll feel like I’ve got half a branch of Greggs having a rave-up in my stomach.

3. I’ll never be able to do more than 15 consecutive press-ups *sob*

I’ve never really followed any kind of strength training program before, but I’ve been doing this one most days for about a month now and it’s definitely made a difference – running feels like it takes less and less effort with every week.

I could never join the US Marines, because the drill sergeants are forever yelling “Drop and gimme 20!

I’ve been slowly, steadily bumping up the number of reps of each exercise – 14 squats instead of 12; a 40-second plank instead of a 30-second one. But press-ups? Arrggh, press-ups. I cannot do more than 15 of them without my arms screaming at me to knock it off. Literally screaming at me. They grow a little mouth each, and both of those mouths scream “Knock it off!”

It’s never going to happen for me. I could never join the US Marines, because the drill sergeants are forever yelling “Drop and gimme 20!” and I’d only ever be able to do 15 and I’d get a dishonorable discharge or something.

4. It doesn’t matter if tricks and gadgets actually make any difference

…as long as you believe that they do. I’ve tried using energy drinks and gels, protein bars, taken creatine (sometimes before a run, sometimes after), I’ve worn compression gear, I’ve necked an espresso before a run… If there’s a way of trying to make yourself feel like the Six Million Dollar Man off out for a jog, I’ve done it.

Me in compression gear. Wowzers it’s tight

Were they all a waste of time, money and effort?

Did any they make any difference, or were they a waste of time, money and effort? Honestly, I dunno. I’d have to run the exact same routes several times, both with and without the additional elements, to see if they’d had any serious effect. And frankly, I’m not organised enough for shit like that.

But the thing is, they felt like they were making a difference, and that was enough. So if they’re all just tricksy placebos, I’m fine with that.

5. Stretching never stops being boring

It’s all very important and helpful and blah-de-blah but OMFG is there anything more tedious than stretching? You’re literally just standing in weird positions for at least three straight minutes. It’s like time has stopped. You’re experiencing how boring it’d be to be a statue, and as you suspected, it’d be booorrrring.

6. Running with a bottle of water is rubbish

It throws your arm movements off, you get a weird cramp in your hand, and the water ends up revoltingly, undrinkably hot. Not just warm, actually hot.

My apologies for sweating profusely in a self-checkout queue

So if I’m headed out on an hour-plus run that passes by any shops, I’ll take my debit card and buy a bottle of water once the thirst gets too much. (My apologies to all the shoppers I’ve grossed out by sweating profusely in a self-checkout queue.) And if I’m going nowhere near any shops, I’ll take this thing (below) along – which is pretty distracting, but not as distracting as a crumpled bottle of Volvic sloshing around in your hand.

My drinky bumbag (NB may not be what these things are actually called)

7. There’s nowhere to poo in the suburbs

So if you’re about to embark on a two-hour run into deepest suburbia, and you have even the slightest suspicion that you might need a poo in an hour or so, for the love of God, just hold off until then.

For the love of God, just hold off

Because gingerly running the streets while calling upon every last shred of mental and physical strength to avoid fully pooping yourself is not fun. No sir, it is not.

High point of this week: Ran up a massively hilly road by my mum’s house, like a ‘roid-fuelled power-Viking or some shit.

Low point of this week: Had to stop for a bit once I got to the top of the hill, and I let fly with some gasped industrial language and a whole volley of flobs, and then looked around to see a horrified old couple exiting their front gate. Apologies, horrifed old couple.

Training tune of the week: Wiley – Step 2001

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