In the spirit of sharing and reflection – and for my own memory – I wanted to detail my year of running. Openly speaking, I didn't meet my goals, but I am proud of my race efforts and find the failures entertaining enough to share in.
“I'm going to run the Dublin Marathon next year”, said a colleague of mine in October of 2017. By the end of that conversation we were both committed to doing it and signed up within the week.
Running a marathon was always on “the bucket list”, but it was never something that had a lot of immediate appeal. The gauntlet fell at a time where I hadn't been spending a lot of time working out, so I felt it was a good opportunity to get back into sports. Since my rowing days in University, I have struggled to maintain any sort of regular regimen. That had to end.
The more I read & study longevity, regular exercise is the no. 1 recommended activity for better health. Running, while not being the ideal sport due to stress on the joints, is a great form of cardio exercise and one I have been meaning to attempt more seriously.
So a very heavily interrupted year of running training began during which I made all the possible mistakes a beginner runner can make.
From 0 to injury in 3 weeks
I somehow managed to injure my IT band during the first 3 weeks of running. How does one do that? By running a half-marathon in the 3rd week, for practice.
After several months of self-attempted recovery, I realized that I'm not a physiotherapist. Finally in April I decide to visit one. I endure a couple of (psychologically uncomfortable) sessions of acupuncture and diligently do my exercises. It works.
Back on track
This is where my racing begin. Fresh out of recovery, my first race was the Vitality mile.
The Vitality Westminster Mile is a spectacular and well-attended 1 Mile run through central London. My goal is to go below 6:50. I warm up and soak in the experience. The atmosphere and venue are inspirational.
As I start, however, I realize I'm completely dehydrated and end up running most of the distance with a dry mouth. A big group pulls away from me immediately. I put in a very strong push at the finish and manage to pass several runners.
Poor pre-race hydration
Time: 6:34 (PR)
Place: 321/1027 (277/576 Male)
I pull out the RW's Race Time Predictor and check my estimated Marathon time – it's 3:29:17! I'm ecstatic about my “potential” and eager to keep up the training.
Regents Park 5k
This was a tough one. I decided to do a 5k next to keep stepping up the distance. With soaring summer temperatures of 30 C, I was determined to keep hydrated. I time my bathroom stops, drink the perfect amount of water and come to the start line with two bottles in hand.
The hydration works. The race doesn't. The heat takes its toll and I struggle to commit to a fast pace. I fail to even meet my 5k PR.
Place: 28/241 (21/89 Male)
SSE Airtricty Dublin Marathon
The big event is finally here. The city of Dublin is full of diversion signs and people in blue caps and bags ready to run the marathon.
I'm anxious however. Over the past month, I have failed to make any strides of mileage. Due to some knee pain i have had to reduce mileage and haven't gotten past the 22km mark for my long runs (I'm supposed to be running 20 mile long runs).
The day of the race, I wake up and we go to hotel breakfast. I'm tempted to try the oatmeal. I normally enjoy oatmeal but this one has some sunflower seeds that I can't usually stomach. I go for the oatmeal and immediately regret it. A few moments of hesitation later I'm forcing myself to throw up. I'm committed to show up ready to the start line. Luckily I feel a lot better after throwing up.
The start is split into multiple waves and is one of the most logistically complex things I've been part of. Once the race is off, I'm off to a good start. About 10 km in I eat the only gel I hadn't eaten before and feel sick again. It settles after around 20 minutes and I'm able to keep running forward. My race plan is to stick at 6 min./km and then speed up at the second half. I'm going a bit slower for the first 20km, hoping to make up for it. However…
At 25km in, my speed starts to deteriorate. The lack of training at distance shows and my legs give way. My heart rate is low (145 bpm average through out the marathon), my lungs full of air, but nothing in my legs. I spent the second half alternating between walking and running, both being very difficult. For the last 10 miles my sole goal is to finish the race and I do.
Limited long-distance training
Unnecessary nutritional experimentation
Poor risk & injury management
Poor use of strengthening, conditioning
Poor choice of shoes
Time: 04:50:12 (PR)
Place: 12764/16430 :(
What I would have done differently
There are so many learnings I took away that are listed in the next paragraph, but the most important would probably be to run the marathon a little later. I think a better approach is to develop speed at lower distances and then keep increasing the race length as performance goes up. This is analogous to the way professionals train.
Deal with injuries as soon as possible
Only increase running mileage by 10-20% every week
Do strengthening at least every 2 days
Plan races well ahead of time
Hit long runs
Choose shoes that will be comfortable throughout the distance
Things that worked well
I didn't initially enjoy the sport, but learned to love it by starting to follow the ultra-running scene (there is no use trying to get good at something you hate)
Consuming podcasts and doing calls during long runs
Low heart rate training helped me build a good endurance base
Mixing trail running into my training
I really enjoyed this year of running. It's always exciting to learn and approach an entirely new discipline and while I know long distance running is not the best sport for my body type and size, it was still great fun. Look forward to taking on more races next year.