Marathon training: What I’ve learned so far

Slow runs are not bad runs.
When I started training for a race, I thought it’s all about the speed. I wanted to be fast like my running heroes on Instagram.

So for my first 15km races, I trained for speed, which weren’t disappointing except that I suffered bad shin splints that prevented me from running for several weeks. My shin splints haven’t fully healed until now. Typical beginner’s fault.

So when I resumed training in January, I sort of “hit the break” with the pace and “forced” myself to run slower than what I am used to. I had to let go being fast and focus more on endurance. Speed would come naturally but you have to cover the basics first like putting on more mileage than speed. There’s an exercise of patience there somewhere.

Its tough when you are too ambitious but when you are an amateur, you have to accept that you will have to do the slow runs first.

That’s what most experts advise as well.

There are bad days, embrace them.
Some days I feel indestructible. I bike to the office and back home (total of at least 19kms) and still managed to run the same evening. But on most days, weekdays especially, I can hardly put on my running clothes and go outside. Wind, rain, the cold and tiredness do not help either.

For runners who have full time jobs, training for the marathon takes up a lot of time, will power and especially energy. There are days when I get so frustrated with bad runs – like when I can hardly complete an 8km distance without panting like a thirsty dog or when I can barely lift my legs for another step.

But this is what I signed up for. I have learned to accept that not everyday is a good day. This is also a sign to slow down.

Training for the marathon made me listen to my body. I am more aware when it needed rest. I am also more aware of its capabilities, my weakness and my strength.

Marathon training is becoming an exercise to get to know myself better.

And pain, deal with it.
Shin splints. Runner’s knee. Muscle sores. Side stitches. You name it. I’ve probably had it. In the beginning it made me angry because I thought I was weak.

But injury is inevitable. When your body is changing, it needs to tear a few tissues so that it can repair it to a much suited condition. Joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons – they will all be put to a considerable amount of stress. Of course there will be pain.

It is a necessary evil. The point is you have to let it heal. Then you will come back stronger.

Have a schedule. Commit to it.
Oh yes the marathon schedule. Sticking to it can be quite a challenge when you have a demanding job. I work in shipping logistics and supply industry. Ships do not wait. That means I am under pressure to catch the clients in different ports in the world, almost everyday.

One day I worked 10 hours straight and still needed to run. It was very difficult to haul myself out of the house. All I wanted to do was throw myself on the bank and stay there the whole night, especially that it was -2 degree Celsius outside.

Hard days are the best because that’s when champions are made. – Gabby Douglas

This line however made me soldier on. Because when I decided to run the Marathon Rotterdam 2015, I also signed up for all the inconveniences that come with it. Commitment is not my strongest point. This marathon training however is teaching me how to do it right.

Rest days are sacred.
Marathon training demands a lot from your body and from your mind. In short, you’d be exhausted. That’s why there are rest days. To give your body time to recover.

I have learned to respect rest days more than ever. That means I don’t spend them getting dead drunk anymore. Or spend it working too much. Rest days are not only for the body but also for the mind.

Besides who doesn’t look forward to a day of lounging on the couch watching endless travel and food series online? That is a kind of luxury nowadays so why resist it?

Your run is yours alone.
Running is an individual sport. That’s why I fell in love with it. I am not a team player to start with. Not really. Running gave me that space to be who I am.

But I am also very competitive. During my vacation and when I was sick, I felt really jealous seeing running enthusiasts on Instagram progressing wonderfully with their marathon training. I had to overcome the jealousy and competitiveness.

You should run your own tempo. Because Nike can tell you how fast you should run, Instagram would make you feel insecure when you see what others post on their feed and your running friends on Nike Plus would top your best performance but you should always keep in mind that your training is yours alone. Because everybody is different.

Circumstances are different, body types are different and you cannot and should not compare yourself with others.

The consequence is overburdening yourself with unnecessary stress, unnecessary challenges. That will manifest physically and mentally. The last thing you want is pushing yourself to the limits that you did not set yourself. Only you knows your body, how far it can go, how much you can suffer. Don’t let others set it for you.

Because you will cross that finish line all by yourself. Make it your race.