Let’s set the scene.
As I start this it’s Tuesday 10th March. I am 5 days away from running my first ever big race, Sunday 15th March – The Barcelona Marathon.
I have been going the gym for around 15 years now, my love for food & drink combined with a lot of DJ travelling (convenience food, late nights and LOTS of alcohol) throughout this period means that I’m not exactly body beautiful. I do consider myself to be relatively fit though for almost 45 yrs of age.
Around 6 or 7 years ago I started running with a couple of mates here in Spain. Average distances of 5/6km (approx 3 or 4 miles). After only a few weeks’ running I entered my first half-marathon and completed it in 2hrs 4mins. It hurt because I wasn’t properly prepared. Over the course of the following years I carried on running here and there as well as going the gym, then when I couldn’t afford the gym on a monthly basis I purchased a multi-gym and some free weights for home use, although in hindsight I was going through the motions but I never REALLY got much out of it.
2 years ago I ran my second half-marathon after preparing for it better and improved on my time, running the 21 kms (13 miles) in 1 hr 45 mins. I was also dead by the end of that run as I forgot the energy gels that are essential for mid-run fuel ups.
Last year I helped a friend train for the Edinburgh Marathon by accompanying him on his long runs, the furthest I ran over that period was 15 miles and I felt more and more comfortable. Then another friend of mine ran a local half-marathon that Michelle was meant to be competing in but she was ill, so we went along to support him anyway and the conversation came up about running a full marathon.
I’ve always wanted to run a marathon (42.2 kms, 26 miles) although the weekly travelling or even periodic travelling away consisting of late nights and abundance of alcohol meant it was nearly impossible for me to commit to any decent training regime. When we spoke about it last year I made a decision to ‘go for it’ 100%. And so I did.
I had to wait until the Vocal Booth Weekender was out-of-the-way to be able to start my training, the Barcelona Marathon was 6 months away so this gave me more than enough time.
The Training Programme.
There are so many different training programmes to follow and I was frustrated at the difficulty in deciding which one to go with, in the end I opted to follow the Nike+ coaching system (one of the features within the Nike plus app) as I was more than familiar with Nike+, using it on a regular basis.
Despite already being able to comfortably run 10-15km, I still set myself up as a NOVICE and I am glad I did, other friends started their training later in the year at the next level up and got well and truly thrown in the deep end, having to run way too long runs way too soon. This may be why they struggled with injury throughout the training, it may not, whereas I have soldiered through relatively unhindered. I feel like teacher’s pet.
To cut a long story short I have created a gallery showing my weekly progress. (Click any one for a large slideshow)
At a rough calculation, I have run 5 times a week for 24 weeks. Usually running Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri & Saturday. With the odd extra day off here and there, let’s say that’s 115 scheduled runs. Taking out a couple of days I missed due to my dad’s funeral and trip back to the UK at Xmas, I have totally committed myself to the schedule and I would say completed 105 out of the 115 runs (this is approximate, I couldn’t be arsed to actually count lol and some of the runs weren’t logged correctly in my App).
Over the course of the 6 months I have gotten faster and fitter. I am really pleased with how fit I am. The thought of me going out and running 20km right now doesn’t worry me in the slightest. I’d do it. With a smile. The furthest I have run during the last 6 months is 36 km (22.5 miles) and I did that comfortably at a relatively fast pace. It is great for me to see I entered myself into the race for a predicted time of over 4 hours. I had, until a few weeks ago, in the back of my mind the goal of getting under 4 hours. For my first marathon that would be impressive. I am going to stick my neck out and say that now I am hoping to get close to 3hrs 45 mins. I think I could do this ‘comfortably’. If I am feeling good on the day this time could be close to 3hr 30m although I don’t want to push myself too hard and get into difficulty towards the end of the race because I’ve still not ran the whole distance before.
I’m not focusing on the time although I do WANT to get a good time.
The last two weeks before the race you have to slowly pull back from all big runs so I feel the most energetic I have for a long time, the last few months I seem to have been constantly shattered due to all the miles I’ve put in, for example in February I ran over 250 kms (156 miles) in total !
I AM READY !
Changes to my body
I wanted to highlight this fact for anyone that’s into keeping fit, dieting or generally interested.
I eat relatively healthy, cooking fresh meals daily and hardly ever have fast food (now I’m not travelling). I would maybe have one bottle of wine in total all week with my meals and the odd glass of 43 here or there or a couple of beers Saturday night after my long run.
You would think that 6 months of heavy cardio work would mean the weight would fall off me and you could see a difference ? Well, not really. Due to the fact that I haven’t wanted to jeopardise my energy levels I haven’t changed my diet too much, I eat clean but obviously not clean ENOUGH. I definitely have reduced my BMI (the amount of fat in my body – I didn’t realise how much I must have had), I do think my torso is leaner but because I haven’t done ANY weight training worthy of mention then I have definitely lost some bulk I managed to put on last year. My legs are definitely much bigger, my calves and thighs are still pretty skinny as you know I’m a bit of a bean pole but they are full of muscle now and stronger no doubt. I feel I am now in great shape to start back in the gym and can build on where I am at.
Again, I just want to point out that if you want to lose weight and change your body shape then if you aren’t eating the right food then no matter how much exercise you do, you’re not going to get the results you want.
There’s a well-known saying that Fitness is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition. I always knew this… but now I GET IT !
We have a pretty good secret group on Facebook where a few of us motivate each other and share training and diet tips, there are some in real good shape to inspire you although most of us are just normal bods trying to make a difference somehow. If you want to join it, here we are.
Ready for the race
Ok, so that was the back story… This week I have to do a little preparation with what I eat and a couple more runs and then Sunday it’s “On your marks, get set, Go !” I wonder how I’ll do ?
The race itself
What an experience ! The whole day was fantastic. Unfortunately I had to start with a group slower than my desired pace but as I was right at the front this didn’t have any hinderance on my performance. I felt really good until 21km, the half way point, then each KM seemed to double in distance. I slowed a bit off my pace but the tunes kept me going. 33km I felt good and was tempted to push it a little more but didn’t want to burn myself out. 38km I started to tire, badly. I still kept the pace up but lost a good few minutes off my time in the last 2 to 3km. I was shattered but kept going, I never walked/stopped once the whole race.
I eventually crossed the line with a time everyone is telling me is super impressive for a first marathon. 3hours, 38 minutes 35 seconds.
As soon as I got my medal I saw my friend Dave Tait, he beat me by 5 seconds. I couldn’t believe it, he’d had an injury too ! Only friendly competition of course but I really wanted to beat him although his first marathon he did a few years ago he ran in 3hrs 20 minutes, so I was never going to beat that ! Well done Dave and thanks for the inspiration through the training.
In hindsight, with those pesky 5 seconds on my mind, I think I COULD have run faster through the early stages, although I have no idea if I would have burned out sooner had that been the case. I definitely couldn’t have pushed myself harder at the end though.
I think I will try another marathon and next time I will set my sites on getting under 3hr 30, I’m sure I could do it.
Thank you to everyone that commented on the many photos I shared on-line, the day ended off with lots of beer and tapas with Dave, his son, my lovely Family and my good friend Ade (who also ran with his wife Alé, a first for her and she completed it, so well done to both of them !).
Get out there
The thing I love about running, not just for myself but for anyone, is that you simply cannot help but get better, faster, fitter just by going out there and doing it. You don’t need any fancy gear (GOOD running shoes are advised though) or expensive gym membership, just by putting one foot in front of the other, time and time again, you WILL improve and you too could be running a 10km, half-marathon and even full-marathon EASILY within a year !!
Go on, challenge yourself.