It’s officially marathon week. On Sunday I’ll be taking to the streets of London with tens of thousands of others to run the 2021 London Marathon – I cannot wait.
Despite my excitement, I must say there is a big part of me which can’t wait for it to be finished. The London Marathon has been on the forefront of my mind ever since I got a place during the November 2020 lockdown.
Anyone who has run a marathon before will tell you it’s a full-time commitment. I don’t think there’s been a single day since I got in that I haven’t thought about it.
However, with that in mind, England has been in lockdown for a lot of the past eleven months. It’s been well documented in this blog that I endured all three lockdowns alone – which was mostly fine. But I’m sure the story of that third lockdown would have been completely different if I didn’t have a marathon to train for. In that respect I don’t know what I’d have done without it.
It seems obvious to say but the training is everything. It’s vital. When it comes to marathon day the route and distance isn’t going to budge. All you can do as a participant is ensure you are prepared for it.
I’ve trained for endurance events before. Starting with 10ks before working my way up to a half-marathon as well as cycling from London to Paris. But nothing compares to the hard-work i’ve put into the marathon. It really has been in a league of its own.
Like everything in this world it hasn’t all been plain sailing. After all I am only human. If I were to start again there are definitely things I’d do differently. And it’s what I’ve got wrong which I want to focus on in this post.
Easy runs were too fast
There are three training plans on the London Marathon website. Beginner, intermediate and expert. Seeing as I’ve done similar challenges before but nothing on the scale of a full marathon I opted for the intermediate plan.
This consists of four runs per week and as the plan progresses different types of training run are introduced. Easy run (60% maximum effort), steady run (60/70% maximum effort), tempo run (70/80% maximum effort) and long run (pretty self explanatory).
With the benefit of hindsight my easy runs were too fast from the get go. There’s no real excuse for this but all I can say is I’m a naturally fast walker so I’d lose interest pretty quickly running at such a pace for extended periods of time.
It was only really in the latter stages of the training plan where I grasped the benefits of an easy slow run, especially when recovering from the big distances such as 16/18/20 miles.
The way I incorporated easy runs into my plan was actually by focusing more on my heart rate than pace.
When I got a place in the London Marathon last November my dad got me a Garmin fitness watch for Christmas which was a game changer. When running in the past I would set the app Strava to record and just go. I kept no track of pace, my heart rate wasn’t measured – I just went as fast as I could.
On the Garmin app after an activity it has five separate heart rate zones (pictured below). With zone two being what a lot of runners would class as the easy running pace. To remain firmly in zone two the heart rate is between 116/135bpm. I usually try to keep mine around 120/125.
Conversely at the start of the plan an easy run would see my heart rate one zone up and between 140/145. It’s not a total disaster by any means but by dropping my heart rate and lowering the intensity I greatly reduce the risk of injury.
Over doing it
One of the worst things you can do when preparing for a marathon is to over train. The importance of rest and a good nights sleep cannot be put into words to be honest.
For most of my training I’ve been good on that front. However, there was a time around two months ago where I was over doing it and it showed.
The particular training plan I followed consists of four runs per week which I would say I stuck to for 75/80% of the whole thing. Plus Park Run returned so for a couple of weeks four runs became five. I also tried to fit in strength and conditioning training two/three times a week and for some reason I felt the need to stick a Thursday morning spin class in for good measure. Even writing that down I can see how ludicrous it was to suggest that was sustainable. I was permanently tired no matter how much sleep I got.
Thankfully I soon snapped out of it. Once the marathon is done I think I’ll take up the spin class again as well as becoming a regular at Park Run because they were fun but at this moment in time when training for a marathon it was just too much.
Once I realised how ridiculous that phase of the training was I made some amendments and the remainder of training looked something like this…
Run – 3/4 time per week.
Strength and Conditioning (at home using body weight) – twice per week
Yoga – once per week
It was certainly more sustainable and I haven’t been anywhere near as tired since I introduced it.
How am I feeling ahead of Sunday?
In a word – nervous.
I’d compare the anxiety levels to that of pre exam nerves. Where it doesn’t matter that you’ve done the work and studied hard. That all goes out the window and you sit and question whether everything you’ve done is enough.
At the end of the day I’ve trained hard and met all the distances. It’s my dream to run a sub four hour marathon but being a realist I think I’ll miss out on that and be somewhere in the early four hours. Which is still absolutely fantastic!
One thing I want to get down in writing is that although I’m certainly going to try for the sub four hour marathon I’m not going to sacrifice my enjoyment of the day to get it. Everyone I know who has run the marathon before says it’s the most fantastic day and I don’t want to risk ruin that because of a number.
As I say the plan is to still try aim for it but if my body is telling me no I won’t hesitate to take my foot off the gas to soak up that world famous London Marathon atmosphere.
From my end I’m ready. I know I am. I’ve done the work and what will be will be. All that’s left is one last training run, a trip to the Excel to pick up my bib number, continuously check the weather forecast and perfect my playlist for the day. And then I wait.
There’s only one thing left to say – this is it. The next time you get a post from me I’ll officially be a marathon runner. Bloody hell.
2021 London Marathon
I’m running the 2021 London Marathon for Mind THIS WEEK!
If you wish to donate or keep up to date with how my training and fundraising is going you can do so by following the links below.
Fundraising Page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JordanCamp
My blog post about the event
Mind Website: https://www.mind.org.uk