My first marathon, training, nutrition and costly mistakes!

This is my third blog update and this time I'm going to be talking about training and nutrition. I’m no expert on either subjects but I have learnt some lessons the hard way! Ultimately, I think you learn more from your mistakes and disappointments then you do from the success, and if good results come too easily then there’s nothing to fight for and nothing to look forward too!

I bagged a place on the London Marathon via the ballot in 2014. It was to be my first marathon. My long runs increased from around 13 miles on a Sunday to the usual 16,18,20 mile cycles found in many training plans. 'Train fast, race faster' my head was telling me. I was running my long runs far too fast! The point of the long run is to build endurance. I was running about 1 min per mile too fast! Goal marathon pace on every run was what I was trying to do. Convinced I was doing the right thing I carried on with this type of training, but I felt so tired throughout the training plan that come race day I was over trained and not prepared as well as I could have been. I think a few long runs at a faster pace can actually be beneficial but definitely not every run. They say to run the long run around 1 min slower than goal marathon pace. Remember that we train to race. Don't run your best stuff out on the training runs, save it for the main event. Be patient! Finish the first marathon with no real time goal! Enjoy the new distance, you’ll get a PB anyway -and you will have a target to aim for next time.

I set myself the target of sub 3hrs for my first marathon, it didn't happen for me and I came in at a disappointing 3hrs 19mins. A catalogue of errors completely blew my race before I had even stepped up to the start line and running the training runs too fast was my first mistake.

The second and by far my biggest mistake with my first marathon was my carb load and pre race nutrition. The day before the race I travelled to London with a pre made 3ltr box of pasta, a packet of bread rolls, a few slices of brown bread, 4 sports drinks, energy gels and some haribo sweets.

I had never 'hit the wall' in a race before and I thought this fuel would prevent this from happening to me. I was convinced that if I ate all these carbs I would run like Superman high on the energy rush and resemble a well fuelled sports car…How wrong I was?! I consumed the lot! It was enough food for 3 people! The following morning, I added 2 porridge pots, a banana, another sports drink and another gel to my already loaded stomach.

I started the race like a bloated and lethargic slug with a belly so full the best place for me would have been a lay down on a bed for a few hours! Not running a marathon! As I travelled to the start line by train I remember loosening my running belt and undoing the tie string on my shorts. I felt like I’d just eaten at an all you can eat buffet pig out!

The gun went and we were off! The first few miles were good because I was running on a high from the crowd; Hi five-ing the kids in the crowd and enjoying myself for the first 6 miles, but then the cramps started! I remember hitting the half way point over Tower Bridge and I couldn't hold anywhere near the pace I had planned - I knew my race was over. The second half of the race was horrendous! In hindsight I should have pulled out. The stomach cramps were so bad I ran the last 6 miles slumped over with one hand down my pants to relieve the pressure from my shorts. I was feeling terrible. I managed to scrape around to complete my first 26.2 but the result was way off what I wanted and by continuing with the slumped style with one hand down my shorts meant my gait had been altered and ultimately this lead to a knee injury a few weeks later.

The morale of the story is to practice nutrition and carb loading during training. Don’t eat to excess - thats not how to carb load, instead just eat normal sized meals but concentrate on good quality carbs like sweet potato or brown pasta for a few days leading up to the race and reduce your protein intake. Practice your carb load leading up to a 20 mile training run is a good idea. Practice your fuelling strategy (gels/drinks) on the long training runs and run your training runs at the appropriate pace! Listen to the more experienced runners and take on board their advice. I thought I was being smart and that I knew what I was doing, but ultimately it cost big time.