The lovely Claire Hougham, who will be joining the team at All Change very shortly, has had a really busy winter as she’s been getting ready for not just a spring marathon, but also an ultramarathon (how cool is that!). I caught up with her a few weeks ago to see what clever tips she has for getting ready for spring marathon season. As always, she’s got some really sound advice…
If you are doing a spring marathon, this time of year brings with it the promise of more long runs, hunger and worry about whether you’re done enough training.
As a regular marathoner I often get asked for advice. Funnily enough, the really important things I’ve learned have nothing to do with the training runs themselves but rather the more practical elements that you only seem to learn with experience.
If you’ve done all the hard training, you don’t want something which could have been prevented ruining your day.The best pieces of advice I can give you are around clothing, food and goals. What you are going to wear to run in on the day. What will you wear if it’s raining, what if it’s sunny? Let’s face it, it’s England, it’s spring, it could even be snowing! I have never knowingly packed light for a marathon, taking multiple outfit choices with me to make those last minute decisions. All of which I will have done at least one long run in. I would recommend that you do at least one long run (16 miles plus) in what you think you might wear on the day. This includes your underwear (trust me on this one). Finding out part way through a marathon that a certain item of clothing is really uncomfortable is best avoided.
Also pack suncream. The night after my first marathon I woke up in pain. Not from my legs but my shoulders. A quick look in the bathroom mirror revealed sunburn, the result of a sunny spring day and my taking over 5hr 40 to complete my first marathon.
OK, so now you have a number of outfits to ponder, let’s move onto what are you going to fuel your marathon with.
If you’re intending on relying on whatever the organisers are providing during the race, try and find out what it is and practice with it. Also find out when there will be fuel stations on route. Some marathons alternate water stations with sports drink stations, so water may only be available every 6 miles or so. Gels may only be available in the latter stages. If you are intending to rely on the aid stations, try and mirror them on a long run.
Fuel strategy doesn’t just mean during the marathon. You will need to think about the night before and the morning of the marathon itself.
What your fuel strategy looks like will depend in part on where you are staying the night before. If your favourite pre-long run evening meal is your home made chilli, great. But what if you have to travel to the marathon and are staying in a hotel, what are you going to have then? The same applies to the morning of the race, do you need to take something with you.
If you are staying at home, what time will you need to leave to get to the start on time? Ideally, I like to have my breakfast around 2 hours before the start, but what if you have to leave home 3 hours before the start. Are you going to have you preferred breakfast before you leave home and take something with you to have with 2 hours to go?
When I stay away the night before a marathon, I take my favourite “pot” porridge with me. This serves me well apart from the one time I was in a hotel that didn’t provide kettles in their rooms. Another lesson learned, check what facilities are available wherever you are staying.
The final thing I would say is be realistic about your goals and expectations on the day. If you want a sub-4 hour marathon but have only trained at 4 hr 30 pace you’re probably going to be disappointed. It’s important to remember that a marathon is a very long way and anything can happen, good and not so good.
I like to have 3 goals when I do a marathon. My bronze goal is just to get round, respect the distance but accept it might not be my day. As much as this might be a disappointing there will be other races, so don’t push too hard and survive to run another day. My silver goal is to get round within a certain time, typically close to, but slower than my PB. My gold target is to set a new PB, sometimes I’ll set a target for how much I want to shave off my PB.
If this is your first marathon, you won’t have a PB. I would suggest that your silver goal is a time you’d be happy with and your gold target is a time you’d be ecstatic with. So if you’ve been training with 4 hr 30 in mind, silver might be between 4 hr 30 and 4 hr 45 and gold might be anything sub-4hr 30.
In the week before the marathon, the day before and the morning of the marathon you have to trust in your training. You’re thoughts will inevitably ponder whether you have done enough. At this stage you have to trust that you’ve done all the hard work.
Relax, you’ve got this. Believe in yourself and enjoy it.