lessons learnt running the challenging marathon distance
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Sydney marathon runner medal

I ran marathon last weekend, and here’s what I learnt

The marathon.  What a beautiful, challenging and even mythical distance. 

Throughout history, runners have challenged themselves in both mind and body over this distance.  The first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C to announce the defeat of the Persians.

These days, we all run for many different reasons.  For me it was the challenge of getting back to a marathon distance after a long lay off due to injury, whilst juggling family life and the growing business of Bindi.  Along the way I learnt some tough lessons and have come out feeling positive and energised.  So here goes…

1. I was nervous: Ok, so I might have been running and competing my whole life and done bigger races than this one… but the butterflies are still there.  I take this as a good sign, that I am ready to race and focussed on the task at hand.  This is something I regularly talk to my kids about as they get nervous before big games or events – they are a good thing and you should embrace them!

2. It hurts: I have a lot of experience in hurting during a race. It is something I love and pride myself in being able to do when you are many hours deep into an Ironman.  This time, being ‘just a marathon’ still hurt… a lot.  It didn’t seem any easier to run without 180km on the bike first as I’ve done in Ironman… but the whole thing was simply over in a lot less hours. 

3. You dig deep into your soul: What starts out as feeling good – like you could go all day at a target pace – can very quickly become a very deep battle with your soul.  The body begins to hurt and send up red flags, but it is really the mental battle that is the challenge when the going gets tough.  How much do I really want this? 

4. We often seek comfort in our lives, so to seek pain is unusual (and it scares other people): Our every day lives are very comfortable – it’s easy to wrap up in Ugg boots with a heater, yummy meals and a glass of wine because you know… it’s been a tough week! But to actively seek pain and discomfort is becoming increasingly unusual, which is why I love training with others who have the same mindset. Just bear in mind that talking about your marathon on the weekend at school drop off does not go down well… mostly they just think you’re nuts.

5. It would have been easy to give up: No one is pushing you to race, no one is forcing you to hit the hurt locker. There was absolutely nothing stopping me from pulling up and walking when the going got tough, or even admitting that my injuries were getting the better of me… but therein lies the beauty and the challenge of the marathon.  I did it; I not only pushed through, but I did a PB and no-one can ever take that away from me. 

6. Setting a goal is bittersweet: A stretch goal is vital for me – setting an ambitious personal best goal will give focus not only in training but in the race.  My number one goal is always to finish any race, in good shape. Then there may be a series of smaller goals such as splits, PB times and nutrition/fuelling goals. The downside?  Goals set you up for potential failure should they not be reached. 

7. Failing sucks, but keeping perspective matters: So then, what to do with that failure? My approach is to feel it, to break down why it happened, and use it to re-group and plan for the next goal.  Which makes the whole process very constructive. Also, some perspective here is vital; remembering how damn lucky I am to be fit, well and capable of running a marathon makes me appreciate life a lot. 

8. Flying home the very next day is a bad idea: It was just a marathon, right?! OUCH!! 5 hours flying then 3 hours driving is not ideal right after a marathon… but hey life goes on and my kids had after-school sport to get to!

9. No one really cares: Well, not exactly everyone – my training buddies were super supportive and love talking about races and times. But outside that little fitness bubble, life really does go on and people just wave their hand and say, ‘oh you’re just nuts!’…

10. 3 days on, and I’m planning my next race: Yes it hurt, yes it was hard, yes I loved running a marathon in a beautiful city and seeing the sights… and yes I may have started googling qualifying times for some of the big city marathons! In the meantime, I have learnt that I love running AFTER a bike ride first… which takes me back to the best sport of all, triathlon!  Watch this space I say 😉

Happy training!

Belinda x 

PS For race nutrition I used Vindurance gels an Aussie, natural brand.  The gels are made of grapes and are easy to swallow on the run.  Here’s a link to check them out – I can thoroughly recommend them!