How To Run A Marathon And Enjoy It
Or to be more precise how I managed to complete a Marathon and enjoy it.
Five years ago I did the Athens Classic Marathon and it was everything a nightmare is made of. I trained hard for it, but when the day came I was sick with a bladder infection, had a raging temperature and the weather was horrendous. The temperature dropped, there were storms and the wind felt gale force, not ideal for a 42km ‘run’. We’d been over to Athens to take part in the 10km run for several years and the weather was always good. Typical!
That year, I finished totally drained and deflated and swore I’d never put myself through that again, before retreating to bed for a week.
Then, this August, my husband came up with the bright idea of doing it again. Even though I do like to run regularly, my initial reaction (and plenty more after) was ‘not a chance’. To back up that reaction, September wasn’t a good month for me and I didn’t run for a couple of weeks.
Then October Came
My husband was determined to sign up for it and I’m not really one to sit back and watch, so I started to warm to the idea and signed up for it too. I also took inspiration from Natalie from Plutonium Sox who recently completed an ultra Marathon.
42km 195m later and still smiling (that is my smiley face, honest)!
This Time Around
I knew I hadn’t trained as hard as the last time and wasn’t as fit, but I was determined to enjoy the experience. I also stipulated to my husband that I wouldn’t be doing it if the weather was too bad, I was ill in any way or I just didn’t feel ready on the day.
There was no need to worry. On the day the weather was perfect (for me), the sky was blue (which I loved) and there was a head-on wind (which I didn’t love so much). I do run all year round, but much prefer the warmth of the summer. Cold weather gets to my bones even when I’m running in winter.
Knowing My Ability
I never kid myself about my ability. I plod more than run and if I feel the need to walk I will. Maybe I’m just too focused on what’s around me and not focused enough on running. One thing I do know is that I hate pressure, so won’t put it on myself. Running is my way of keeping fit and I do actually enjoy it, so why spoil it for myself?
I am also one of those runners (I am assuming that there are other people like this too) who, if they miss a week of running feel like they are a total non-runner again.
We flew to Athens (so much easier than driving and cheaper too). We had three hours in which to find the exhibition centre to register and pick up our numbers and timing chips.
Compared to island life, Athens can be quite intimidating, luckily my husband is a whizz at finding his way around and several Metro trains and trams later we were at our hotel, preparing for the early (5am) start on Sunday.
The Day Of The Athens Classic Marathon
We were up bright and early for the twenty-minute walk to the pickup stop for six o’clock. The pickups were running from five, but we decided to leave it a little later this time. Even at that time of the morning, I could feel the weather was going to be just fine.
The bus dropped us a good distance from the start of the Marathon, which was perfect really. It gave us a chance to get our legs moving and to soak up the atmosphere. Once we dropped off our stuff and used the facilities for the start of the Marathon. The elite started at nine o’clock and our starting slot was nine forty-five, which felt like forever.
When it was our turn to line up I wished my husband well (we don’t run together), got my tracker ready and decided not to listen to my music to start with. There is music piped and I wanted to enjoy the atmosphere as much as I could at that point.
The start of the Athens Classic Marathon, November 13th, 2016.
The Athens Classic Marathon is a hilly one. From around the ten-kilometer mark until the thirty-kilometer mark it feels like it is one continual climb (which it is). Having already decided that I was going to enjoy the experience this time, I focused on the spectators (high fiving the children holding out their grubby little hands). I took the time to take in the scenery, secretly wishing I had my big girls camera on me and I even did a bit of window shopping, admiring the shoes and some of the Christmas displays.
The Mind Games
Does anyone else play mind games with themselves? I decided pretty early in that I was going to break the run down into intervals of walking. This where the traffic lights came in handy. I decided I would plod to the traffic lights and walk for a hundred steps or so. Counting steps played a big part in getting me through once the going got tough and I finally put my music on six kilometres from the end as that was when it got really tough. Thankfully that last part is downhill.
Staying hydrated was something I really focused on. I carried a water bottle, drinking around two liters of water on route and taking a rehydration sachet at the half way point.
My fuel of choice was honey, which was a sachet I carried in my bumbag (a perfect balance of carbs and protein, without all the yuk) and bits of banana offered on the course. The last couple for kilometres nausea wasn’t far away. I had to really balance running with walking so as not to feel too nauseous. But I knew I was not going to be the only one feeling that way, which was a small comfort.
People do a marathon for all sorts of reasons and none of that matters to anyone else but themselves. There were people running with inspirational quotes on their shirts; some were dedicating their run to lost loved ones, some people were on weight loss journeys, some, like myself, do it ‘just because’.
Everyone there was an inspiration, but for me, the people who stuck out was the man running with a prosthetic leg. I only saw him when he sat at the side of the road whilst his friend re-wrapped his stump in fresh padding. I felt a flush of respect for him and his friend – that is what you call a true friend.
There was a rather heavy lady running wearing a shirt saying ”If you can dream it, you can do it”. There was also a young man who was very heavy, his determination was evident by the effort he was putting in. I really can’t put into words how these people made me feel, even writing this fills me with admiration. And I really would like to think that they made it to the end.
The Funniest Thing I Saw
Had to have been the little chap I saw sitting at the side of the road puffing on a cigarette, not once, but twice! Which means he had to be in front of me both times! I couldn’t help but laugh.
The Finish Line
As I was nearing the finish line there were other races being run, which made the atmosphere running into the stadium amazing. People, total strangers, smiling and offering their congratulations. And the feeling as the finishers medal was placed around my neck was overwhelming.
As I followed the stream of people out of the stadium, my husband, who had finished some time ahead of me, did get a rather blurry photo of me smiling (speed blur? I hear you ask. I think not!). And I am happy to report that in each and every photo that was taken along the course I am smiling. Well, as much as I ever do. Have I mentioned that I don’t have a smiley face that lights up?
I can honestly, hand on heart, say I really enjoyed running this Marathon. Don’t get me wrong, it did hurt. I don’t believe you can complete a Marathon without experiencing pain. I got a deep blister under the ball of my foot, despite wearing my usual shoes and socks. My right shoulder was killing me from about half way and as for my hips? Not a nice pain at all. Keeping moving was the secret to reducing the pain there.
I’ll take the quote from the ladies shirt that said ”If you can dream it, you can do it”. Be honest with yourself, though, are you really prepared? Let’s face it most of us couldn’t complete a Marathon without some sort of preparation, it really would be daft to attempt it.
- Carbo load in the days coming up to the run. I found this my favourite part of training. Peanut M&M’s were my thing, a nice balance of carbs and protein.
- Listen to your body. You are the only one who knows it. After the run, I wanted salt and meat. I love sugar but really couldn’t face it. It wasn’t what my body wanted.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
- Try and stretch afterwards. It will hurt, but it will be worth it. Once we were back at the hotel, I stretched, laid with my legs raised and had a hot shower. Neal went to get meat and milk, which was our tea.
The next morning you will be stiff, but once you get moving it does wear off. Those first few steps had us laughing at how ridiculous we must have looked. After another hot shower, the hips were working properly again… As long as I didn’t stop for too long.
Set out to enjoy it. Whether you set yourself the goal of finishing (as I did) or you want to improve a time. Enjoy it.
Will I Do Another One?
At this moment I would like to think so, although a half Marathon is a much more realistic distance. The conditions for me were perfect last Sunday. I know I wouldn’t have been happy had it been windy or raining, so that is something I must consider.
I did like the fact that I could eat as many peanut M&M’s without worrying during the weeks before the Marathon. I’m not sure if I will be able to wean myself off them now! So the only answer would be to do another one!
My experience this time was so different to last time. I would like to think that my post may inspire anyone who is considering doing a Marathon but doubting themselves. You can but try and if the worst comes to the worst, you can always get on the bus that picks people up along the way.
I would also like to thank anyone who volunteers at events like this, as without you, they could never happen. The work and organisation that goes into an event like a Marathon is something else. From the people handing out water to the people cleaning up afterwards, the photographers, the medics and everyone in between. A huge thank you. Your work is appreciated!
Is completeing a Marathon something you would like to do? Or maybe you’ve already done one? I’d love to hear your experience!
© 2016, Debbie. All rights reserved.