Think back if you will, to the point before your marathon preparation cycle started. Let’s take November last year for example. Whether or not you raced last autumn, it is highly likely that last November you were not training for anything specific. Wasn’t that a lovely time? Blissful in fact. You were running, sure, but it was base building stuff – more steady runs and less sessions. Maybe even skipping a run or two if life or work got in the way.
But now, if you listen carefully, you can hear the rumble of the approaching spring marathon. Coming like a train down the tracks, ever day it is getting closer and closer…
And the training is getting harder and harder.
Welcome to the Twiglet Zone.
As I look around me at my compatriots, my training partners and the people I have contact with through this blog or through social media, the incidences of injury and tiredness are becoming more and more common.
At the track last night, people were missing. Others didn’t manage to finish the session. The recoveries between reps stretched out from 60 seconds initially to 75 seconds.
I have heard from friends who are starting to get over stretched. Little injuries are appearing. General fatigue is setting in.
I’m suffering too. As I write this I am sat on the sofa with my feet up and a cup of tea, like an old man. I felt OK after my track session last night, but a combination of a hard session, a rather restless night and possibly not eating very sensibly after the track last night, left me feeling utterly drained as I went out for my run this morning. I managed the 60 minutes and kept to the pace that I usually manage for those runs, but I felt ragged and there were several very sore spots in my legs – right calf, back of the left knee and both quads. I was in a sorry state!
But I have now got to the point where I realise this is all part of the training. If you want to be the best runner you can be, you have to manage these difficult periods. Training for a marathon involves having injuries treated or resting them for a few days. It involved making sure there is enough food in the house. It requires making sure that you create the environment that will allow you to sleep properly. And most of all, training to run the best marathon you can (or excelling in any sporting endeavor for that matter) requires you to embrace the challenges that come with training hard and the build-up of fatigue that is part and parcel of training week in, week out.
Professional athletes suffer too!
It is tempting when you see the runners at the top of their field, floating along at super-human speeds, to thing that the pros have it easy all the time, but that is far from the truth. Check out Jessica Ennis in this BBC film, at about 4min 25sec talking about the struggle of getting out of bed when the weather is horrible and she feels broken from all the training. Or consider Julia Bleasdale, who I interviewed recently, who told me that
Sometimes when I am really tired and I have a second run to do and the weather is miserable – those runs are very difficult, but of course they can also be the most beneficial.
What the pros know is that when it comes to the day of the race or event, all the hard training will pay off and succeeding will look easy. That is what we have to focus on – the end goal.
So, there is no way to sugar-coat this. If running a marathon was easy, there would be NO POINT DOING IT. We do it because it is hard and because it is a challenge. But in reality the bulk of the challenge is now, not on the day. So get that injury fixed and make sure you have the right stuff and the right environment to train hard and recover. And visualise the moment when you achieve your aim… I promise you: the pain and fatigue you feel now will pale into insignificance on the day. You didn’t really think it would be easy, did you?