Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

A Marathon Education; the good, the bad and the indifferent!

on March 30, 2015

So this is my 4th marathon training cycle. And, to make it a little different, I’m doing 2 in 2 weeks – Brighton on 12th April and London on 26th April.

Every time I go through this cycle I learn A LOT along the way, so here are a few things I’ve learnt and how I’ve changed or worked with them this time.

Club sessions – last year I ditched most of the club sessions as they didn’t fit with my training plan. This year I’m coaching the sessions, so I’m always there! And keeping up with the front runners (OK, occasionally getting close enough to inhale some of their dust!) has really helped with my speed and endurance. I feel quicker and my times have come right down.

a good 

Long runs – the structure of these have stayed the same, and the way I built them up week by week. But, again, I’ve managed to get together with the club on a couple of occasions to knock out 16+ miles. It has made it a heck of a lot less lonely and soul destroying, and has helped drag me through some of the dark miles. I’ve done a lot of my long runs on my own too, I think finding your own pace is key and learning to tune in to your own body. I’ve even ducked out of a couple of long runs early when things didn’t feel right. I’d have never done this before, but now I know my body a bit better I feel like I can do this. Also, I’ve done 3 solid 20+ milers this time, more than before, and I started the higher mileage earlier. This was more of a mental thing than anything else, so I knew in my own head that I could do it.


a good 

Intensity – I’ve done a similar amount of hills, sprints, threshold and progressive sessions, but I’ve based it around a) my club schedule and b) how I’m feeling. The mixture of fast and slower paced stuff always worked for me before so I’ve kept it the same. The only thing now is that fast is faster! But I’ve had to make sure that I do the slower sessions too and have had a few people comment on how my slow sessions don’t seem very slow, so have tried to control it even further!


a indifferent 

Frequency – I’m still running 5-6 days a week, as I have been in previous marathon cycles, but less double days than before. My mileage has increased to 52 miles per week, at its peak, which is similar to last year, but I’ve been having a few more lie-ins or doing some other activities instead.


a indifferent 

Cross training – Despite the fact I claimed to have cross trained last time, I only really went swimming when I was injured. I couldn’t fit anything else in when I was running 8 times a week. So this time I have done a BIT more, still nowhere near what I wanted. I have my bike on the turbo trainer and sometimes do that early instead of running, and I am doing a yoga routine 2-3 times per week. I think this has helped but I still want to be fitting in more cross training, even if it means substituting a run here or there.

 a good

Stretching – I learnt a great stretching routine for London last year, and this hasn’t changed much since. If anything I have been a little worse at stretching, spending less time after runs stretching. No excuses. It’s not a good idea. But then I do yoga the following morning instead. OK, I’m looking for excuses. I should do more stretching like I did last time.


a bad 

Nutrition – Thanks to a lot of research and good advice about nutrition over the last couple of years, I’m quite good at knowing what I SHOULD be eating to fuel, recover etc. Despite that I have used previously used the fact that I’m running a marathon as an excuse to eat what I wanted. This year I focused on an intelligent running diet, whilst trying to lose the weight I piled on after Berlin Marathon (Sept 2014) making sure that I have the right about of carbs, protein and fats depending on my runs and recovery. It has worked out well. I don’t weigh myself, so I’ve no idea how much weight I’ve lost, but I’m back to what I would consider a better running shape and weight for me. And because I’ve been really thinking about what I eat I’ve used the correct things to feed my muscles at the right times, which I’m convinced has helped with recovery and injury prevention.


a good 

 As a separate note on nutrition, I tried a carb depletion, carb loading strategy the week before Berlin Marathon which I think worked well, so I’ll be doing this before Brighton Marathon. 

Gels – I have a tried and tested gel strategy that will never ever change! Perfected before London last year, I’ve stuck with it throughout my long runs on this training cycle and it’s still as perfect as it has always been. High 5 gels, every 30 minutes. Easy.


a good 

Recovery – I’ve been better with my nutrition, worse with my stretching and better with my sports massages! I feel a lot more in tune with my body now so I know what I need to eat after a run or when I need a massage or some treatment. I give myself recovery time if I need it and I skip a run or do some recovery cross training instead. But I still need to do more stretching! 

a indifferent 

Injury – Now I don’t want to speak too soon, but *whispers* I’ve not had any injuries during this cycle. So all of the above must be working!


a good 

So, here we go, not long now until the most challenging 14 days of my running “career” to date. Writing it all down shows me how much I’ve learnt in the last 12 months. Now….let’s get to the start line! 


One response to “A Marathon Education; the good, the bad and the indifferent!

  1. Richard says:

    Wow, Sarah, running 5 to 6 times a week AND cross training/yoga/eating all the right food (except possibly donuts?). I think I’ve said it before, you are a master at getting a plan together and sticking to it. For me, marathon training has basically been achieved by running much more with the club and er.. running more marathons. See you on the start line!

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