Apart from running a lot, there’s not much that can prepare you for a really long run. Running for more than three hours on your own is hard.
In the lead up to a marathon, nearly everyone will have a 30km+ run scheduled. This is to test your body and mind to see if you are actually ready to run a marathon. And it can be a real test.
My schedule was to run 36km two weeks before the actual race. I’ve prepared pretty well, not missing many training runs and running three to four times a week. In the three weekends leading up to last, I had run 25km each weekend. You get used to a distance like that. The third time I even felt quite good and relaxed.
Then we get to the big training run. For those thinking that there’s not much between 25 and 30+, that extra hour makes the difference, it’s the one that gets you.
I had scheduled three 12km loops so that I could pick up a bottle of Isostar and some snacks. Getting through the first 12kms is easy physically, not so mentally, as you realise with every kilometer that passes that you still have over two hours to go. A few gels and some gingerbread do wonders to keep your sugar levels high though.
The second loop is when the first signs of tiredness start to set in. Once you hit the 20km mark, you start feeling that you’ve been running for close to two hours. As long as you keep a good cadence going though (strides per minute), it shouldn’t affect you too much.
Heading in to that third hour, the run doesn’t get easier. Especially if you are on your own. Mental tiredness and general boredom will probably start creeping in to accompany the tired feet. Try to keep your eye on the prize: that feeling of accomplishment after the run. I’ve used that a few times. I try to remember some of the best runs I’ve had and the feeling I’ve had after those runs. That seems to get me through the rough patches and I hope it’ll stand me in good stead during the marathon.
Being a training run though, I was getting really really bored. I skipped two small loops and ended doing 33km which I felt were more than enough. Ten or fifteen minutes extra would not have made a difference to my training. I’m pretty sure I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to conquer the magic 42.195km. But I wouldn’t have been without the last run. Knowing that I did it, and wasn’t exhausted afterwards, is a great feeling. OK I wasn’t running at marathon pace and I still have some 9-10km to go, but the adrenaline and all the other runners and supporters should get me over the line!
I now can’t wait for the 15th October. I’m anxious, nervous, excited and curious to see how it will all go and what time I’ll run it in. But the body feels good and the mind is right. Let’s hope the weather gods smile on us too.