I did something recently that scared me. I registered for the Medibank Melbourne Marathon. Yes – all 42.195 kilometres of it. While this might not seem like a big deal to you, it is for me – for several reasons.
One; I haven't run a marathon in five years. Two; I had a baby nine months ago, and I'm still building up my running fitness. And, three; I haven't run more than a half marathon lately, and the race is in five weeks. 'What is she thinking?' you might ask.
I hear you. I have my work cut out for me. But I'm no schmo, and while my goal seems lofty, I'm taking a disciplined approach to my training and preparation. I really want to cross the finish line at the MCG. In the hope that my audacious goal might inspire you to do something that scares you too, here's a glimpse of how I'm gearing up for the marathon.
Starting at the top; I've approached this physical and mental challenge differently to my previous marathon. After a solid break from distance running, following a cookie-cutter marathon training plan won't cut it for me. I need a tailored plan – one that's life appropriate and that will push me out of my comfort zone. It also needs to be flexible enough to fit around the day-to-day madness that is being a first-time Mum.
So, I've enlisted the expert help of running coach Dave Ridley, who just so happens to run a very fast marathon at 2:20:10. The plan Ridley has created includes long runs; Fartlek workouts; hill sprints; tempo runs; and recovery runs. The workouts are challenging and keep my training interesting and on track. What I love about this training plan is that it's set on a weekly basis, meaning it adapts to my progress; and ensures I don't get too ahead of myself.
As well as giving me confidence and the belief that I can run a marathon, having a qualified coach develop a personalised training program makes me commit. I sometimes think, "I've got too much on today" and I feel like skipping a session, but having a plan and a coach means I'm answerable to someone; and that's quite motivating.
One of the joys of running is that you don't need much equipment to get started. However, when planning to run a marathon there are a few non-negotiables items that I believe are essential. The first is my running shoes.
Considering the average marathon training plan consists of around 450 kilometres of running, it's crucial to invest in appropriate footwear. With so many brands and styles available today, the choice can be overwhelming. That's why I got expertly fitted by a skilled podiatrist from Active Feet who understands the biomechanics of foot function.
Having a digital gait assessment done by an expert who considered my injury history, running volume, experience and previous footwear means I feel confident I'm wearing the right shoe to help me reduce injury risk and maximise performance. And, if you want to know what shoe I'm running in, well the answer is three different pairs. Currently, I'm moving between the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo, Pegasus 35s and the Vaporfly 4%.
My next must-have is a running GPS watch to help track and measure my performance. My go-to is the Apple Watch Series 3 as it seamlessly connects with my training apps like Strava and the Nike+ Run Club; and records and shows my average pace, current pace, elevation gain, distance and duration while running. The in-built cellular technology means I can leave my hefty phone at home and still answer important calls if needed. Sure, you can carry your phone if you want to, but I think that having a reliable running watch easily visible on your wrist is the ultimate training partner.
Going the distance
I recently asked the legendary Steve Moneghetti for advice on my marathon training. He told me, "a marathon is a very long way. For many people it's an endurance event, so you need to think of it as being time on your legs." His advice was to work on training for time, rather than the distance. "You need to work out what your half marathon time is, double it, and figure out how long you're going to running for. If your time amounts to around four hours, then you need to train to be able to run and be on your feet for four hours," says Moneghetti.
Given it's likely I'll be running for several hours, other runners, and especially people who've yet to run a marathon often ask me what I do to pass the time during a long training run. Most of the time, I tune out to all the thoughts running through my head and tune into my breath and the sound of my feet touching the ground so that I can consciously listen out for changes in my running stride. Other times, I listen to music (via my Apple Watch and Bluetooth wireless head phones) or talk to my baby boy as I push him along in the Thule Glide 2 running pram. I love talking to him all the cool places we run together, and it's amazing how effective the smooth sound of tyres on gravel can lull him a wide-eyed baby to sleep.
Advice from the best
Moneghetti also reminded me that I should just stay focused on finishing. "If it's your first marathon or you're coming back from an extended break, you should just focus on finishing. Do not listen to what other people say about finishing goal times because it's your body and your running, and you know yourself better than anybody," says Moneghetti.
He's reminded me that crossing the line is an achievement. "Everyone's a winner if you complete the event," adds Moneghetti. "It's about the experience and everyone will have ups and downs along the way. The key is to remember that everyone goes through bad patches and it makes it even more satisfying to know you didn't give up."
As my training intensifies and the kilometres in my Strava account increase, so too does my confidence. And just quietly; I'm beginning to feel that the Melbourne Marathon finish line I'm dreaming about may just be in reach.