On the 22nd April 2018, I will be running the Virgin Money London Marathon for the second time. I first took part in the race in 2016; my first ever experience of running 26.2 miles. While it remains to be one of the most challenging days of my life, it is also one of my most memorable. And that is exactly why I cannot wait to run it again. But this time, I want to do it faster, and with more ease. How?
1. More miles.
I don’t mean this in the sense of running more frequently, but I plan to do a few more really long runs. In 2016, I hadn’t run the 26 mile distance before race day. So, while this may be a little optimistic, I aim to complete a (very slow) 25/26 miler around 4-6 weeks before the race. While I felt pretty good for the majority of London, I became a little too familiar with the infamous and dreaded “wall” around 3 hours in. The majority of my training last time was based around timed runs (running for time rather than distance). I had run for 3.5 hours (my target for the race), but only completed around 22 miles in this time. The consequence? Once I hit 22 miles on the day, my body wanted to shut down and give up. Luckily for me, I had a surprise visit from my personal fan club at mile 23, giving me the boost I needed to help me waddle across the finish line.
2. More cross-training.
Last time, I had a regular gym membership at my local Virgin Active. I was determined to get a good time, and believed the only way to do this was to run. I was running 4-6 times a week, with a mixture of intervals, Fartlek and distance training. I “treated” myself to 3 BodyPump sessions throughout my entire training, and even then, I felt like I was adding a minute or two to my time.
Oh, how my training has changed. I’m now in love with Crossfit and wouldn’t dream of giving up power cleans and double-unders. So, I’m not. Mixing up my training keeps me motivated and I ensures I never get bored. And, since I’ve become part of the Crossfit cult, my running has been stronger than ever. In December, I achieved my half-marathon PB of 1:35; 4 minutes faster than the half I did in the run-up to London 2016. I was running just 1/2 times a week. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
3. More food.
Probably the best part of the new plan! More carbs. More protein. While I am certainly no expert, my knowledge has come on significantly over the past few years. I no longer fear carbs, and I now understand that protein is necessary for muscle recovery and will not make you manly.
Carbs: Put simply, carbs = energy and DO NOT make you fat. Yes, if you ate 1kg of pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the rest of your life, you (probably) will put on weight. However, you could say the same thing about almost every food. Carbs are stored in our muscles, which is then used for energy while we a running. Limiting my carb intake pre-run would often leave me feeling lethargic and weak during training sessions. Bring on the rice and bread! However, it is important to remember that not all cabs are the same: some have much greater nutritional value than others. A general rule of thumb: the more processed the food, the less nutritional value it has.
Protein: I rarely eat meat now, meaning the majority of my protein comes from plant-based sources. Although there are vegetarian foods that contain protein, it can be challenging to achieve my daily requirement (I try to consume 70-80g) from food alone. For this reason, I usually supplement my post-workout meal with a whey protein shake, which contains 20-25g alone.
4. More stretching & mobility.
One of my 2018 new years resolutions is to improve my mobility and flexibility. While there are many arguments for/against flexibility improving running performance, improved hip mobility is a must for me. Tight hip flexors can lead to many common runners “issues” such as sore knees, ITB syndrome (yup, been there) and lower back soreness. So, this time around, I have committed myself to 15 minutes of mobility/stretching for every hour of exercise I do, and one yoga class a week.
Are any of you running a marathon this year? What are your priorities for your training programme? Let me know in the comments below!