My ups and downs of marathon training

I know I have written my race recap of my first marathon and you would think I would be done talking about it but that is not the case. There are some things that I would like to share about my training and journey over the last 19 weeks.

When I first thought about training for a marathon I thought about the time away from home that I would have to spend doing a long run on the weekend. I would hear about how people would get injured while training, how they were tired and how their body hurt each week while training. I decided marathon training wasn’t something I wanted to put myself through because it didn’t sound like fun at all.

Then my friend Cindy ran a marathon almost two years ago and I did one long run with her of 33km. It made me realize that I wanted to challenge myself. I thought about just signing up to run a marathon and not put in the training. If I could run 33km already then my body wouldn’t get injured or be sore from all the training. Sounded kind of like a good idea but then knowing how competitive I am with myself I couldn’t do that. If I was going to run a marathon I was going to do it right and give it my best go.

In January this year when I decided to start training I didn’t have a race in mind. I had made up my mind though that I was ready to put in the time and dedicate myself to it. It wasn’t until a few weeks into my training did I realize that the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon was going to be my target race. I chose that race because Warren goes each year with the CF National Team.

I had 19 weeks of training and I followed the schedule perfectly because this kind of training was new to me. If I didn’t do what was on the schedule I knew that I was only hindering myself and not anyone else because I was the one on race day who would suffer.

My training program from Frontrunners looked something like this:

  • Monday-8km run
  • Wednesday-speed work with the Frontrunners Athletic Club in the Westshore
  • Thursday-5km run
  • Saturday-long run
  • Sunday-VIRA race every other weekend from January-April

Monday morning runs never felt too bad even though some weeks I would have a VIRA race and a long run on the Sunday. Mid-way through my training I asked fellow runner Sue if she wanted to meet in the morning. She is a fellow early bird like me so it was nice for us to have company doing something we love. We met at 5:40am and did the same 8k loop. She has ran marathons before so each week she would share different tips and tricks that I should know while training. It was valuable to my training and I learned so much. I referred to her as my coach because she helped me through a lot of uncharted waters. 

Wednesday nights was speed workouts with the club. I was happy to have a group to meet in the evenings for these kind of workouts. As much as I know they are good for me I am not the best at doing them on my own. Sometimes we would climb hills to build strength and sometimes it was all about speed. It was a good variation and Sean helped to push me some weeks when the workouts felt tough. 

The first few weeks of training I dreaded Thursday mornings. I only had to run 5km but after a speed workout it was SO hard. I thought I would barely get through them and they were the longest half hour of my life. To make it work to my advantage I took all of my things into work on Wednesday that I would need for Thursday. I would then run to work which made it easier to do since I had a destination. I was never so happy for a traffic light to be red along my route so I could stop. Gradually as the weeks went on those 5km runs became easier and I felt great. 

While I was marathon training I was also a clinic leader for the half marathon clinic that was happening through Frontrunners Westshore. Each Saturday the group had a long run as part of their training. If I wasn’t racing on the Sunday I would add on my extra distance that I needed for my long run. If I was racing the next day I just ran what they had to do and continued my long run on Sunday. I felt that getting all the distance in for one run was essential for me making it through the marathon. I felt that if I broke the distance up then my body wouldn’t know on race day how to run the whole race. Maybe I was wrong in that way of thinking but for my next marathon I would do the same.

The VIRA races take part every other Sunday from January to April. The distances vary but I think they helped me with my training. It was an extra day of speed work in my schedule because I went out and gave each of these races my best. The two hardest for me to complete my long run afterwards were the Bazan Bay 5km and the Comox Valley RV Half Marathon. After the 5km race I had to do another 19km and after the half marathon I had to do another 5km. I mentally had to talk myself through both of those runs and on the 5km run I even started to cry a bit because my legs felt like lead. I wasn’t giving up though because I believed that my legs would thank me later for that hard run.

Each week brought different feelings and mental state. The morning of a long run I would wake early because I too excited to sleep. I couldn’t wait to run the distance that was scheduled for that day. Most friends I told thought I was crazy but the distances were new to me so I wondered how my body would hold up. What would hurt and possibly tell me to stop? Would I mentally make it? Each week I did it and each week I learned my body liked running the distance. I also learned what I needed to fuel my body with for each long run and when I didn’t fuel it enough.

marathon quote
marathon quote


To keep myself injury free I kept monthly appointments for massage and went to yoga 2-3 times per week. If it was a day off from running I was at Moksha Yoga Westshore. Yoga helped in so many ways to keep my body limber but also with my mental state. When I was running I would think of some of the things my instructors would say in their classes like: 

  • move your shoulders away from your ears
  • slide your shoulder blades down your back
  • it feels hard but you can do it
  • breath into the discomfort
  • you are strong, beautiful and can do anything you put your mind to 

My taper in the schedule started three weeks away from race day. This was the first time in my life I had tapered. I knew my distance would get shorter but I thought everything else would be the same as every other week. I knew from hearing others speak that this was when my body would start to recover from all the training. I thought that I could handle that but this is when marathon training turned into a whole new beast. I went from the having the high of running 30km plus to being uncertain if I could make it through 22km. I can remember that by 16k of the 22km I thought stopping would be the best thing but I made myself push on. I came home that day feeling down and thought I may not make it race day. What had I signed myself up for? It wasn’t until I talked to Katie and Sylvia that they told me this was normal for tapering. WHAT? I didn’t understand but they both done tapers in the past so they knew what they were talking about. I listened and trusted in what they had to say.

The second week of my taper I felt tired. I had trouble sleeping and was awake on and off throughout the night. I could have easily taken a siesta each day and that wasn’t like me. I went to work with my eyes feeling like they were half closed all day. It was awful. The whole time though I was told by Sue, Sean and Katie that it was normal. The following weekend I went out and ran 16km for my last long run and I felt great. I was back to feeling confident and I was ready both mentally and physically. It was just how I needed to feel. Then, the week of the marathon I was having some serious tension in my shoulders and I would wake with a headache because of it. Thankfully I had scheduled a massage on the Tuesday evening before the big day and Sumatra helped relieve some of the tension.

The few days before the race it was all about me when we were in Ottawa. I was worried about what I should and shouldn’t do. I didn’t want to eat too much or too little and it had to be all of the right things but what were all the right things? I needed to make sure I was drinking enough water so my body was ready to run 42.2km. I was conscious that I was being a drama queen so I did my best to share what I was thinking and feeling with share my aunt and Warren what I was going through. I’m sure I wasn’t the easiest to be around but they were great at supporting my all over the place needs.

Race day came and I was nervous but not as nervous as I thought I was going to be. I was excited and scared about the unknown of what the race would be like after I hit the 38km marker because that was as far as I had run in training. Most people would tell me if I could run 38km than the last 4.2km were a mental challenge to get through because your body would want to stop but it would keep going. They were right.

The day of the marathon I was on a high. I was ecstatic and I walking slowly after I was done. I would say “I just ran a marathon!” and laugh. It was the best feeling and still is almost a week later but other things have shown up in the week after. I have started to come down off my high of training and the excitement of race day. Life is “normal” again and my body is coming down from the last 19 weeks. This is something I didn’t know would happen but some of those same friends have let me in on their experiences.

I believe overall I ran a successful marathon because I followed my training plan. I ate well and some days I ate more because I was a hollow pit that couldn’t get filled. I also enjoyed some treats now and again and I limited my alcohol intake. I tried to get enough sleep when my body would let me. And last but not least I had so much support and wisdom from my family and friends. Without them the unknown beast of marathon training may have gotten the best of me.

So, after all those ups and downs I will do it again. I look forward to another one and I now know why people run them. I love marathon training and I am already trying to figure out when my next marathon will be.

I wanted to write this post so for those of you out there who have never ran a marathon, or are currently training for one, could understand that if you feel some of these things it is “normal”. You are going to fail at your goal and keep going. Believe in yourself! You got this!

What have you experienced in marathon training that you didn’t know would happen?


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