12 unexpected things that marathon training taught me
When taking the leap and committing to running your first marathon, it’s easy to get caught up in cliches. You’re probably familiar with them — the ones like ‘you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable’, and ‘keep putting one foot in front of the other’.
Although cliches are trite, they’re often true too. But not always. I expected the hurt, the blisters, and the exhaustion — and they were all there — but I found plenty of surprises along the way, too. Here are 12 of them…
Beautiful sunrises often greeted me during my Sunday long runs. It made all those pre-dawn starts all the sweeter though!
Photograph by Stacey Hughes
1. Long runs are rarely lonely
So many running memes reference the lonely road of marathon training, but I call bullshit. They don’t have to be lonely at all! My long run days included a support crew carrying extra water and fuel, and other runners joining me for all or part of a training run.
Although it was tough for my non-runner husband to wake our daughter and meet me before dawn, it quickly became a family activity we all cherished. They weren’t just my water support crew, they were my moral support crew and cheer squad too.
Yes, there were some lonely moments, but they were very few and far between.
2. The training would break me.
Two particularly memorable training runs emotionally broke me. Yet these are where I learnt my most valuable lessons. Firstly, never under-fuel. Secondly, I actually do have the grit to keep moving forward. There was some discussion on whether I would crawl the final four kilometres during one very long run, but I’m pleased to say my mind and body were never so broken that I resorted to crawling.
Marathon training changed me. Inside and out.
My long, slow runs gave me plenty of time to reflect on the week past, and the week ahead.
Photograph by Stacey Hughes
3. Bad runs are essential.
I had plenty of bad runs that made me question whether I was indeed capable of running a marathon. Although those bad runs were unwelcome, I quickly learnt that bad runs show me my weaknesses, and I can work on those to be a better, stronger, faster, tougher runner than I was yesterday.
Like steel is forged and tempered in the flames, bad runs tempered my mind, making me stronger and far more capable than I ever thought was possible.
4. I can continue to run on tired legs.
Until I took on the commitment of marathon training, I really didn’t know exhaustion and I certainly didn’t think I could keep going on tired legs. Do you really think your legs aren’t going to tire in the middle of your marathon (or near the end). Of course they are! Marathon training is designed so you keep going regardless. So I sucked it up and got used to it.
Marathon training is tough. But I’m tougher.
I got used to the miles and the quietness pretty quickly.
Photograph by Lisa Scott, Run Eat Sleep Repeat
5. It is possible to fall in love all over again.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve got a little jaded and harsh with my perceived imperfections. But as my body changed I fell in love with her, and with running, all over again. I fell in love with my thighs, with my butt, with the distances I was covering, with the training runs, with the hard runs, with the easy runs, with the strength work. I fell in love with all of it.
Suddenly my body was awesome in those imperfections and she could do some incredible things, and take me to some incredible places.
6. Running a marathon isn’t the hardest part.
Once I’d completed my longest pre-race run of 35km, I knew I was going to be in unchartered territory after that point on race day. I was expecting those kilometres to be harder than my toughest training runs. But they weren’t that bad. The many, many early mornings when I wanted to stay warm in bed, when I dragged my sorry arse to training and cursed the cold: those kilometres were infinitely harder than the race itself.
The marathon was just one run. And one run is easy. It’s the 64 runs before it that are hard.
7. Even bad-ish chafe heals fast.
Although avoiding it altogether with Body Glide is a Very Good Idea. Enough said.
8. The emotions can be overwhelming.
I’d often find myself a bit teary and emotional in the lead-up to the big day. Not because I didn’t think I could do it, but because I absolutely knew I could. Having the confidence to line up and say ‘I’m here. I’ve put the work in. I DESERVE to be here, and I know I’ll get this distance done,” was overwhelming.
This picture describes what words cannot. Taken in the finishing chute of the Gold Coast Marathon 2019.
Photograph courtesy of Marathon Photos
9. The quiet rhythm of training runs soothes my soul.
I now crave long runs in the way I crave air when swimming underwater. At the beginning of this journey the distances scared me a little. Now, I just saddle up and go. Those quiet kilometres give me space and time alone with my thoughts. I can outrun my worries — at least for a few hours — and although exhausted at the end, I often feel refreshed. My post-run coffee also helps with this 😉
10. Muscle on a bike makes me feel invincible.
Running before dawn on a Sunday can sometimes mean contending with drunk dickheads. As a short woman I found untapped bravado when my coach’s 6-foot-something ex-army husband rode alongside me on his bike. Yeah brother, whatya gonna say to me now, hey?
Muscle on a bike should never be underestimated.
And I will be forever grateful for those who provided it.
11. Sometimes I really hate running.
I do not love all my runs. Some days my entire body wanted to stay in bed and sleep for a few more hours. Other times, my body was stiff and sore from mid-week strength sessions and I knew the first 3 kilometres of a long run would be the hardest I would run all week. But then I’d put my running gear and get it done. Some days it wasn’t pretty, but most days I got it done regardless.
Because sometimes, just showing up to run each day is the biggest hurdle we face.
12. One marathon is not enough.
The pain, the elation, the camaraderie with other runners, the finish line feels — they are all so addictive.
Watch out Gold Coast Marathon, I’m coming for you again next year!
I’ll be chasing this feeling again, for many years to come!
Photograph courtesy of Marathon Photos
Lisa is a mad-keen runner, mad-cap mum, and still can't quite grasp that she runs marathons 'for fun'. She also believes there's no coincidence about the number 42. After all, 42 is the distance of a marathon, her current age and according to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the meaning of life!