Warwick's Marathon Journey
So, here we are, getting back into running. Not just any running either: a full marathon. There are lots of questions I have and fears that come with it. But today’s post aims to give you an idea of where I’m currently at, where I would like to be, and what I think I need to do to get myself to the start line.
Now, I’m very lucky that I work as a physiotherapist and I have great access to all branches of medicine handy for running. Surgeons, psychologists, dieticians, podiatrists; the list goes on. As well as that, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge over the years of working with runners and various other medical professionals.
The big question is, though: can we put all of this knowledge to effective use and make this a positive experience?
Sadly I’ve seen many tears in my clinic over the years from people who have put in hundreds of hours of training, only for me to put on the Grim Reaper cloak and deliver that unwelcome news just weeks from a big race. It’s never nice delivering that news, and I certainly don’t want to be the guy who has to hear that either.
So, I’ll dig into each one of my goals and expectations in further detail over the next few weeks and we’ll see what strategies I’m going to put into place to get there.
- Get to the start line injury-free, having consistently built miles in my legs
- Reduce overall bodyweight to help with time and injury-risk factors
- Finish the marathon
- Don’t die
- Enjoy being outside clocking up the miles in the Irish summer
Five simple goals, some of which resonate with many of you, I’m sure.
So, what does my monkey wrench look like and who is going to throw it?
My training schedule for the past year has been strength work in the gym, along with some HIIT sessions – that is, when I manage to make it to the gym. So the fitness work I have been doing hasn’t been highly specific to running, let alone training for a marathon.
Take home point #1: consistency needs improving, exercises specific to marathon running need to be put in place.
I’m kicking this off at a lovely 110kg and 178cm. I’d love to tell you this is all clean muscle with a low level of body fat, or pedal out the “I’m just big boned” line, but the reality is that I love to eat and my body is a fair representation of this.
Yes, I’m fat. My trousers recently alerted me to the amount of extra belly sneaking over the op of them – and my wife concurred.
This weight is too heavy to run any long distances. Not only will I break from the loading, but there would be long term impacts on my body structures.
Take home point #2: Reduce bodyweight at a steady, safe rate over the six months leading into the marathon.
The two main reasons that injuries occur are due to poor biomechanics, or loading the body too quickly for it to adapt – which links back to our first point of being more consistent in training.
What I don’t want to do is increase my training too quickly at the start only to pick up an injury that puts me out of training for a couple of weeks. You then start to play a vicious game of catch-up with yourself and never really get in the quality miles. For many people, this results in further injury.
Take home point #3: consistent loading over a long time, rather than trying to achieve all your training in the first month or two, is critical.
How am I going to achieve this? By assessing where my body is currently at will help develop realistic timelines and expectations.
The hardest thing for me is going to be balancing the miles run vs current bodyweight. How can I get more miles in with less impact on my body (for the initial stages anyway) to help avoid overload and injury? If I wait until my body is at an optimal running weight then I won’t have the time to get the miles in.
Before we work around this, we need to step back and look at the bigger picture. I’ll break my training down into two blocks
- 15 weeks to get my body moving and able to tolerate the longer miles
- 20 weeks of specific marathon training leading up to the race
So, what point do I need to be at for the second phase of training? Many people will suggest being able to run continuously for at least an hour, coupled with an overall volume of 30km of running per week. I think this is a sensible line in the sand, given the stages where I have seen my patients tend to break down at.
If the marker is 30km of weekly volume with at least 1 hour of constant running, for the next 15 weeks I need to build up gradually to this figure, reduce overall bodyweight as effectively as possible, and develop strength and mobility in order to optimise my biomechanics.
If I can’t get to this level then there’s no point in chasing the following 20 weeks. Whatever the plan ends up looking like, it all needs to be consistent!
Once I get moving and have carried out a few more baseline tests then further goals and expectations can be set. For now I’m wondering:
- What weight should I be looking to run a marathon at?
- How fast should I aim to run it?
- What dietary strategies do I want to put in place and how do I track this?
- How can I run in a de-loaded state?
Catch up with me next week to see what strategies we put in place for me and cover a few that you may find of benefit to help you get to the start of the marathon in one piece.
Until next time,