Yesterday I did something I never thought I'd do and completed my first marathon. I learnt a few things along the way.
It was harder than I thought, much harder
I'm a cyclist but I've been running seriously for a few months and have never really found it that difficult. I've always been fairly fit so running 5k, 10k or even a half marathon hasn't been that taxing, and I'm not slow either. I was fairly confident going into the run, thinking it would be just like any other training run I've done, just with more people, and I'd be able to easily cope with any pain that was thrown my way. I was very, very wrong.
Make no mistake, I've suffered on the bike. Pushed myself to places where everything hurts, lungs are burning, legs on fire, drained of every ounce of energy and its taken every ounce of determination and inner strength to keep going. I've cried whilst riding, sworn I'd never ride a bike again I knew what it was like to sit in the pain cave. Turns out the running pain cave is a very different beast.
Cycling is a low impact sport, as long as you can push the pedals round, you keep making progress and a single rotation of the crank requires a lot less energy than a single stride whilst running. Yesterday as the muscles in my legs began to shut down, the pain in my back became almost crippling and every sense told me to stop, I realised that running 42km is a very serious accomplishment and far more taxing, to me, than cycling 200km.
I didn't do enough long distance training runs
At the start of the year I was doing 2 long distance (25km+) runs a week, but as I struggled with my illness, couple with a loss of motivation, that tailed off in February and March. I managed to get a couple of good distance runs in, in April, but it wasn't enough to prepare my body for the physical impact of attempting to run 42km at sub 5minute pace. As I hit the 30km mark, well inside my target sub 3hr 30min pace, my legs began to go. The repetitive strain of putting 8 times my bodyweight through them with each stride began to take its toll and by 35km I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other and couldn't focus on anything more than the next step.
Aerobically I can go much faster
The first 30km were great. I really enjoyed it, felt good and was smiling all the way. Looking at my heart rate and judging by the way I felt up until my legs became as much use as twiglets, I know that I can run a lot faster. I train mostly at low intensity, about 70% aerobic threshold, which means I can run a good pace without too much exertion and was easily maintaining the pace I wanted until the dreaded 30km mark.
I can't wait to do another
Despite the pain and suffering I endured yesterday, and is still going on as I write this, I'm already asking myself 'what's next?'. I've got 2 Ultra's in the books for June and July and am keen to do another marathon, learn from my mistakes and get closer to that mythical sub 3hour time.