Marathon training journey – part 5 – injuries, recovery and big distances

In the build-up to my first marathon, I’ve faced a lot of the common challenges associated with long-distance running.

When you scale up to 14+ miles, peaking in your final long run before the full marathon distance, you put your body through an enormous amount of stress. Recovery becomes a huge part of your training regime, but those sort of distances also increase the chances of illness (as your immune system takes a shock) and injury.

Ramping up marathon training

Since my last update, I’ve had two bouts of illness (which meant a week off running each time), and have been seeing an osteopath for a hip tendon injury for a month. It’s fair to say it hasn’t been an ideal training regime in the run-up to race day.

To recap from my last post (which came just after I’d run two half marathons), I was aiming to scale up to 14 miles, 16 miles, 18 miles and 20 miles, adding on 2 miles every two weeks.

Having had a few niggling injuries and with the bouts of illness, I skipped the 14-mile run and went straight into the 16-mile run with very little preparation – almost 4 weeks after the second half marathon. The only real exercise I’d done in between was climbing Mount Snowdon the weekend before. Needless to say, it was too much of a jump and turned into a painful experience that contributed to my hip injury.

Basically, I overdid it.

Fortunately, I’ve had an amazing osteopath who has worked wonders on my body. Within 2 short weeks, I’ve gone from limping to being able to run comfortably again, and successfully completed my last long run last weekend.

Running with an injury

Mentally, being injured so close to the race-day is a bitter blow. I was tempted to run through the pain. That’s a lie actually. I did run through the pain. In hindsight, it was a bad idea. It just made the injury worse. What I needed was proper rest and rehabilitation. What I was advised was to think very carefully about whether I should do the marathon or not. What I told my osteopath on my first appointment was I needed to run 20 miles in 10 days. He advised against it but promised he’d do everything he could to help.

Thankfully, my body responded well to the treatment and I managed the 20 mile run with only a little discomfort. In the last three weeks, I’ve also been on an intense stretching and strengthening programme to improve my performance and help my body recover. It’s helped hugely. Tip: Improve your flexibility if you want to avoid injuries and muscular pain.

I also found this beauty of an article on how long your longest run should be before a marathon which helped put my mind to rest.

The mental battle is harder than the physical battle, in my opinion. Yes, my knees hurt, my hips hurt, and my muscles ached badly. But at the end of the day, that’s the price of doing a marathon. You need to be prepared for a little pain, it’s not a walk in the park. That preparation comes from the mind.

And when the going gets tough, all those doubts you had come surging to the surface. Have I done enough? Can I even do it? Should I run with this little niggle in my knee? Maybe I should pull out? I can’t do the required training, can I?

Back yourself and keep your mind focused. While, realistically, my training has been far from ideal, I have the determination to get me through it.

However, it’s important not to push your body too far. Being fit on the start line is more important than having additional miles in your legs. I was desperate to keep running as I was really worried I hadn’t done enough, but everyone I knew advised me to make sure my body was in the best shape it could be in at that stage.

I took another week’s rest even though I felt extremely guilty, got my hip in much better shape, and got through my big 20 mile run – now I’ve done that, I can definitely do the marathon.

Race-day ready

So, here I am. My mararthon training journey has been a long learning curve from 5k to 20 miles (I’ll blog about my learnings once I’ve finished the race). But, thankfully, the hard training is now over, I’m tapering, and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for the big day.

During the 20 mile run – Battersea Park in London

It’s been one hell of an experience so far!

Race day is on the 14th April. I’m not too fussed on time, I now just want to finish (which, in itself, is an achievement) and enjoy the day. To all those multiple marathon runners: I salute you.

Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.