Concrete Schoolyard – 10 Things I Learned about Marathons

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” Dr Seuss. Sent to me by my wife. She nailed it for me. Yep. Almost a week on and a little bit of reflection before I move on and hit the short stuff again (no not you Jimmy Krankie, don’t go cowering now.) Aye I’m not a youngster but I can still learn and the marathon has taught me a few things. Here’s 10 that spring to mind, I’d be more than interested to hear yours.

1. The importance of the plan. If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail. This little arrogant blogger said in his blog here the following: With all respect Science can do one. I don’t understand it. I don’t have time to follow it. So what IS my plan? In simplicity I build up my miles and amounts of runs. Sunday will stay long getting it up to a max of 22 miles. I will do my club efforts sessions on a Tuesday night. I will do recovery runs religiously. I will do a marathon pace run every 2 weeks upping the distance on each one. Steady parkun on a Saturday where I can with some easy miles either side. I will factor in a good half marathon, and some other races. But I can’t and won’t get dragged into specific things on specific days, because I would fall part mentally and physically. So Blogpeeps can I do that? Can I “Wing it” to London make it round enjoying it, and still go under 3 hr 30? Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong! Yes I did wing it under 3.30, but by then I had changed my aim and my paces were all over the place. If I do one again then I decide my target from the start and I work my training paces all around the pace to get that time. Being flippant here is a downfall if you have a target. I now respect the plan.

2. I could have been a 1980s Tory MP. Now don’t get me wrong, that isn’t my politics. But remember all the headlines of them being caught in vice dens being spanked by madams? Again doesn’t float my boat, but it’s the pleasure and pain principle. There was something enjoyable about the whole thing with the crowds, but hurting and achieving. It’s crazy. You can actually enjoy the hurting. We are all masochists sharing a mass spanking session while being filmed and put on TV. Have a medal and a t-shirt you naughty person.

3. Horses for courses, fuel to succeed I got my gel strategy right. I tried different ones in my training and found the High Five isogel ones that worked for me. That’s a good thing. I maximised my Flipbelt to fit in 4 and my phone. Well actually Dave’s Flipbelt as I lost mine a few weeks before London. Extra lesson. Don’t lose your Flipbelt. Anyway, smashing. I stuck to my strategy of one gel every 6 miles, great. I planned my water stops, magic. I succumbed to cramp and nothing else. Where did I go wrong? I sweated more than I expected running at that pace for that long. I was covered in salt at the end after the sun came out. I cramped like nothing else. What could I have done? More electrolytes on me? Taken some of the Lucozade on? My point is I was rigid when I should have reviewed and maybe planned for the unexpected. I had a good chat with the ladies of Totum sport at the Running Awards and am going to try a sample of their supplement, used by great effect at London by Aly Dixon. Apparently with 78 Electrolytes and trace elements which can prevent muscle injuries and cramps. Watch this space and I’ll let you know how that goes.

4. Big Boys do cry Prepare to be emotional. Prepare to be all over the place. I smiled for 23 miles. I loved it. I high fived people. I loved hearing people shouting “Come on Marko!”I threw my arms in the air over Tower Bridge. I was filled with self-doubt I would finish. I got shouted at by a guy from Kilmarnock for stopping when my hamstring cramped. I made myself finish. I walked as a witch ran past me. I wantd to kill people who shouted Come on Marko!”. I danced as I finished. I met my wife and my boys after the race and the tears streamed out of me. Came from nowhere. Be ready for it. A total rollercoaster of emotions.

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Runner’s high on the course

5. You will act like a petulant schoolboy. For about a day. There are very few of us who will nail that marathon. Especially a first one. We will finish on a high, it quickly goes to a low. There is disappointment. Flatness. No one can talk you round. Never again. I’m rubbish at this. I got it all wrong. Marathons are for d@cks. I finished like a blancmange on ice skates. Within a day it becomes a bit of satisfaction. Then pride follows. Then I ran a Marathon! When’s the next one?

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High to low, and not staged.

6. I actually enjoyed the training. More miles than I had ever done, both in one run and over the course of a week. More sessions. Recovery runs. It makes you strong for other events. I have PB’d at 10k, 10 miles and half marathon in the last couple of months. I felt stronger in all of these. My coach John always says “Train for a marathon, but don’t run one”. I get what he means now. Now it’s time to take some of that into my normal training. Apart from the 22 mile runs, they can go and play backgammon with Shakin’ Stevens.

7. I sympathise with Daleks. Not the new-fangled ones that can fly. The old school ones. Have you seen them getting up stairs? Oooft. Putting stairs after the runners exit was funny. Took me a few goes to get up. Picture Daleks on the travellator on Gladiators. Go backwards. Go sideways. Take breaks. Or move into a bungalow for a few days.

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Myself and Bobby after our stair efforts….

8. I am stronger than I think. It’s been a tough few months. Not just the training but juggling it with an ever increasing workload, with family life, with everything really. With injuries. The weather. The doubts. The finances and logistics of getting there. Once I commit to something, no matter how it seems, I can bloody well do it, because no matter the stress I put myself under here, I got there.

9. The importance of support. Be it someone joining you for a run for 2 miles. A comment on Strava. In my case my wife Elaine and my boys Louis and Jon enabling me to do it. Supporting me. Being there with me. I am not Beyonce. I am not a strong independent woman, despite the physical similarities. Yes I am stronger than I thought, but I got that strength from all the other sources. Don’t shut people out, and don’t get too blinkered in the training.

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Support Crew #1

10. I love running. I do. It’s not just a hobby. It’s a part of me. Could I have got through the last 6 months of my worklife without it? No. It’s clichéd I know. But I cleanses the mind, the soul, it has made me feel like I can achieve through periods of self-doubt in other areas of my life. It helps me with focus, structure, and helps me be me. Heads together. Yes. Key. Important. A great focus that hopefully has got a message across to the nation. This type of exercise does help the head. The endorphins. The achievements. The structure. The freedom.

So would I do it again? Never say never. Lessons learned. But also I have done it. I’m a marathon runner, and I feel a better person for having done it. London – my concrete schoolyard where more lessons were learned.

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stop doing marathons now? Unknown….

Here’s a classic tune to round things off…..

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