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5 Things I Learned Running a Marathon

Author’s note: While I love food, there are certainly other topics I like to write about such as fitness. When I do, they usually end up on Two Girls. One Blog. I decided to write about the lessons I learned marathoning on Two Girls yesterday, and Mary asked me to share the post with Vancovuer Bit and Bites readers. Below is a repost from Two Girls, you can find the original post here

Last year I decided to take on some new fitness goals. It started off as running a half marathon, which I was able to accomplish running BMO’s Half Marathon in May. Then after that, I thought, hell I am trained to run a half, I might as well run a full marathon. If not now, when?

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There are many posts on the internet about Things You Learn Running or Marathoning, example here,here and here. Here is my (not so pc ) take:

1) F*&K the pushers!

When you start getting into longer distance running, people will push things on you. I am not talking about your running friends, who have the best intentions, I am talking about all the running magazines/websites/podcasts you’ll likely listen to because you want to learn more about this new sport/journey you’re about to go on.

You’ll be bombarded by: Drink chocolate milk for recovery! Take this Gu/power gel every x mile to ensure you don’t bonk. You must drink Gatorade! 

You need to figure out what works for you. I run marathons without any gu or gels. I don’t drink chocolate milk. I use a combination of Generation Ucan  (article here if you want to know more) and natural fuel (nuts, dried fruit, etc) because it works for me. My stomach goes into a lot of distress if I take anything with too much sugar and chemicals in it.

You should try Gu, try gels, try Generation Ucan, try Vespa and find what works for you. If it is not what the running magazine/website/podcasts are pushing, f*^k it! It works for you, it works. Don’t listen blindly to them, because where do they get their money to hire the writers for their articles? Advertisers.

Just one final piece of advice you probably already know…on race day, fuel with what your body is used to. Don’t try anything new or be tempted to try all the goodies they offer at fuel stations on race day. Your body knows what you have trained with. The new stuff is a bad idea.

2) Your body changes, sometimes not the way you want.

Yes you can lose weight running, especially if you go from a sedentary life style to running. I came into marathoning relatively fit and weight loss was not my goal. I wanted to do a marathon because it was a mental and physical challenge. What I wasn’t prepared for was the change it would have on my body.

I lost a lot of muscle tone and actually gained a bit of weight (not the good kind) training for my marathon. All the hours of training required to prepare for a marathon meant I had a lot less time/energy/ability to weight train. Plus, any muscle I built got burned away during my long, grinding Sunday runs. By the end of my training when I was logging 15-20 mile training runs every Sunday in addition to 3-4 ‘short runs’ during the week, I started to lose the weight I gained, but I still had very little muscle tone (in other words, I was a little flabby). I preferred how my muscle tone  looked when I was doing a mix of cardio/weights/HIIT training about 5-6 hours a week, compared to the way I looked running 10+ hours a week with 1 weight training session a week.

To be clear and before your jump all over me about running and how great running has been for you and your weight loss, I am not saying it’s horrible for everyone. I am saying it is not good for ME and what I prefer to look like/feel.

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3) Anyone can do it, for serious.

Whenever I tell people I am training for a marathon, people think I am crazy fit or it’s some superhuman feat. The truth of the matter is, ANYONE can do a marathon. It may be hard, it may take a while but if you train for one properly, anyone can do one. It may take you 7 hours, but you can complete one. Obviously, if you have never run before, you can’t expect to run a marathon the next day. You can start by training for a  few 5 kms, then move up to 10 km, then half marathon (21.1 km), then full (42.2 km). it may take a while, but the key is it’s doable. That’s the one thing I learned from the running community. People run marathons while undergoing chemotherapy, 60 year olds who have had knee replacements run marathons, blind people run marathons, people with one leg run marathons. If it’s something you want to do, you can do it. It’s just about mental toughness, your willingness to dedicate time for training and sacrifice.

4) You meet some good people

Running is a sport full of amazing, selfless people. I have met tons of awesome people in the running community. I have seen people cheer each other on, no matter their goals. I have seen runners helping others even if it means affecting their own race time. I have had someone walk with me for 3 km after I suffered a calf injury even if it meant it would cut into their training time and it took FOREVER to walk there because I was gimpy. I have seen amazing motivational people that make me think “What is stopping you from running if they are running today?” It is a community of awesome people and I am so glad to have been able to meet all those folks.

5) You have to be a little crazy

People will think you are crazy to do a marathon, and they may be right. You have very little time for anything else other than running, stretching, icing and talking about running. For the 16 weeks leading up to your race, you’ll sacrifice going out with friends, get up earlier then you’ll ever know, run in such shitty weather, people will ask if you went for a swim, spend stupid amounts of money (massages, chiro, fuel, gear, race registration, etc.), annoy family members with your constant need to talk about running and more. But when you see that finish line or the last 1 km sign there really isn’t anything quite like it. You challenged yourself and you did it! You are a marathoner.

Then after all the pain goes away in a week or two, you’ll find yourself having crazy thoughts again. I thought I would be done after doing my marathon. A bucket list kind of thing. Now I find myself thinking… maybe I need to do another to improve my time. I was injured after all near the end. I haven’t fully decided yet. Stay tuned!

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2 Comments »

  1. I always tell people who ask about running a marathon that the easy part is running 26.2 miles in one day. The hard part is the 12 to 16 weeks of hauling my sorry butt out of bed and putting in the work.

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