Hello and welcome if you are thinking of running a marathon then you might be interested in reading about my first marathon attempt, the event I chose for this was the Chester Marathon in this post you will find out how I was feeling before, during and after the race.
Preparing For The Race
As mentioned in the title I trained and ran the race while on a low carb diet, I am not going to go into details about the diet here as I have written other posts about it.
But the idea behind running on low carbs is there is no need for carb loading before an event, or carrying gels (which didn’t work for me) because I am fuelling the race using stored fat.
To give you an idea of the kind of meals I eat here is what I ate on Saturday the day before the race: –
- Breakfast – homemade nut granola and Greek yogurt (full fat), breakfast coffee (see below).
- Midday – cheese omelette and avocado, green tea with a splash of lemon juice.
- Evening – belly pork and mixed green veg, black coffee (no sugar).
During the after noon I also ate a piece of 85% cacao chocolate, I had a cup of black coffee at night while watching TV and another before setting off for the race the next morning.
The breakfast coffee I mentioned above is from a recipe I found on a site called The Banting Chef they call it bullet proof coffee, I normally have it at breakfast that’s why I have named it that.
I did not have anything else to eat until after the race on Sunday around two thirty, that was an energy bar from the race goody bag, the next thing I had was about an hour later when we stopped at the motorway services and I had a Mac Donald’s meal (not part of the Keto diet).
The Overnight Stay Nearer The Race Venue
After my evening meal I set off to the pub that I had booked into for the night, I cannot fault the accommodation it was clean, the bed was comfortable and it seemed like a nice quite room at first.
But then at nine o-clock the disco started and it continued until two in the morning, all I could hear was the thump of the drums, at home I normally go to bed at ten o-clock every night unless we go out for the evening.
So at ten I got into bed and as you can imagine I found it difficult to get to sleep, I did drop off for a while and woke again at midnight, that was it I was awake till after the disco stopped, but even then I was only catnapping, I could hear people moving about.
The gates to the car park open at six thirty and close at eight for the start of the race at nine o-clock, so I decided to get up at six to arrive there around seven.
Making sure I was parked up with plenty of time spare before the start of the race, I thought there might be a lot of people trying to get in at the same time, and I wanted to avoid a potentially stressful situation.
At The Race Course
When I got into the race course I thought they had put something down for us to drive on, it turned out that they had not and it was a covering of ground frost that made it feel so firm.
To stay warm I sat in the car turning the engine on every now and then to make sure I did not get too cold, I was hoping that when the sun got up it would warm the air up on the race course before I had to go to the start line, but when it got up there was a layer of cloud in front of it so no warmth got through.
I intended to run in a T-shirt and the club running vest but I decided to put my base layer on, even with three layers on it still felt very cold and I could not stop shaking, I tried to make a video at the start line but I was shaking so much I decided not to bother.
The Race Plan
To make sure that I was hydrated before the start of the race, I took with me a half litre bottle of water and put an electrolyte tablet in it, this I drank ten minutes before the start.
I was also carrying some electrolyte tablets in my running pocket to put in the water on the way round, there was nine water stations and I planed to take water only if I felt thirsty and put a tablet in to replenish the electrolytes.
The size of the bottles took me by surprise, I expected getting a half litre bottle at these stations, but the bottles where smaller, at a guess I would say half the size, not to worry all I did was break the tablets in two, so that I didn’t make the drink too strong.
I had also planned to run the first twenty miles at my training pace, and pick it up from the twenty mile marker, and I did, but was it a good idea?
The Start Of The Race
Twenty six miles is a long way and I was afraid that I would get pulled along with the crowd.
So I went right to the back and I was the last person over the start line, it must have looked strange to the onlookers to see someone walking so near to the start of a race.
But I had a plan and I was going to stick to it, even if people thought it strange, I picked out a person ahead of me who seemed to be running at a reasonable pace, I heard him say to someone in the crowd that he was pacing himself so that he was able to finish.
I decided to use this person as a pacer when running, and I walked at a fast pace so that I did not fall too far behind him, I would then catch up with him before the next walking section, this went well for a while.
The First Hour Video
This is the first video I made, I had intended to make one at the start but the announcements where so loud I did not think you would hear me, plus the fact I was shacking so much from the cold.
After the first hour I had covered 5.09 miles, I thought that that was faster than I had done the first hour in training, on checking one of my previous posts I found it was slightly faster.
At this point I was still at the back of the field, I think I had only passed one person at this time, and I was concerned that I had gone to fast because I had left my timer at home, I depended on it for pacing myself in training.
While training, I was counting each foot strike of one of my feet over a thirty second period while running, and the same while walking, so I decided that while running in the race I would count my foot strikes and hope I was keeping to the same pace as I did in training.
I was finding it hard to count my steps while saying thank you to the people who where cheering me on, I thought it would be very rude of me not to respond to them besides it took my mind off the running.
The Second Hour Video
The millage at the two hour mark was 10.13, I was still feeling good at this point and enjoying the race, I had only intended to run in a T-shirt and my club vest, but when I saw the ground frost at the race course I decided to put on my base layer.
By this time the weather had warmed up and I was pleased to have a head on breeze, I was also confidant that I was going to finish before the six hour cut off point.
My pacer had got away from me at the water station, so I just kept going counting my steps and hoping the pace was right.
The Third Hour Video
After three hours the distance covered was 15.18 miles, and that was me on my way back home, I had been finding it difficult to judge my pace, I did try to time it on my watch and found I was running faster than I would with the timer.
I tried to slow things down and decided not to use the watch again and just concentrating on my counting.
At this point my legs where starting to feel a bit sore, which is only to be expected after covering the distance above, I was approaching the next water station but not feeling very thirsty, as I had just finished the last bottle of water that I had.
Still felling confident at this point.
The Forth Hour Video
The distance at the fourth hour was 19.89 miles, and I don’t know why but I thought I could do the last six miles in an hour, my legs felt like lumps of lead and I was still thinking about trying to break five hours.
I had a bit of a scare after recording the third hour video, I got a really sharp pain in my right ankle, I thought I might have pulled a muscle so I slowed for a while until it went.
Up until we had covered sixteen and a half miles we had (should say I had not noticed the hills) gone up many hills, but here we where presented with a fairly steep one.
During this video I decided not to record at fifth hour like I had done in training, as I wanted to concentrate getting across the finish line.
The Fifth Hour and The Finish
This was a turning point in the race, if I could go back in time I would go back to this hour and tell myself that I should just carry on at the pace I was doing, because even though my legs felt heavy I still felt good, but I picked the pace up from that point.
To begin with I felt great and I was passing a lot of people, I was thinking that the rest of the route was going to be very much like the first twenty miles, I mentioned earlier about the hill after the sixteen mile mark.
Well there was more a head of me that I had not counted on, when going up the hills there people where saying things like its all down hill from here, but when you got round the next corner there was another hill.
I don’t know if the reason I had not noticed many hills earlier the race was because I was fresh, but once I started to tire I noticed every one of them, was now walking longer than I was running.
As a result of me going faster I really suffered in the last two miles, I was wishing for the finish line to come into view round every bend, at one point I said to a spectator that I was not going to run again till I saw the line.
They said it’s just through the arch, in my heart I hoped it was true, but in my head I was thinking about all the times I had heard people say not far now, but it “was” just through the arch.
Now was the time to put in a last minute effort to make sure I was running when I crossed the line.
The person who announces my name first pronounces it correctly.
I go over my thoughts at the fourth hour again, and I felt that I had gone too soon and too hard, but I did finish and I have the medal and the T-shirt.
The drive home was not good, I have a small car and the right foot position on the accelerator is not comfortable when driving, it’s not bad on short trips but because my legs where so sore it felt worse, we where well on our way home when I got cramp in my right thigh.
I was driving up Woodhead Road when it happened, there is only a couple of parking places on this road and I was about two miles from the first one, once there I paced up and down but it took a while for the cramp to go, and for the rest of the drive it felt like it could come back.
I had done it and no one can take that away from me, this was going to be the last marathon and I was going to stick to the half marathon. It has been good making the videos during my training and during the race, I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed making them.
Final Thoughts About The Whole Weekend
Thinking back to the pub I stayed at I only booked it because I did not fancy a two hour drive before running the race. If I had stayed at home and gone to bed at my normal time and got up to do the two hour drive, I would have still got more sleep than I did in the pub.
I wonder how different things would have been if I had taken the timer, in most of the training, I had done the timer was set to a 30/30 split (what I mean by this is 30 seconds running and the same walking), and this is what I planned for the race.
And I started the race doing just that, but for some reason when I was two miles into the race, I decided that I was going to change it to 60/30 split, counting 80 paces running and 32 walking (this was the number of steps I took walking in training).
So now I am thinking that maybe this is why I felt so bad at the end, and not the fact that I decided to push for the line, looking at my split times on Strava I did not really go that much faster.
It has taken me nearly a week to write this article, and I have had time to think and my thoughts have been to do it again, I said at the end of half marathon last year that I would not attempt a marathon because how bad I felt at the end of that one.
I got to the end of this one and said the same thing, my thoughts now that it is over and I am rested, are it wasn’t that bad, in training, I know the route and I know at any point where I am, the thing about the race was I did not know where I was or what was coming next.
I thought I had chosen hard training routes that would cover anything that I might encounter in the race.
If I do it again next year I will have some idea of what’s ahead, the event was well organised, the marshals did a great job, unlike some events I have taken part in there was plenty of parking for runners and spectators, and the goody bag was the best I have had, I would recommend it to anyone thinking of having a go at running a marathon, details can be found here.
I don’t know, what do you think should I have another go, I would like to hear your thoughts please put them in the comments below.