I decided to write this post because I wanted to describe how I went from being a seasoned half marathon runner to running a full marathon in the space of 5 weeks. Just for the record… I’m in no way offering this as “training advice” or anything like that as I’m not qualified to do so, but my story may offer some insight into what to expect if you’re as impatient as me.
A tiny bit of background… I’ve been running half marathons since 2012 and at the time of writing have ran 8 half marathon events across the UK with an average time around the 1:42 mark. I find them relatively easy and really enjoyable.
“I got the buzz back for running and I suddenly wanted… no, needed to do a full marathon”
I’m the kind of person who goes in and out of running phases. It’s not something I do all-year round, but I’ll do it for a few months at a time until I get a bit bored or complete a particular goal such as a race event. I guess you could call me a part-time distance runner.
So anyway, I got back into running after starting my new job as I found myself with a lot of spare time on my own in the evenings, and I was completing 5-8 mile runs most nights. Out of nowhere I got the buzz back for running and I suddenly wanted… no, needed to do a full marathon.
I browsed the Internet for upcoming marathons and the smart thing to do would have been to find one in the autumn period, giving me ample time to train and prepare. I realised however that waiting too long is not something I can do - I would surely lose interest if the race wasn’t for another 5-6 months.
As soon as I discovered the Rock n’ Roll Liverpool marathon I knew that was the one. The location, the time of year, the cool branding. The only issue was that it was only 6 weeks away…
“running around a 5 mile reservoir 4 times is boring as hell”
Before booking anything I decided to do a 20-mile personal run to see if I had what it takes to even get close to that kind of distance, so I set out one freezing cold Sunday morning and ran 4 (and a bit) laps around a local reservoir called Draycote Water. I figured that if I can complete 20 miles on my own I will be able to determine whether I’d have had enough left in the tank to complete the last 6.2 miles.
It must be said that, while it’s a decent, flat-ish route, running around a 5 mile reservoir 4 times is boring as hell!
I completed the run and felt confident enough in my own ability that I could complete the 26.2 miles, particularly in a race day environment reaching fever-pitch, so I booked Liverpool RnR.
In the 5 weeks that I gave myself to prepare for this event I can honestly say that I didn’t really make the most of the time I had. I trained, but I didn’t train as much as I should have. Let’s face it, no amount of training was really going to be enough in the timeframe I allowed myself, but I still found myself not quite making the most of the time I had available.
- Sunday: 5.85 miles
- Tuesday: 7.9 miles
- Wednesday: 5.27 miles
- Monday: 10.28 miles
- Saturday: 6.7 miles
- Tuesday: 4.21 miles
- Thursday: 6.3 miles
- Friday: 4.12 miles
- Monday: 10.92 miles
- Sunday: Race Day!
Not exactly comprehensive eh? I was doing other training around this such as my normal gym exercises and a long-distance cycle, but looking back this was very relaxed preparation. The only run of any note when it comes to serious distance was that 21 miler I did before booking the event at all. Most marathon training schedules will see you achieve several 18+ mile runs in order to condition your legs (and mind) for the demands that a marathon exerts on the body.
“Most marathon training schedules will see you achieve several 18+ mile runs to condition your legs”
Despite all this, race day came along and I went into the race full of confidence and determination. Nothing was going to stop me.
The Race Day
Sunday May 29th 2016 was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the temperature was around 20 degrees, warm but not hot. I completed the marathon in 4:04:48, about 5 minutes slower than I had wanted but that didn’t matter too much, I was just happy to have completed ‘near’ my anticipated time.
I came out of the run injury-free but with very sore joints. The last 7 miles were particularly painful on my ankles, hips and knee joints even though my muscles didn’t seem to be too tired as I was able to pick up the pace towards the end.
In terms of difficulty I would say it is probably 3x more difficult than a half marathon. Not only is the physical impact deeper and more prolonged, but keeping the mind engaged and focused for 4 hours was very difficult. Towards the last few miles you stop being able to enjoy the views and the atmosphere as every thought turns to whatever is hurting most on your body and “when can I stop running?”.
“it is probably 3x more difficult than a half marathon”
Perhaps with better preparation those miles would have been less painful, but in the end I was never in dire straits. I didn’t have to stop and walk (though I did have to stop for a piss 4 times!) and I kept a consistent pace throughout. Taking everything into account I really couldn’t have ran it any better, and the race as a whole, I absolutely loved it.
It was 100% the right decision for me to have done what I did. In two days time I was recovered and back to playing football with a great experience under my belt. Not completing the race was never an option for me. Rightly or wrongly I would’ve dragged myself over the finish line if I had to. Luckily it never came to that!
So why am I telling you all this? Well, I wanted to write this so that other people who are wanting to upgrade to a full marathon can take something out of my experience.
I want people to know that it can be done with the right combination of experience, training, health, fitness and luck, but I wouldn’t generally recommend it unless you have full confidence in what you’re doing. Find a good training plan and do things properly, but most of all enjoy it!