A year of running

When I started 2018 I didn’t actually plan to run that many races. I just wanted to run the Copenhagen Marathon in May and run my very first marathon. But little after little I started adding half-marathons as a way of doing a long run and then I added the Vienna Marathon 3 weeks before the Copenhagen Marathon to do a trial marathon to ensure that I knew what to expect. And with that extra marathon I turned the year into a running year with 10 half-marathons, 5 marathons and a single 10K.

I think unlike people who run this much, I have a very short history of running. In 2016 I signed up for the Berlin Half Marathon in 2017 with a group of friends. Until that point, I’ve only run 10K once in my life but that was quickly changing as my training program would have me run 10K+ every week. The strange thing is that I didn’t feel that training was hard at all compared to when I was running in my younger years, in fact, it felt easier. I attribute this to my weightlifting, hiking, and mountaineering for preparing me for running.

I finished 2017 having run 3 half-marathons and started to think about running a marathon in 2018, specifically the Copenhagen Marathon and then it just snowballed from there. When people ask why I did this, I would always say that I run for the medals, which was true for maybe the first few ones. But I think I got a bit addicted about the entire race day process. And combining it with travel, it got very addictive. I love everything about a race day. Seeing the city prepare itself for the race, the ads celebrating runners, the onslaught of people in the start area and the excitement, the ability to get around a city without cars, the supporters coming to cheer you on and of course the finish and the feeling of having achieved something even if that was just running in a circle.

During this year, I’ve developed quite a lot of processes and gained a lot of hard-fought experience on running that I’d like to share.

For those interested in the races I’ve run you can follow me on Strava and Race Raves and see all my race reports here on this site

Training

The race begins a long time before the actual race day as training is the biggest component of your race. 

  • Consistency is important! Many runners talk about a weekly mileage and the point is to hit that distance every week. I think it’s the most important thing of long-distance running is to have consistency and not skip runs. 
  • Find a program. A program makes it easier for you to train, leaving you to focus on the actual running instead of trying to figure out why each run type is good or bad. There’s plenty of programs out there to try.
  • Stick to it. The is in extension of consistency and the training program. Find a program that you can stick to. It’s better to find a training program that does three runs a week that you will be  able to do for some months than try out one that requires six runs a week and three cross-training sessions because you’re much more likely to stick to the three runs a week program.
  • Track your runs. I’d recommend a running watch but your phone is also good enough. Make sure to have a record of the runs you’ve done. There’s plenty of sites where you can upload your runs or integrate with running apps. This allows you to review later and over time can show you improvements.
  • Run with music, podcasts, or whatever you prefer. I personally run with podcasts but other people like music and some just like to have the ambient sounds. Try out what works for you.
  • Listen to your body. While it’s great to stick to a training program, if you feel like you’re getting an injury, it’s better to adapt the program. You know your body the best, so if you’re getting shin splints on longer distances, you might want to run shorter runs while you figure out why you develop shin splints.
  • Rest! Rest is crucial and cannot be ignored. If you train without resting you’re more likely to suffer injuries due to overtraining.

Race day

  • Find your routine but accept that you won’t always be able to do it. I usually try to eat dinner the day before that contains plenty of everything (like burgers) and try to eat at least two hours before the race. Sometimes I have eaten a different type of dinner or didn’t eat at all before a race and it’s all gone well.
  • Don’t overdo carb loading. I personally think carb loading is completely unnecessary for people, especially at my level which is purely amateur and a slow pace. There’s opinions in the scientific community that proper carb loading is done days before a race instead of a single large carb load the day before. But in the end, eat what you feel is comfortable and won’t cause you to feel bloated or have issues the day after. This can only be done by simulating race conditions in your training.
  • Stretch before and after! Dynamic stretches usually is recommended for before the race and after the race you should stretch as needed. Stretches make a huge difference in how much pain you’ll be in as well 
  • Have a race strategy and be prepare to change it on the fly. My race strategy is to start slower than my target pace. In this way, I spend the first mile to warm up a bit as well as seeing how well I’m doing. There’s going to be plenty of time to catch up on your target time. It’s a marathon and not a sprint so running too fast from the start is definitely not a good idea. Adjust your race strategy as needed, if you don’t feel that well, maybe it’s better to run slower but if you feel really good, feel free to speed up a bit.
  • Drink and eat at the aid stations as necessary. Some races place a lot of aid stations and you’re absolutely not required to take something at each aid station. I usually drink in the first few ones before skipping maybe every second or third afterward. If it’s really warm and sunny, I sometimes drink double. For eating, I avoid taking food and energy in the last 30-45 minutes as the energy won’t be absorbed quickly enough for me to use it in the race.
  • Enjoy the run! Definitely remember to look around and high-five people. It’s not just about running a personal best, it’s about showing up and getting out there.
  • After the race, STRETCH! You will thank yourself the day after.
  • Active recovery is great for pain. The day after, be sure to do something active but light. Walking can bring a bit of blood into the legs and help recover. Running is probably a bit too heavy as you should avoid putting too much tension on the joints.

Running is an amazing activity. I remember not liking it much when I was younger but after getting stronger through other activities, it became so much easier for me to run and I discovered the freeing feeling of running. The sensation of being connected to the ground and the accomplishment of running for over four hours straight is what I enjoy the most about running. Racing is even better. The excitement in the air and the happiness abound are really intoxicating. Try out running and see if it doesn’t get you hooked, who knows, you might be running alongside me in the future!

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