Marathon training is not easy

Don’t ever think that marathon training might be easy, or maybe a fun thing to try. It’s not something to undertake on a whim, and it’s not possible to shortcut the process. Marathon training is hard physical and mental work, involving many hours over many days and weeks, out there by yourself with lots of time to wonder why the heck you are running all those miles and hours.

I’ve now completed my 21 mile run, which was the longest and final long run I’d planned to do before the Victoria Marathon on October 11. I’m now officially into the taper stage. I wish I could say that everything had gone according to plan and I’m comfortably optimistic about race day. But that simply isn’t true.

Things went great and I was on schedule with my plan, until the day of my 18-miler back on September 7. On that day, everything got weird. Even during the first few miles when I was fresh, I couldn’t seem to summon any speed. Then about 7 miles in, my right foot decided to spasm, over and over again. It didn’t really hurt, but it felt like my foot was collapsing under me. I’d take a walk break, settle down, and resume running. All would be well for a few minutes, and then ZAP — all over again. I finished the 18 miles, but soon regretted having tried to push through it. My hips, thighs, and knees were very sore for a couple of days. I could only figure that I’d tensed up all over, fearing the spasm, and actually injured myself with an overly-stiff stride.

I took a few days off to rest, recover, try to figure out what had gone wrong, and correct that. The first part of my solution was to buy a new pair of shoes, even though I only had about 150 miles on the pair I’ve been wearing. When I’d bought that pair, the same size I’d always worn had felt small, so I went up half a size. However, my new shoes had always felt a bit loose. I thought that maybe my feet were moving around too much inside my shoes and that the spasm was the result of that movement. So I bought another pair, going back to the old size.

The second part of my solution was to buy a new pair of compression tights. I was running in tights that were almost four years old and, frankly, weren’t giving my knees and hips all that much support anymore.

Five days after that disastrous 18-miler, I ran 7 miles in my new shoes and new tights. Everything went great! Problem solved!

Or so it seemed.

Back to my planned long runs, only four days behind schedule. I did my 16.3 mile run a little slower than I’d hoped, but in relative comfort. I had a couple of foot spasms in the later miles, but they weren’t worrisome.

So on September 24 I did the 21-miler. Everything went great through the first 15 miles. Then  my right foot began to spasm occasionally. Then it progressed to a sharp pain with every footfall. Needless to say, that pain necessitated an immediate walk break.

I’d walk a bit and feel better, so I’d try running again. Everything would be fine, and then the pain would return.

All the rest of me — knees, hips, heart, lungs, brains — kept going along just fine and feeling great. I felt physically and mentally strong and focused. I asked myself what a stress fracture might feel like, and if this could be one. But every time I resumed running, it would feel fine — right up until the next stab of pain.

I ended up walking a good portion of the last 3 miles. Even so, I finished within the time I’d predicted at the start, and only a couple of minutes slower than the 21-miler I’d done during my last marathon training two years ago.

My feet had no bruising, no swelling, no sign of anything resembling a fracture, neither immediately after finishing nor over the next few days. I really wasn’t sore anywhere; the new shoes and tights have fixed that.

The problem with my foot shows up in the later miles of a run. Upon reflection, I’ve become convinced that it’s due to the relatively short time (less than 9 weeks) that I gave myself to train for this marathon. I simply haven’t given my feet enough time and miles to gain strength and toughness. My feet get tired, and when they get tired they hurt.

I’m now officially in taper mode. Yesterday I ran 6.6 miles, strong and steady, no issues. I’m planning three to four more easy runs of 6-9 miles over the remaining twelve days before the race. I’ve committed myself to walking a few miles every day that I don’t run — anything to try to firm up the feet.

I don’t feel optimistic about a great performance at Victoria. I know that I’ll complete the race, but I expect to need walk breaks, and I expect to do some hurting in the last few miles. I don’t anticipate a PR — but it will be a PR for me in my new age group! If I ever run another full marathon (and I’m sure I will), I’ll give myself a lot more time to train.

I’ll get it done, but it won’t be easy.

One step at a time!

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Posted on September 29, 2015, in Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Contemplating a marathon doesn’t even sound like fun to me, let alone the years to accomplish it. You may not have hit that milestone birthday yet, but you’re close, and that may account for you not gearing up like a mere 40 something.

    • Colleen, it’s true, I somehow don’t feel quite as young as I used to. This birthday does feel like a major milestone. However, I shall remain confident that, while I may be slowing down, I’m still a long ways from needing to stop. 🙂

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