While most marathon training programs suggest a maximum of 20 miles in the final long run before the marathon, I’m not convinced. For me, being able to run an extra 6 miles (10K) for the first time on race day seems optimistic at best – if there’s a wall at 20 miles then it makes sense to me that that’s where I’d hit it if I’d never gone beyond it before. After all, with my pace, we are talking about more than an hour on top of that to finish a marathon.
So, my plan for today’s run was to run something between 35 and 37K, or four and a half hours, depending on how it went.
To be honest, I wash’t really feeling up for it this morning. Despite getting up early, my stomach wasn’t quite ready for running until after 8:00 am, which meant that I would finish later than I had planned. Still, as it is Saturday, I had the whole day so it didn’t really matter that much.
I didn’t plan a route and thought it better to just play it by ear in case I decided to cut it short. My stomach still wasn’t great when I headed out so I wasn’t going to take any chances by heading off towards Saltdean too early. Instead, I ran along some of the main roads in Hove for the first 10K, until nature called me down to the public toilets on the seafront.
Once all of that was sorted, I took my first gel and decided that I would be fine to head to Saltdean on the undercliff path.
The first half of the run went really well. I took a gel every hour, stuck to my ratio, hydrated at every walk break and was on pace to hit my target of 37K in 4:30. But then at around 23K things started to slow down.
I know that you can’t run that kind of distance without some discomfort, and I can usually handle the aches in my calves and the backs of my thighs, but not today. Today just after 23 kilometres, I had to stop, just for a few minutes, to stretch out my legs before I could go on.
The stretching seemed to do the trick and the pain went for long enough to get me through the marina and back onto the promenade. But by then I faced another problem. People!
While I love seeing runners and walkers and cyclists out on the promenade, by late morning the place was crammed with people with dogs and scooter powered children, strolling along, taking their time and generally making things too crowded to run. Frustrating as this was, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to drop my ratio to negotiate the crowds and, once I got back to Hove Lawns, I made my escape to the main road.
By this point I had covered over 30 kilometres and, while my legs were pretty much shot, I still felt confident that I could get to 37K within 4:30. The only problem though, was that the pain in my legs was getting a lot worse and I was having to stop more and more frequently to stretch, so I decided to make a deal with myself. I would run for 4:30 and then finish whichever kilometre I was on before calling it day.
So that’s what I did. 36K in 4:31:19 – just one kilometre short of my goal and just over six short of a marathon. Not bad going all things considered.
In terms of running 42.2K before marathon day, I can’t see that happening, but if I can add another few kilometres to my final long run in two weeks time, I’ll be happy with that.
How’s your training going? How far do you run for your final long run before a marathon? Please share your thoughts in the comments.