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5 min read

The Painful Reality of Marathon Training

Posted By

Olivia Ensor

Author: Jess Morgan @scoot__

Last year I decided that 2021 was going to be my Year of the Marathon. After a decade of cycling, I decided it was time to give running a proper go. I put all my other sporting goals aside and prioritised one thing: the London Marathon.

Fast forward to June this year. I’ve been training solidly since December and built up a really strong base of fitness and speed, and am growing in confidence that my goal of running the marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes is going to be possible. My long runs are about to start inching beyond 21km – new and uncharted territory – and I'm raring to go. I can't wait to start eating up more miles and push myself even further in my quest for an admirable first marathon time.

Skip ahead three weeks. I’ve been injured and off all form of training for two weeks. I can’t do more than five hops on one leg without a searing pain in my shin. I’m quietly devastated, and every day my 3:30 goal feels like it's slipping further from reach. I’m berating myself for ignoring the beginning of the shin pain and making it worse, and spending my evenings doom-scrolling sports injury and running websites which all tell me in no uncertain terms that I could be injured for six to eight weeks.

Welcome to marathon training. One moment you’re riding high, full of optimism, motivation and, dare I say it; cockiness. The next moment, you’re crushed, wishing you’d never pinned all your hopes and dreams onto one event. 

I’m now a full month off my original training plan but there are signs of progress. The five hops have graduated to a full series of pain-free drills, and I have daily exercises to do which will strengthen my calves and glutes to improve stability and resilience against future injuries. I’ve stopped mourning my ‘perfect’ marathon preparation and I’m now focused on recovering fully before starting running again. Despite not training, I’ve still been having Clean Lean Protein shakes and Good Green Vitality daily to make sure my body has all the nutrients it needs to repair itself, and I’ve been sleeping more.

When you have months to prepare for something like a marathon, you’re going to encounter setbacks at one point or another. The important thing is how you deal with them. Mental resilience can be the difference between spiralling into anxiety about missing your goals and losing motivation, or learning from your setbacks and finding the positives. Personally, I learned that when it comes to pain, hoping it goes away is the wrong thing to do – your body is trying to tell you something and you need to listen to it, even if it means cutting a run short! I’ve also learned that getting an extra hour of sleep a night is really beneficial for me, so when I do start training again, I’ll accommodate that into my schedule with earlier bedtimes. 

I’ve not let go of my 3:30 goal, but I’m not going to rush back into training just to try and reach it this year. I know it’s a huge privilege to be given the opportunity to run the London Marathon and raise money for an amazing charity like Ambitious about Autism, so just setting foot on the start line will already be a win. I don’t want the thought of not making a certain time to sully my experience of an extraordinary day, so I won’t let it. I control my goals, not the other way around, so as long as I do my best on the day, I know I’ll have an experience to be proud of. I can’t wait.