Hannover Marathon 2019: a race report

It’s over! The big day has been and gone. I finished my first marathon and I am (pretty much) in one piece. I have had much to reflect on. I’ve divided my musings into three sections: Before, During, and After. Enjoy, lucky reader.

Before

I realise now that my 16 weeks of training was effective – but only for half marathon distance. I ran a really good half marathon six weeks ago. I didn’t do enough for the marathon distance.

For starters, I didn’t have enough of a base going into the training. I should not have tried to follow a sub 4-hour plan, as I discovered at Week 6 that it was too hard, and I scaled back. My weekly mileage then became too low for the marathon – let alone a sub 4-hour marathon.

But I didn’t think about what pace I actually wanted to run it at. I never sat back and calculated a 4:15 or 4:30 pace – I always planned to try and run at 9:09 and see what happened. So I set myself up for disappointment. I also had a stressful time in other areas of my life, which probably didn’t help much.

A week before the race, I had a nasty fall which meant I didn’t run all week. Even walking was hard. I couldn’t do any stretching or strength exercises. My morale took a massive hit as I didn’t know if I would be able to run the marathon at all. On the day of travelling to Hannover I was an anxious mess. But we arrived safely and it was nice to be with running friends, have fun, and do lots of eating and drinking. We did, however, accidentally end up doing loads of walking on Saturday (almost 27,000 steps!) which probably wasn’t ideal preparation. I did sleep well on Saturday night, though.

On marathon morning we were in a German hotel room so I didn’t have the facilities for my usual pre-race breakfast, which is something like crumpets with margarine and jam and a cup of tea, and maybe a banana. Instead, I had half a bread roll, orange juice, a few sips of Diet Coke, a banana (so one item was ticked off), and half a small Snickers bar. The bread roll was too chewy and I could barely swallow it. I had some stomach trouble (normal for me before a race) so I took two Imodium. I also took two paracetamol for my knee pain.

During

My knee hurt at first and I kept my pace slow – although, with hindsight, not slow enough. I then felt better and thought, hey, maybe I can get up to ideal marathon pace. However, I caught up the 4:15 pacer and overtook him, and then hung out not far ahead of him at around 9:15-9:30 pace for several miles, which felt steady and comfortable.

My pace started to drop at around mile 16. This was because of increasing pain and tingling in my left leg from a too-tight compression sock, and a lack of strength in my left knee and hip, as well as the bashed-knee pain. I also had painful cramp in a place that I’m not going to mention. I walked through a couple of the water stations. The 4:15 pacer sailed past me and I never saw him again.

And then it got worse. My left leg weakness and pain didn’t get so bad that I had to stop; but it did get so bad that I had to take more walk breaks. I also had pain in my right knee and IT band; and painful twinges in my left hip. My feet felt sore and it was hard to navigate any surface that wasn’t smooth pavement. This was around the time that I tripped on a drain cover and went flying – but landed on my feet. That gave me a shock, as you might imagine.

2019-04-08 16.53.19It became very difficult to start running again after taking walk breaks, but I managed it. I ran to the end and finished in 4:25:50. My quads were burning with pain. I cried when I finished. It was a bloody long walk to the medal, water, and other goodies at the end.

After

I was very glad to see my other half, S., at the end (he had just smashed out a 3:18 marathon – a 50-minute marathon PB for him). We had an alcohol-free beer and he came with me so I could collect my bag and get changed. We then joined our friends for lunch and revelled in our various running achievements. After feeling a little disappointed in my time and performance, I realised that it is no mean feat to finish a marathon and that I should feel proud of myself.

10 things I learned:

  1. I should build up a strong base of at least 20-30 miles of weekly running for several months before starting a marathon training plan.
  2. My training should not include both a tempo and speed run in mid-week. I should alternate them each week.
  3. If I have to scale back my training because I am finding it too much, I should make sure to also adjust my goal. Don’t assume I will just be able to ‘wing it’ in the marathon. Identify a new realistic marathon pace and train for that.
  4. If I am feeling tired or stressed because of running or because of other areas in my life, adjust the training plan accordingly.
  5. Taking two Imodium before a race is a good idea.
  6. If I need to take painkillers before the run, also take some with me to take mid-way into the run.
  7. My gels and hydration strategy worked well.
  8. Stretching and strength work is important. It is also important to try not to fall over a week before a race.
  9. If I feel before a race that my compression sock is too tight – don’t ignore it and leave it on. Put on some other socks!
  10. Everything you hear about that last 10k is true. It is absolutely a test of how well you have trained and fuelled; how appropriately you have paced the previous 20 miles; and how effectively you can push through discomfort, possible pain, and mental demons.

Week 15/16: Best laid plans

After I last wrote, I did my third run of Week 15: a parkrun. It was a beautifully sunny Saturday morning, with light winds and dry ground. I wasn’t sure what pace I was going to run at. I ended up running the first mile by feel. I looked at the mile split on my watch. It was an 8:05 pace, so I carried on with that. It felt fairly hard, but not as if I was going all-out; and I kept a steady pace until the end. My official time was 25:05.

I had a busy but good Saturday afternoon and evening. I met up with old friends, went to the theatre, wandered around Covent Garden in the sun, and ate and drank lots. I didn’t get home that late, but I felt rough on Sunday morning. However, I told myself I needed to get out and do a six-mile run.

The weather was much worse than on Saturday – cold, cloudy and windy, and I felt underdressed in a short-sleeved top. The prospect of six miles around the park felt like too much, even though it was only a fraction of the distance of my long runs. I jogged through a small local park on the way to Bushy Park. When I got out of the gate, I ran down the pavement leading to the main road, and then – BAM! Fell over. My knees and hands slammed into the ground. I lay there, stunned, for a bit; then picked myself up. I decided to walk back home rather than complete the run. I tried jogging but my knee hurt.

2019-03-31 10.47.35Back at home, I assessed the damage. The biggest casualty was my left knee. I ripped a hole in my running tights. There was blood and bruising. I had also knocked my right hand, right knee, elbows, and right hip.

I spent the rest of the day feeling annoyed and sorry for myself. I still don’t know why I tripped – I’m guessing it was uneven pavement that I wasn’t paying attention to because I was tired. I iced my knees and put a dressing on the knee wound. Today, I can walk, although stairs are painful, and my left knee feels very sore and stiff.

And there are only six days until Hannover Marathon. It is frustrating to have put in so much work, only to possibly ruin it all because of something silly. These things happen, though, and I can’t do anything about it now except rest as much as I can, and see how I feel on the day. Onwards and upwards.

Hannover Marathon training: the dawn of week 6

I am currently training for my first marathon – Hannover in April. I chose this one rather than one in the UK because I went there in April last year with a group of running friends, some of whom did the marathon (others did the half marathon). I was part of a five-person relay team. I ran the third leg, which was about five miles long. I enjoyed this so much that I thought Hannover would be a good place to do a first marathon – it was flat, and there seemed to be lots of space, and the weather was sunny and gorgeous after what had felt like months of bleak, cold UK winter.

Of course, I have no idea what the weather will be like this time, and 26.2 miles is a tad further than five. Nevertheless, having the memory of last year’s positive experience to draw on, however rose-tinted it may be, is proving to be very helpful at the moment.

I have just completed week five of a Runner’s World training plan. There are 11 weeks to go, and although so far my body has handled the increased training load quite well, there is still a lot to come, and I am a little apprehensive. This is uncharted territory for me. I try to be sensible with stretching and doing strength exercises, but, to be honest, I, like many others, find these dark winter months really sap my general energy levels and can also affect my mental health. Some days the hardest demons to conquer are the mental ones.

So far, I have completed all my training runs; but I do my three mid-week runs alone and it has been difficult on occasion to motivate myself. I have tweaked the plan slightly in the last few weeks so that I do fewer miles in the week and more at the weekend, when I tend to run with others (or at least meet them afterwards). I don’t know if this is a sensible approach or not, being the marathon newbie that I am; but I figured that if I do the same overall weekly mileage as stated in the plan, I should be okay.

Anyway. Today is a non-running day, and, frankly, the mental demons have been raging. I can only hope that they’ll get bored and disappear and that tomorrow, a running day, will dawn bright and shiny new.