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Image by Miguel A. Amutio



Having run my very first half marathon in 2014 (Oxford Half Marathon), a full marathon had been on my mind for a number of years. I love the half marathon distance, even more so then a 10k and whilst the 26.2 miles always seemed quite daunting and sometimes impossible I knew that one day I would complete one.

Well that one day came on Sunday 12th September 2021 when I ran my first ever marathon - Brighton Marathon. For those into running, yes this was the year when the course was recorded as 568m too long and the organisers were forced to apologise to all participants.

I took many learnings from my training and the race itself which I thought would be useful to share for anyone thinking of taking the plunge or perhaps you're already on the road to your first marathon - either way I hope this helps and good luck for what is a huge achievement. 

Marathon training learnings & tips

Although I wasn't aiming for a time I had an idea of what I could achieve based on my half marathon times, anything between 4-5 hours and I would be happy...saying that, I would have been happy to just to get around the course in one piece. 

Once I had signed up I defined my marathon training plan for the next 17 weeks. My plan was aimed at beginner - intermediate based on the level of running I already did. The plan consisted of running (obviously), yoga, stretching, strength work and the all important rest days. I was actually given a useful training book by a client which really helped - Hansons marathon Method.

Fordy Runs also puts out some great content online to support with your training including short strength sessions specifically aimed at runners. I also used MAPMYRUN to help with route planning.

Before my plan started I got some nutritional advice and guidance from Josh an PGC-1 Coaching as I was keen to ensure I was fuelling my body right throughout the plan. Alongside lots of useful info, Josh recommended SIS Rego Rapid Recovery for post exercise which I would also highly recommend. 

Podcasts played a big part in my training too, especially ones that were related to running. 'Running with Jake' and 'RunPod' I can highly recommend. 

How I recovered was hugely important, this included stretching, foam rolling, muscle salt baths, ice/heat treatment when needed and regular sports massage (once a month) - as well as good nutrition and hydration.

The plan worked well and I actually enjoyed the pretty demanding training, I was quite lucky that due to COVID the marathon was postponed to September, which meant I trained through the longer sunnier days. I'm a morning runner so most of my training was first thing before I started work. 

Despite all my best efforts though, I did develop achilles tendinitis in both legs around week 16 of my training - about 2 weeks out! It started off as just mild soreness but did develop over the weeks/days leading up to the race so I had to adapt my training accordingly. 

As well as icing and resting where I could, I received sports massage, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment in the days leading up to the race to give me the best chance of getting through. I also used K-Tape on the day for both achilles to help with the inflammation. 

As it was my first marathon and I wasn't going for time so wasn't too strict with my plan but I did try and follow it as best I could and managed to get up to 20 miles - I ran the Oundle 20 mile road race which was up there with some of my favourite races.






Marathon running log book.jpeg


They always say that running the marathon is the 'easy' bit as you've done all the hard work during training. The marathon is the finale, the time where you can put all your hard work into practice and just enjoy the day, this was my mindset and I absolutely loved the experience.

However, thats not to say there weren't a few challenges along the way...

Firstly collecting your race number - for those who have completed a race post covid or perhaps it was as complicated before covid either way the process can be painful. For the Brighton marathon, race numbers needed to be collected within the 48 hours leading up to the event. I didn't fancy an 8 hour round trip the day or even a few days before the race so I made the (absolutely right) decision to stay near Brighton the two nights leading up to the race (Friday & Saturday) - this way I could collect my number and also 'chill' the day before.

We did Air BnB and stayed in a small village just outside Hayward Heath where we could catch the train directly into Brighton. I read a tip to do a reccy of your journey to the start line before race day which I 100% recommend - it can be crazy busy on race day with lots of roads and public transport changes so be prepped.   

I luckily didn't have the added logistical nightmare of sorting my kit bag for the finish line as I had friends and family that were waiting for me at the end.

Secondly, as mentioned in the training part of this post, I was suffering with achilles tendonitis leading up to the race and so that was very much at the back of my mind as I stood on the start line - it wasn't painful, I could just tell it was there. I tried hard the day before the race to rest and not be on my feet too much but inevitably I knew my body wasn't 100%...this became my ultimate take home from the race (learning 1)

Race day

Based on your predicted finish time (4-4.5 hours for me) you are given a start time. Due to covid restrictions these were more staggered then usual but aside from that things were pretty normal. 

I made the decision not to turn my headphones on at the start as I wanted to soak up the atmosphere (learning 2). Different to how I have trained! 

My gel strategy was to take a gel at the start and there after every 45 minutes during the race. I trained this way too, (except the gel at the start) so that my body got used to the intake. Gels are given out on route and so there is no need to be carrying them all on you. My belt was pretty loaded with two small bottles, gels and haribos! Toptip - use or at least try the same gels in training that the organisers will give out at the race, that way your stomach wont have a melt down!

The first 4 miles felt good, there were loads of spectators and the weather conditions were good. It was mile 5 when the route narrowed and fell side by side with the runners coming the opposite way - they were heading towards mile 12 and I was heading towards mile 6, this got in my head (learning 3). I felt I hadn't studied/visualised the route enough so it felt like the miles ahead (where hills were involved) were going to take a while. 

So many races have loop backs, I don't enjoy them personally and unfortunately for me Brighton had a few. It even got in my head when I saw runners with the same colour bib on as me on the other side of the road - I knew they could have started way before me but I still felt behind.

The half way point couldn't come soon enough, I had to use one of the road side toilets, which I hadn't even considered I would need (learning 4) and it was at this point my husband, sister and brother-in law were waiting to cheer me on.

It was a long old slog to mile 18 where I knew the toughest part of the course was approaching (the industrial estate...0 spectators and very dull). The pain of my achillies at this point had hit a high and so I made the decision to listen to my body and walk...what felt like miles. I knew to get running again was going to take a lot - as soon as you stop your muscles go into seize mode which was actually more painful then running! After a mere 7 minutes I was back jogging and felt a new lease of life (learning 5), this carried me through all the way to the finish line where I finished strong and even managed 'a bit' of a sprint (I love a sprint finish!)

Finish time 4hrs 30 minutes exactly (minus the walk, toilet stop and over measured course) - I was so happy to have finished and straight away felt a sense of achievement...and relief.

My family were waiting for me in the fan zone with my recovery bag (learning 6) and lots of big hugs. Getting on and off the floor afterwards was interesting for sure, plus the walk back to the train station, which actually did my legs good (learning 7). 

The hours and days post run were just as important. I have captured my post marathon recovery in a separate post here along with my experience of achillies tendinitis (coming soon)

I am yet to sign up to my next marathon but I know I will be running one again!

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