There’s been a few Waverley Harriers running virtual marathons this month, with both London and Manchester running their marathons virtually. Congratulations to all of those who’ve run their first marathons in the last month – it’s been challenging conditions! Race organisers are having to be reactive and adaptive in ensuring their events can take place in one form or another. Runners have had to be just as accommodating, changing training plans last minute (winter or summer marathon training this year?) and changing who they’re running with, where and when. The club has been especially helpful and supportive with keeping us all updated on the ever-changing situation and with finding ways to keep us all running together, in one form or another.
This month, I’ve been talking to Philly Staddon about her marathon running. She recommends having back up plans (especially appropriate right now) and how advantageous being in a running club like Waverley Harriers can be, in terms of support and advice. So, here’s Philly to tell us about her first marathon, in Bournemouth.
Why did you enter your first marathon?
Probably not for the right reasons! I was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease in my 20s and had heart surgery in 2008. My cardiologist, having been on call at the Athens’ Olympics when Paula Radcliffe collapsed is not a big fan of running, especially marathons! But having taken up running properly in 2010, I was really keen to give it a go. Rightly or wrongly! I’ve never been great at doing what I’m told!
Where and when was your first marathon?
It was Bournemouth Marathon in October 2018. Sadly, they’re not putting on this race anymore. It was a great course, finishing along the sea front – but did include tourist and dog lead dodging, not what you necessarily needed 24 miles in!
What was the most valuable thing that you learnt whilst training for your first marathon?
I think that you need to be realistic with your expectations. It’s one hell of an animal and you can’t necessarily know how it’s going to go. Set a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D (etc.) and be prepared to switch plans as you go through your training or on the day. depending on how you feel. Oh, and don’t worry one little bit about what anyone else is doing. Initially, when training at the same time as others I was worried about who had a rest day when, who did what speed sessions, how long their long runs were. But you soon learn to listen to your own legs and what you can realistically fit into your own life. It’s meant to be fun after all, and none of us are headed for the Olympics!
What did you learn whilst running your first marathon that no one had ever told you before?
That I could do it! This was a huge moment for me. I am still buzzing about it!
What did you do immediately after your first marathon and the next day?
I crossed the line with the biggest smile on my face, went to collect my medal and drop-bag and then wondered about in the sun to find my support crew – Luke, Hattie, Chris and Michelle had come along to cheer (and eat ice-cream), as had my Dad. I then demolished a bag of Kettle Chips (Salt & Vinegar flavour, obviously) in record time, had some celebratory beers and struggled to sleep due to excitement and fidgety legs. I think I went to work the next day and probably wasn’t my most productive…!
How many times have you run a marathon since?
I did Manchester Marathon 2019, about 5 months after Bournemouth and the Fox Ultra shortly after that. This year, during Lockdown I did a ‘virtual’ marathon organised by Centurion Running.
During later marathons, what have you learned that you wished you’d known for your first marathon?
I actually found my first marathon pretty easy, in relative terms. I ran about 30 mins faster than I’d imagined I would, I ran even splits, got my hydration and fueling correct and my recovery went well. Manchester was a bit of a different animal. I had gone into training fatigued and with a horrible cough and found it all a bit of an effort mentally. I ran a faster time, and fairly even splits but it was HARD WORK. I learned that you really need to listen to your body and how you feel and if you think you need to rest, you need to rest!
What was the favourite marathon you’ve ever run and why?
I think I will always look back at Bournemouth fondly. The run went well, the weather was perfect, I saw some of my besties lots of times on the course and I DID IT! I’m not sure how long my heart condition will allow me to do this so that is a memory I will treasure!
What tips do you have for overcoming the wall?
Give yourself a good talking to! If you’ve done the training and you’re feeling well enough, just dig deep! I also find it’s useful to break the distance down a bit. I used to live exactly 1km from Hattie’s house so I used to say ‘just run to Hattie’s’…’and again’…
Is there anything else you’d like to share about marathon running, that hasn’t been asked here?
I followed ‘Hal Higdon’s’ Advanced Marathon Plan for both my road marathons and got on really well with it. One tip that he suggests is to use the 3:1 technique. Running 3/4 of your longer runs slower and the final 1/4 a bit quicker. This was really good as it meant you got used to pushing a little bit when you were most fatigued. In the actual race, you may not go quicker but you will need to push harder!
What tips for remaining comfortable during the race?
–Do not run in brand new shoes (or untested kit) – make sure you and your feet start the race on good terms because you won’t end on them!
-Practice fueling – I take an SIS gel at 8km, 16km, 24km, 32km (and always intend on a 5th but can never stomach it!). Don’t turn up on the day without having worked this out for YOU. We are all different.
-Get to know your foam roller and do your stretches!
-Do let yourself recover afterwards – I did too much running too soon after my second marathon and paid for it with months of injuries.
Any tips for maintaining motivation during training?
I have a plan printed off and I scribble on it. Having a physical plan keeps me a bit more honest. I’d also say, if you miss a session, don’t worry. It is not the end of the world.
Who’s been a big help to you whilst you’ve been marathon training?
The lovely Waverley Harriers, of course! There is lots of experience in the club so it’s definitely good to get chatting to people.