In this post I will go through the complete process of training for my first marathon.
Complete the Belfast Marathon 2011 in under 4 hours 30 minutes.
Complete the Belfast Marathon 2011 without dying.
2nd May 2011
The terror of training for my first marathon.
When I was starting out training on my own I hadn’t a clue whether or not running a marathon was possible. I struggled to relate to even the best written marathon running guides out there.
I went on Amazon and bought the ‘Non Runners’ Marathon Trainer’ in September 2010 and made it my aim to be able to comfortably run 5km by the start of training on January 1st 2011.
Pre training for the marathon
In order to complete the above training plan successfully you have to be able to run 3.1 miles comfortably. This gave me from September until the end of December to build up my endurance to that level.
My first step in training for the marathon involved buying a pedometer and trying to walk on average 10,000 steps each day to build up my fitness.
By the 2nd week of September 2010 I hadn’t ran at all except maybe to pursue ice cream vans.
I ran by accident for the first time in the gym.
I’d spent a month walking on the treadmill in jeans for an hour at a time to supplement my lunch time walks.
Throughout July and August my training didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. I felt awful for not taking it seriously.
I remember boring my colleagues with talk of how I was never gonna be able to complete the marathon and I regretted starting it.
I was close to giving up on the marathon until one a fateful night.
In a sheer fit of boredom during one of my pedestrian hour long walks, I decided to crank up the pace to 8.3 km/h from 6 km/h on the treadmill to see what it was like to break into a slow jog.
I jogged 1km for the first time ever!
I couldn’t believe it. It took just under 10 minutes to cover that distance but I was ecstatic.
Running at a slower pace was a revelation to me at the time. I thought that running involved sprinting until you were fully out of breath and broken.
Within a week I’d ran my first 5k at this easier pace.
I stopped over thinking the act of running and just let my legs move. I couldn’t believe it was this easy. I was starting to make progress.
The best thing was that my walking in the treadmill hadn’t been in vain. It had helped my fitness, making jogging that much easier. Without the walking I wouldn’t have had the base to improve as quickly as I did.
Between September and November I upped my training to try to cover 5k as often as I could to try to stick to the Non Runner’s training plan.
I went from hating the gym to loving it within the span of a month. Every time I went I could see improvements. It was such an exciting time.
I eventually broke 10k on the treadmill on 2nd December 2010.
On that day I believed for the first time that I might be able to complete a marathon.
I still hadn’t ran outside though.
I was too frightened and self conscious to go in the outdoors. I was concerned that I’d go out, find myself out of my depth and cancel the marathon altogether.
I remember putting the treadmill gradient up to 3% to mimic the outdoors as it seemed like cheating to be running on flat.
My first proper outdoor run.
Again my first run outdoors was largely accidental. We were let out of work just after lunch because it was so cold that the heating system shut down.
I had recently purchased a Garmin Forerunner 405CX GPS watch and wanted to test it, so I decided to walk home.
It wasn’t a straightforward journey. There was a blizzard on outside and I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. I was wearing a band t-shirt, jeans, DC Shoes and a leather jacket.
My only option was to start to jog to try to keep warm or freeze to death.
So I started jogging. Very angrily. And badly. The pavements were treacherous and I focused on keeping upright and moving forward.
The run was actually quite fun apart from the fact the sky was trying to fuck my face with snow crystals.
I ended up running 4.3 miles. It was amazing.
Unfortunately that was as good as December 2010 got for me. I spent too much time drinking and eating crap and wearing stupid hats.
Now, onto the training.
Week 1 – New Year’s disaster run
|Monday 27th December 2010
|Tuesday 28th December 2010
|Wednesday 29th December 2010
|Thursday 30th December 2010
|Friday 31st December 2010
|Saturday 1st January 2011
|Sunday 2nd January 2011
I missed most of the week’s training due to insomnia. My dad was experiencing serious nausea from his pain medication and at nighttime I’d hear him rushing into the toilet to be sick.
I didn’t know what to do to help. I just sat in my bedroom numb. That’s when I started taking Nytol.
My first ever scheduled training run on New Year’s Day was a disaster.
I didn’t know what I was meant to be wearing as a runner, so I put on this oversized tracksuit that I got for Christmas. The bottoms of the tracksuit kept falling down so I had to hold them up all of the way around.
Talk about embarrassing!
I wouldn’t stop swearing and berating myself for being a fat useless bastard.
I only managed 2 miles before breaking down entirely. This was hugely demoralising as by this stage in training I was meant to be able to cover 3.1 miles comfortably.
Unfazed I went out the next day and ran the same route albeit slower. I managed 3.4 miles.
Week 2 – First full week, deterioration of dad’s health
Dad gets moved into hospital. Doctor tells us that he’s got a week to live at most.
Eat chips on the way up to the hospital to see him.
Missed out on the long run as we were up at the hospital for most of the week.
The running at least provided an escape at the time. I kinda wished that everything was normal so that I could run more often. The thing is I’d had all my adult life to run and I only chose to start all of this when there was a crisis in the family.
Week 3 – Break 6 miles on an outside run for the first time
Run 6 miles at lunch time in work.
Come back in and have a dreadful migraine.
It was the first time I ever experienced an aura with the headache. I thought I was having a stroke.
I still hadn’t bought proper running gear by this stage. Ran the 10k in jeans, a cotton shirt and my Nike Lunarglide’s.
Week 4 – Break 7 miles but my drinking and eating is out of hand.
I’m still aiming for a sub 4:30 marathon and am aiming to bring my average pace per mile down below 10:00/mile.
Wasn’t coping well with the stress at home so I was drinking a 700ml bottle of Smirnoff Apple on the night before my long run to take my mind off it.
Great idea, Matt.
I’d fallen into the mindset that I could eat everything I want as I was running. It took me quite a while to understand that this really isn’t the case.
My health was beginning to suffer because of my unhealthy lifestyle.
Around this time I refused to walk up the stairs in work as I was ‘wasting energy’.
Athletes always take the elevator. Or so I thought.
Week 5 – Run 6 times in one week.
My confidence had increased drastically and I’m starting to speed up. I felt excited for my future as a runner at the time and I’m in control.
Everything else seems to crumbling around me. Running is my one remaining link to sanity.
Book a trip to Magaluf this week with my friend. That would not end well.
Week 6 – Running 8 miles on the long run.
OK it seems like I overdid it in Week 5.
Running 6 times in 7 days when you’ve only been running properly for a month is idiotic.
My performance suffers as a result. I struggle to complete the repeat of the 8 mile run I attempted last week.
Very demoralising. It’s shitty how your confidence can break so easily in such a short period of time.
Highlight of the week is the run on the Friday where I run into an old man in the dark. This is from my run report.
Ran into the back of some guy on the Larne Road. Fucks sake! Wet & windy and that was only my arsehole.
Week 7 – My first ever 10+ mile marathon training run + fuelling
I never thought I’d have been able to run 10 miles.
But you know what? I managed it. I cleared my mind of the monumental task at hand and concentrated on drinking lots of Lucozade Sport and eating Glucose tablets on the run.
When I got home from the run I was euphoric.
I celebrated with more vodka and a huge Tesco Chocolate Sundae.
Week 8 – Best week of running so far.
Confidence is at an all time high after this week. The 12.12 mile long run felt effortless.
Absolutely nothing went wrong and my dad seemed to be improving.
Week 9 – Despair and breaking down on a 12 miler.
Have an awful run where I break down on the 11th mile of a 12 mile run and stop at a bus shelter where I sit for an hour and think about nothing.
Forgive myself as I was suffering from a very bad chest infection.
Start freaking out a little as I’m now officially behind with my training.
Week 10 – Tragedy
Very sad week.
My dad passed on the Saturday 5th March 2011. I wasn’t expecting it to happen then. But then again I was in denial.
I drank a shit-ton of Brandy coming back from the Hospice after he went. Didn’t know how to react. Stunned I guess.
Went out the next day with a god awful hangover and ran 14 miles. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do but the alternative was to sit around and sulk.
And that’s the last thing I wanted to be doing at that time.
At the end of the 14 mile run I am hit around the legs with some tree branches by local chavs who think it’s fucking hilarious.
I didn’t care. Numb.
Week 11 – Miss my first 16 miler because I go out on Saturday and get blitzed.
Lost the plot big style.
Eating nothing but ice cream and drinking too much Vodka.
Started taking Temazepam and Zopiclone to try to sleep at night.
I manage to run a few times but I honestly can’t remember anything about them. Got into the habit of running in the morning still wired. Didn’t know who I was, where I was or why.
Don’t care about running anymore. Stay indoors all day listening to Mogwai and watching ‘Wonders of the Universe’ presented by Professor Brian Cox. Takes the edge off the grief.
Week 12 - Run my first ever half marathon, in Larne
On the Thursday I couldn’t sleep and went out at 5:30am for an 8 mile run. When I got back home I just stood in the living room for 2 hours staring at the ground.
Completed my first ever half marathon in 2:17 on the Saturday. Totally exhausted and broken after it. Experience my first ever case of nipple chaffing after the run.
Tried walking to the train station from the finishing area. Got maybe 10m and realised there was no way I could make it. Fortunately Neil from school kindly offers me a lift back home. If he didn’t I think I’d still be in that fucking Leisure Centre.
I wonder how the fuck I’m gonna run twice that in under 2 months time.
Entering this goddamn race was a really bad idea!
Week 13 – Fall short of a 16 mile run.
I just can’t get used to the long runs. If I can’t run 16 miles how the fuck am I gonna run 26?
By the end of every single one I’m always gasping for breath and I’m in pain.
Starting to realise that it’s maybe a better idea that I try to finish the marathon instead of aiming for a specific time.
Week 14 – A tiring 16 miler.
I ran from my town into Belfast and it was very stressful. Live up to the angry jogger name by giving the fingers to cars that would not yield.
I was taking everything far too personally at this point. Paranoid that motorists were conspiring against me to fuck up my training.
Finally I run 16 miles, but it wasn’t fun. Again I’m left with an awful migraine and I felt like shit.
Have a Kopparberg at the train station bar and am slightly better.
By this stage in training I’m meant to have ran 3×16 milers and I’ve only managed one. Agree that I’m pretty much fucked unless I change my training.
Week 15 – Finally manage to run an 18 miler!
Take drastic action and lower my running pace to a 11:00 min/mile from 10:18 min/mile average.
Try running into Belfast again for an 18 mile run at this easier pace and make it with a 10:50 min/mile average.
Week 16 – Another 18 miler.
Try another 18 mile long run only this time at a quicker pace.
Make it but I’m chaffed severely between the legs.
Week 17 – Taper & a 10.8 mile run
Run 10.75 miles but wanted to do more. The taper drives me to the brink of insanity.
As you can see from the average pace above I was trying to aim for as close to the 11:00 minute/mile average as possible.
These runs were boring in all fairness as I couldn’t deviate from the pace I set for myself.
Week 18 – No long run and a marathon.
Marathon turns out to be better than expected. Takes place on a lovely day.
I finish the Belfast Marathon 2011 in 5:00:56
Go out with friends for dinner afterward in Tony Roma’s Belfast, proudly wearing my medal.
The waiter comes over, sees my medal and asks what my time was. Looks disappointed when I tell him. Says “OK……I could have done it in less than 3 hours, do you want another pint?”
YES. OF YOUR FUCKING BLOOD!
Don’t piss for 6 hours after the marathon. Don’t understand where all the Budweiser is living in the interim.
Is it rooming up in my balls?
Eventually I piss and it’s quite the piss. An amazing piss. Definitely my piss of 2011.
I went from being unable to run at all in September 2010 to running a 5:00:56 marathon in May 2011.
My diet and lifestyle were fucked up, I was suffering from a number of mental health issues at the time but I pulled through it.
I never imagined that it would be possible but it happened.
If I can do it, so can you.
So go out and do it now!
Oh and go and support my Indiegogo campaign for ‘Angry Jogger – The Book’ if you want to read what happens next!