Simply put, 42.2km is a long time to be on your feet running.
And I don’t care if you’re Paula Radcliffe or Patrick Makau Musyoki – 42.2k is still a long way to run.
I have heard the mantra many times in my years of becoming a runner before I had started to train for the marathon.
I had heard it.
But I had never understood the true meaning.
Not until I went on my first 29k (18mi) run two weeks ago.
I decided to take the run easy and to stay with the group. I started out running well within my Long Slow Distance run pace around 6:42/km (a full minute slower than my targeted marathon race pace). Then, I started chatting with a lady who was running slightly faster… and slowly we began to pull away from the group as we increased our speed by seconds.
The run was going well. There were three of us sticking together and we were hitting splits, chatting and just plugging away. We each fueled around 14k (GU for me) and continued onward. Around 19k, the route hits the only serious hill – a 500m climb with about 4-6% grade (I think?!?). It wasn’t tough, but it wasn’t easy either. When we got to the top of the hill, we had to look up our route again and so we walked for a bit. We made our decision on which way to go and headed out. Suddenly, the lady I had been chatting with the entire time said she wasn’t feeling 100%. That the hill had done a number on her and that she was almost out of water and fuel. We only had about 8km left in the run and I knew I would be fine. I quickly gave her one of my half full 8oz bottles and my second GU. She took it and felt good enough to complete the run, but had to start doing frequent walk breaks in the last 4km or so.
Before we left her to walking (I don’t follow any kind of 10/1 run/walk plan – I usually walk to take GU’s. I find that with traffic lights, I don’t require more breaks), I discovered that she had eaten HALF of a Lara bar for breakfast and had brought one 8oz water bottle and 8oz of coconut water for fuel.
I know that people have a difficult time eating in the morning or before a run (I don’t – I can gobble down two toast with peanut butter and banana and then giv’er for 29k), but you can’t expect to run for 3 plus hours on half of a Lara bar! And if that is all you CAN stomach, then for the love of God (and the sake of your training partners), bring adequate water and fuel with you for the run!
Respect the distance.
The other part of this story is how challenging I found this first 29k run to be. I think part of the problem was that I speed up too much (I ended the run with an average per KM pace of 6:38 – again within my LSD pace, but I was TIRED and my legs protested largely). Contrast that with this past Sunday’s 29k run (which had its own challenges with the heat) when my average pace was 6:43/km (which was brought down by my last two KM splits – 6:12 and 5:56) and it was like night and day. I had learned from the first run and had learned that I needed more fuel myself and that I needed to keep the run slow.
In short – I learnt what it really means to Respect the Distance.
So what does this mean for my initial goal of running a 4 hour marathon on May 6th?
I have a few weeks and a 32k (20mi) run to get through before I make any decisions.
For now, I’m going to continue to strive to keep that respect at the forefront of my mind, especially this Sunday when I run my first 30k ever at Around the Bay.
Stay tuned for