One and Done! Marathon Bucket Listers, how to get it right first time

Me on debut: An example of NOT getting it right.

Let me guess, you’re a Marathon Bucket Lister, you’re in the grip of a hectic marathon preparation? And like most participants, you’re starting feel a bit ‘over it.’ With blisters on your feet, tight hips, sniffles and missed the last two Friday nights with the boys/girls because you had training early the next morning? (Or instead missed training and not the Friday night? Hey, caaarm on.)

You’re deep enough now for the excitement of new to be come the mundane of normal, and all you can think about making your Marathon running career, ‘One and Done.’

Unless you like belting around Centennial Park for 2-3 hours of a Sunday morning, you might be like a lot of people I coach. Signed up, been training for a while, but the mornings are cold and the evenings are dark, so it’s hard to envision the bright sunrise of race day just around the corner. To peel yourself out of bed or begin a gallop on tired end-of-day legs through dark city streets  seems less than inviting. 

I always say, there’s significant difference between saying Marathon and actually doing a marathon. This gulf is a common problem, especially for beginners. Blame the advertising, because they sell you the result right? It never says anything about the work required before you get to run down the finishing chute, in slow motion to the music from Titanic.

But too bad. You don’t really have a choice, if you want the prize you must pay the price. And doing so you will at least give yourself the opportunity to make your race one to remember (for the right reasons). So many people I’ve coached have finished only to say, “If only I’d done [this, that or the other]. I could’ve got [this, that or the other].” Sorry, it’s too late now. (Note: the word “got” comes after “done”.)

So how do we equip ourselves for the (physical, mental and emotional) challenge of a lifetime? Without this thing taking over our lives but so we can boast to have done our best at the end of the day?

You’ll need to accept certain truths, and execute certain actions to ensure you don’t come a ‘guts-a’ halfway through your big race. Accept the training is long and tedious and will break you down. I’m yet to meet a person who has plenty of spare time in their schedule as it is, before adding a marathon training plan into the mix. Your worlds will collide but here are some strategies you can implement to minimise damage. They are:

Number one, prioritise your training. You have no choice, you are defined (especially as an athlete) as much by what you say no to as what you say yes to. You’ve gotta get tough and frequent on saying ‘no’ to things that don’t contribute to your goal. If you feel this will become a challenge, set yourself a targeted training block, an organised amount of time where you’ll go into Marathon Mode. Swap 15 beers on Saturday night for 15 miles on Sunday morning, with an end point in sight your friends will understand.

Number two, give yourself time to prepare. Space your training out. Train a day, take a rest day or two in between. What does this sound like? You need to be organised, work out your schedule well in advance. Running takes time, get on the front foot early, because playing ‘catch up’ will kill you with injures and reduces margin for error. I had this ‘pearler’ recently, a guy said, “I’m training for the Half (21km), in two weeks”. I gave him a program with the longest run at 16km, he asks, “The extra 5km won’t be a problem on race day?” I said, “Yeah it’s gonna be a huge problem but it’s not like you’ve got a choice? Do you want to make the start line or not?”

Number three, focus on the most important aspects of your training. If you’re not going to train like you’re in Rocky IV think about what needs to be done on race day. You have to run the full distance! 26 miles or 42 kilometres, it’s not getting any shorter. So train for it. You don’t get there with 10km runs home from work, or 6 hill sprints on the back end of your gym class, for the love of God, do long runs, around 35km or 22 miles will suffice.

Nailing it: You want to finish all smiles like we are here.

Good news: I was talking with a kid (he’s a man now but younger than me at school, so he’ll always be a kid to me) who’s training for the upcoming Gold Coast Marathon. I couldn’t believe it when I saw his recent run on Strava was up to 35km, I was over the moon. I told him about some other sessions to throw in the mix, he said mate, “I’m a battler, I think it will be ‘one and done’ for me.” I said, well you’re doing the right thing, running long, well in advance of your race. Perfect.

For the Bucket Listers out there who just want to tick that box, heed the three tips above: prioritise, organise and do your damn long runs, and you’ll be well on your way to a great performance. And if you believe that success breeds success, like I do, I just get the feeling that sooner or later you’ll be back.

If you’re dealing with a marathon sized problem, training for a marathon, or thinking of signing up to a race. Grab a hold of my FREE Marathon and Half Marathon Faster e-book. Click the link below to get your copy (opt in required).

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