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How (Not) to Run a Marathon in 3 Months

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

Before I'm going to start my story, I need to explain one thing. I am not one of the super-humans running long-distance events, with little to no preparation, and still finishing with great time and injury-free.

Did I run a marathon? Yes.

Did I finish? Yes.

Did I not prepare for it? Yes. Kind of.

Am I proud of it? No. Not at all.

Will I do it again? Most definitely.

So, here's how it all happened, and also, what you probably should not do.

Signing Up for The Race

A long time ago I promised myself that by the time I turn 30, I will add to my running account the 42.195 km race. I started running out of time, so I decided that the time has come. I signed up for the marathon early in the year, making sure that I have enough time to prepare well.

Then, as many could predict, I fell off track with my training program. Family stuff, work stuff, long story short, I “woke up” less than three months before the race, with very little training done. Naturally, I started to hesitate. I also started considering all the pros and cons. It pretty much became my daily obsession.

As a fitness professional and a running coach, I knew very well that the time I have left was simply not enough, to go from almost no running to finishing a full marathon, even for someone who's been running half of her life.

The First Month - September

During the first month, I just kept hesitating and trying to pick up my running routine. I managed to slowly build up the mileage. At the same time, I tried to avoid running too much, as I was worried that the impact caused by all the workouts will result in injury. Instead, I tried to implement more endurance training and swimming, which both would help me to strengthen the joints while working on improving my cardiovascular fitness. The main goal was to be able to move for a prolonged period and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The Second Month - October

In the following weeks, I started adding more interval training. I figured that during such a long race I will need to be able to push through the fatigue, so I would do my interval training at the beginning of the session to tire myself enough, and then I would add on more steady pace runs, to practice running my marathon pace while being fatigued.

I realized how important planning is, and how much time I needed to allocate to complete each training session. My concerns started to grow big.

The Third Month - November

The race month, and more planning. Here I pushed it hard, and still managed to get up to only 20+ km runs. [Long runs in the marathon prep should cap at around 30 to 30+ km. The last long run should be done, ideally, at least a couple of weeks before the event.] Well, I wasn't planning on doing any of it. I simply didn't have time. And I don't mean I couldn't plan my workouts and dedicate time to training. I mean that you can't go from one 20 km training run to 30 km in another training run.

My schedule became another struggle. I had training sessions with my clients in the morning, and evening, which blocked out the best time for long runs. I could do some short runs in the middle of the day, but doing 20k or more in the heat, full sun, and 30°C, simply was not going to happen. I ended up running on the treadmill. A few months ago if you asked me to run an hour on the "mill", I would laugh and walk out the door to run in the park or anywhere else, but the gym. Now I nailed my mental game to the level of running 2-3 hours on a device while staring at one point. The finest way to train your mental strength and focus. Giving you also plenty of time to reconsider many choices you may have made or planning to make in your life. :)))

The Weekend

The race took place in a different city, so I had to make sure I pack all the essentials. I also needed to plan my routine very well. How to get there, how to time my meals, how to make sure I am going to be fresh and full of energy in the morning. All pre-race preparation is super important, and you have to arrange everything with meticulous care. A support system is also of great importance. I am very blessed to have my husband traveling with me to all the races, and helping with anything I need, to avoid additional and unnecessary stress.

The Race day. The Race. The Race is over. I finished!!!!

A Full Retrospect of The Battle

Looking back at the planning and execution of it, I can honestly say, I wish I had more time. Or maybe I should say, I wish I took it more seriously and started preparing earlier. Yes, I did finish the race, and that is usually what you should aim for, while running your first marathon, but it was a true battle. A war between my body and my mind.

The first 25km was relatively easy. Surprisingly I felt really good, light, and not tired. I got used to running a similar distance during my half marathons and the training runs for the FM.

Then I hit the wall. I struggled a bit, probably for another 5-10km, then I managed to pick myself up. While my focus was back, and my mind was stronger than ever, my body started to ache. Badly. My hips, my feet, my everything. I saw people sitting on the side of the road, taking their shoes off, icing their sore muscles, getting a massage from first-aid workers. I dreamed about doing all of it, but I wanted to finish the run, desperately. I knew that sitting down and taking a break will give me only temporary relief. So I kept pushing, one foot in front of the other, through the pain. I ran with a pure will of finishing this race and getting out of this hell. The last 5km was the worst. When I got close to the finish line, I saw my husband. I didn't care anymore. I just waived at him, and we walked about 500m together, discussing what we will do after the race is over. Then, I found the little energy I had in my legs and ran through the finish line. Done.

The pain is not over yet.

No matter what, I always pay attention to my recovery. I want my body to heal as quickly as possible, after every single race. The same rule applies to my training runs and gym sessions. I knew this moment was crucial. I had to go back to work in a day, train with my clients and teach fitness classes. So I rested, as much as I possibly could. I ate a lot, I ate well. I slept. The next day my joints were a bit sore, then the following one, I was completely fine. The recovery process was nailed.

Looking back at what I have achieved, I am, obviously, proud of myself. However, I would love to do it again, with better planning, more accurate execution of my training and rest days, with more wisdom. I was lucky I didn't get injured. I saw plenty of people who did. I saw some of them who might not have finished the race. I was truly blessed to not be one of them. Nevertheless, I will make sure that the next time I will do it all the right way.

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