Chicago Marathon 2016

If you told me that in 2016 I would run a marathon then I’d be like lmao, r u mad? But on Sunday the 9th of October, I ran my first in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 55 seconds.

I figured I would jot down some tips and takeaways for those that are wondering what it’s like for someone who doesn’t run, to train for a marathon.

Disclaimer: I am no expert on health, fitness, diet or running. So if you think something is bullshit. It probably is.

Gear

Invest. In. Your. Gear.

You’re going to be running. A lot. 4 times a week.. for 16 weeks. You want to make that as comfortable as you can.

Tops

I started with a couple of cheap Karrimor ones from Sports Direct. They were perfectly fine. But then I got myself a Nike Dri-Fit one, and woah, it soaked up sweat like you wouldn’t believe. Ever seen people running in a cotton tee where it’s dripping with sweat? Yeah, looks impressive, look @ me working out & sweating more than you. Nah m8. Bleeding nips aren’t a badge of honour. Pro Tip: Get intimate with some vaseline for added protection.

Shoes

My first pair were £65 from a Nike outlet store. But then I got some Adidas Ultra Boost from JD Sports for £120. I felt so loyal to my first ever pair of running shoes, and was sad in the feels when I stopped running in them, but man, the quality difference was unreal.

It’s recommended that you replace your shoes after 3–400 miles. Like a tire, the tread will wear down and you’ll lose protection / support for your lil feet which can result in longer recovery time or even stress fractures. Nope.

However, whatever you do, do not get a new pair close to race day. They need time. At least 50 miles. I panicked and changed mine 2 weeks before, as new shoes are still better than overused ones. They were heavenly during the short runs, honestly, so fucking comfy. But around mile 13–14, they started to rub and that fucked with me mentally. You ideally want at least 2 long runs in them.

Compression Socks

Ugh. Blisters. Absolute fuckers. Feeling one pop in your shoe is gross and painful. Luckily, compression socks are really effective at reducing the friction between your feet and your shoe. My friend bought some fucking toe socks which are even better. They’re like gloves for your lil toes. That said, they do make your feet wider and so may be uncomfortable if you have a narrow shoe.

Compression Shorts

I didn’t buy a pair of these bad boys until later in my training schedule. They without a doubt helped prevent chafing between my thighs. Absolutely 100% recommend you get a pair.

Compeed Cushions

Holy fuck. These plasters are designed specifically for preventing blisters and they are insane. A bit expensive but worth every penny. It’s basically like having a second layer of skin between your socks and your actual skin.

Tips

Finish > Fast

When you start training, it will suck, you’ll get to the end of your street and want to turn back. Am I really this unfit? 26 miles of this? Are you fucking kidding me?

But keep going. Slow down if you need to. Walk if you need to. Please try not to give a fuck about your pace. It’s not important. Finishing your run is so much better than being fucked after 0.4 miles. Trust.

Ice baths

The cold causes blood vessels to tighten, which helps flush out the lactic acid in your tired as fuck muscles. It also helps reduce swelling. Anything that reduces swelling, I’m gonna do.

I tried to take an ice bath after any run > 7 miles for ~15 minutes.

You’ll be tempted to take a hot shower after, but m8, c’mon, put on a hoody if you need to, give it an hour and then you can shower properly.

Cool down

I probably didn’t take cooling down as seriously as I should have. I’d finish my run, walk for 10/15 minutes and then do the same basic stretching that you do @ school.

Make sure you replenish those lost electrolytes from all the sweating you just did. Reward yourself with some Lucozade Sport.

Missing runs

Missing long runs will make you feel like you’ve fucked up your training and you may as well quit now.

The best advice I got was to split your next long run in to 2. 16 miler? Do 2 lots of 8 miles. Don’t be a hero and run the full 16. It’ll be a cunt on your legs. Running too much too soon is a real thing. Shin splints are a real thing, and not being able to run when you’re on a schedule is the worst.

Listen to your body

At school, you’re told to “push through the pain barrier”. And that’s fucking dumb. If you’re in a lot of pain, stop. RICE the fuck out of your legs. It’s better to take time off than to risk injuring yourself. Anything up to 2 weeks and you won’t lose that much fitness. Go swimming. Ride a bike.

Running on solid concrete has a lot of impact on your legs, especially during the longer runs. Try mixing it up with dirt trails / grass. Be kind to yourself.

Music

I did a half marathon in 2012. I hated listening to music, because drum & bass is great until you’re fucked and you struggle to keep up with the tempo.

Spotify Running changed everything for me. It matches the music to your pace, and will fade in a better suited song if you speed up / slow down.

The only downside is that consistency in your pace means you’re likely to hear the same songs which can be a bore.

When it comes to long distance, I found a 3 hour Armin Van Buuren set was perfect.

Fuel

There’s a lot of different ways to take on fuel during the long runs. Gels, chews, jelly beans. I tried the Clif Energy Chews and tbh, as soon as my brain compared them to eating raw jelly, I didn’t look back. Take one every 15 minutes followed by some water. Easy. I even looked forward to my long runs just so I could eat them.

Apps

I honestly don’t think I would have been able to complete this marathon without Runkeeper. It’s the perfect running companion. You can choose a marathon plan and it’ll tell you what days to run & how far to go.

You start running and the ever so kind lady will give you an update every 5 minutes, on your total time, distance & average pace. She is bae.

If you love data, then oh my fucking god. Gyroscope is gonna blow your mind. It’s one of the best designed apps in the world. Really. The visualisations of your day are perfection.

You can also add your friends for that competitiveness. Nothing beats going for a late night run and overtaking people who think they’ve bossed it :D

Training

I tried to take my training seriously. My evenings were basically walk home > run > have dinner > shower > bed. There were times where I could not be arsed. At all. But a voice in my head was like “just fucking get on with it” and then I went out for a run. Sometimes I’d get back at 11pm, eat my dinner in the bath and then go to bed.

Below is all of my runs logged via Runkeeper. Mental.

The Day Before Race Day

Put on your old trainers and go for a 15 minute jog in the morning to get that blood flowing to your muscles. It’s the perfect way to get hyped. Seeing other people doing the same thing. Oh man. It’s really happening.

Apart from that, try not to do too much. You want to save all your energy for the big day. Seems obvious right? I made the mistake of walking to the Expo to pick up my bib number etc. I’d just landed in Chicago and the walk along the lake sounded dreamy. I mean, it was, but 20k steps later.. my legs were hella tired & I was already jet lagged. Not ideal.

Btw, for me, the Expo is a huge energy sap. It was basically tonnes of companies selling their quirky products. People being sold the latest & greatest shoes etc. The temptation to run over screaming “NEW SHOES ON RACE DAY IS BAD NEWS WAITING TO HAPPEN!!” was real. Next time I’m just gonna get my number and get the hell outta there.

Before you go to bed, take a minute to get all of your things ready. We had to be up at 4:30am, so pinning your number to your t-shirt, getting your trainers, shorts, socks, and chafe protecting under garments sorted is the smart thing to do.

Having a late night shower is a great way to end the day so you can get into bed all toasty. I was absolutely fucked, so was fast asleep by 9:30pm. Yes.

Race Day

Well, shit. Today is the day. You’re gonna run a marathon.

Breakfast is essential. Some porridge with banana & a strong black coffee was my weapon of choice. Ideally 2–3 hours before the start. The coffee helps you poop. I don’t need to explain why you wanna poop before you run 26.2 miles.

When you head to the start, you’ll be standing around for a while. Turns out it’s quite hard for 40k people to start racing each other at the same time. Use this opportunity to put your earphones in and play that one song that you know will get you pumped.

Once you do start moving, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overtaking as many people as you can. The adrenaline rush will take over, but please, try and slow down, you’ve got a long way to go.

Emotional doesn’t even begin to describe what it’s like to see so many people running for their charity of choice. So many inspirational humans who have lost loved ones. You see people running in costume on TV all the time. But being next to a fireman in all of his gear.. I mean. Fuck. My hero.

When you get to an aid station, there’ll be volunteers handing out paper cups filled with Gatorade / water. If you’re feeling good, try and stay in the middle of the crowd, as people will slow down to a walk to take liquids on board.

Hearing someone you’ve never met shout “G’WAN CHAD!”. Kids holding out their hand to high five you. All of the cheesy “On a scale of 1 to 10 you’re a 26.2” signs. Honestly. The crowd genuinely carry you to the finish line with all of their support.

Post Run Tips

Now that you’ve completed your first marathon and you’ve discovered that even muscles in your butt can ache, here’s a few more CT Tips:

DO NOT SIT DOWN. Honestly. You will cease the fuck up and the pain will be excruciating. I tried my best to keep walking / stay stood up for as long as possible until I went to bed.

Eat. Your appetite will be non-existent. But m8, You’ve just burned over 4000 calories. Eat.

Drink. Lucozade Sport / Gatorade. It’s more important than water.

Massage. I had my first ever massage and oh my god she stretched me out real good. Ugh. Now I just wanna massage.

For the next few days, getting up is gonna be a struggle. Walking is gonna be a struggle. Steps are gonna be a struggle. Steps are gonna be a real fucking struggle. But m8, you ran a fucking marathon xxxx

Jake, Graham, Chris, Ant, me & Quetzy