The Road to My First Marathon

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians! Not only does this mean a weekend of face-stuffing and an Instagram feed full of pumpkins and #thankful,  but that  it is exactly 1 week until I toe the line of my first marathon.

When I was training for my half marathon last year, not once did it cross my mind that I would ever want to run a full. But then, when I was making the final turn to the finish line, I saw the marathon runners continuing on and was stupefied and completely in awe of those people who were just starting their 2nd half marathon (in a row!)


The thought of running a full slowly crept into my mind over the winter and stayed there. I knew in the spring that I wanted to set some new running goals and so, after calling my mum and asking her whether she thought I would be completely insane for signing up for the marathon, she told me to just go for it (as I knew she would). I hung up the phone immediately hit “REGISTER” and then just as quickly, googled “marathon training plan for newbies.”

I started my training plan in June, and since then have learned a few things along the way….

Whoever said “signing up is half the battle” was wrong. 

After signing up, I immediately became overwhelmed by the amount of advice and what seemed to be a lot of number crunching re paces, splits and BTW what the eff is a “fartlek?” I decided I couldn’t do this on my own, and signed up for the marathon training clinic with Running Room. This was by far the best decision I made when it came to my training.

The RR clinic started mid-June, and I had just bought a spiffy new pair of Nike shorts (you know the Very Official running shorts with the built in underwear) which I wanted to wear my first night out. After about 10 minutes of introductions and hello’s, a very kind fellow clinic’er pulled me aside to point out that my shorts  were on inside out and basically it looked like I had put a big pair of granny-panties on over my shorts.

What I wish I looked like with my underwear shorts on inside out.

Clinic nights were every Thursday, and our coach did an amazing job of bringing in local runners to speak on certain topics which helped break down a lot of the information around injury, over training, fuelling, gear and pace. We even did a water station training session in the pitch dark, which totally confused a bunch of other non-clinic runners out for their evening jaunt. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with everything all of our guest speakers talked about,  it was a good reminder that what works for one person, isn’t going to work for everyone.  Logging hundreds of miles with this group kept me accountable, and our runs something I looked forward to (almost) every day. My group was an excellent mix of terrified newbies and seasoned veterans who turned out to be the most supportive and hilarious crew I could have asked for.

I really, really like trail running.

My first race this year was on the trail, and up until mid-September, I was doing most of my long runs on the trail with my New Trail Running Friends and 98% preferred this over doing my long runs on the road. The trails gave me a lot of amazing time on my feet, and made me a stronger hill runner with a greater appreciation of appropriate fuelling for runs (read:cupcakes are totally appropriate on long trail runs). I hate to admit it, but having to do my longest runs on the road leading up to race day, has me missing my time on the trail, and has me thinking I won’t be signing up for another road race any time soon (unless they start routing the STWM through the trails in Toronto).

Mid-trail stream stop with New Trail Running Friends – Bruce Trail Hockley Valley Section
With Whistle and Bear Bell that didn’t scare off the bears…

Pay attention to your body.

I used to do a lot of strength training (well 2-3 sessions per week) of plyometrics, weights etc. and felt pretty strong pre-marathon, logging 2-3 runs a week. When I started my training plan in June which called for running 4-5 days a week I neglected my glutes and ab routine for miles on the road. Do not do this.  I REPEAT. DO NOT DO THIS. 3 weeks from race day, I started suffering from a hip that just felt ‘off’ which has now translated itself into knee pain on my long runs and hundreds of (benefits) dollars spent on chiropractic treatments, physio and accupuncture all caused by my now weak glutes (bye, bye booty).  I’m now doing my granny stretches, bridges and one-legged band squats to try and fix this problem enough so I can (fingers crossed) make it to the finish line. I have had to take ‘taper’ to a whole new level of completely backing off, with a few very light runs scheduled for the upcoming week.

Not running, promise.

Trust your training. 

Because of this little nagging injury, I’ve had to really back off my training in the last 3 weeks which means I really have to trust all the hard work that I’ve put into my training in the previous months. This is actually a lot harder than I anticipated, because I never got to that point where I wasn’t looking forward to my long runs ( I secretly really look forward to them). A little piece of me has died this weekend watching  all the tweets and instagram posts of everyone getting in their last long runs, while I do my Yoga for Runners video for the 20th time. I have had a lot of check ins with my RR coach who keeps me from losing my mind by reminding me that I’m not going to get any “fitter” in the last weeks leading up, and instead could do a lot more harm by running on a bum leg.  I’ve learned that Taper Brain is  a super real thing, especially when it is fuelled with added doubts about whether your body is going to hold up on race day. This means that I’ve had to adjust my goals, and really focused on the “just finishing one” vs. setting a specific time.

Trading morning miles for morning mantras


Speaking of goals…

First Marathon Goals (Because their not real unless their written down):

  1. Get to the start line (almost) injury free
  2. Still be smiling at 37k (no hope really for beyond this)
  3. Finish sub-4 hours. (Plan A)
  4. Finish 4:10 (Plan B)
  5. Finish (Plan C)
  6. Eat an entire pizza post race and drink ALL the beer. (Guaranteed)

Until then,  I’ll be sitting over here in pigeon pose, mapping out my race plan and hitting the foam roller HARD.

So helpful…

What’s your pre-marathon week look like? Any nagging injuries or doubts you are working through?


7 Replies to “The Road to My First Marathon”

  1. Once my mileage went up, the first thing to go was strengthening too! Such a big mistake!

    1. wildheartrunning says: Reply

      I know! And I TOTALLY knew better to. sigh.

  2. I had no idea that your running shorts were on inside out at the first clinic! Even though this is my fourth marathon I’m still as nervous as I was during my first. Once again I also neglected strength training and am experiencing nagging little pains (also glute weakness. Pigeon pose is the best!). For me, the stretch between 35-40k is the hardest so one of my goals is to try not to get too down then. I also keep a running list of who I know who is also running the marathon and try to say hi to them during the out and back sections. It helps give me an energy boost. As you know, my main goal is always not to poop my pants. 🙂

    1. wildheartrunning says: Reply

      We should have been doing more lunges during our clinic! Agree that pigeon pose is the best – I could sit in that all day. Good point about that part of the race. I think best to keep it in perspective that we are running a freaking marathon and should be so pumped to be out there doing that! No negative thoughts allowed! Love having you as part of the running crew this summer Mei!

  3. I hope that you completed the marathon and your goals! I still remember all the nervousness and insecurity I felt before running my 1st full marathon 3 years ago! Great photos and thanks for sharing this experience with the world!

    1. wildheartrunning says: Reply

      Thanks Renee! Unfortunately wasn’t able to start my marathon in the fall, but have focused on strength training over the winter and now back at it! I’ve sure learned a lot of patience, but running, like all good things, is worth the wait!

  4. I love your positive attitude and your fun-filled, honest post! I still get nervous and tend to overtrain even though I have more than 8 years of experience in marathon running… I hope all is going well with your training and running! I wish you luck on your next marathon, if you are planning on running one!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.