5 Lessons I Learned in Marathon Training

5 Things I Learned in Marathon Training So Far {Life Lately}

Happy Thursday, everyone! 

I don’t have much to share with you about our weekend hike, because we ended up doing only about a 2.25 mile hike. We had plans to hike at Gothic Basin, which is a steep and long hike with a rewarding view. However, we literally drove past it several times without realizing it and instead settled on hiking Barlow Pass in the Mount Baker National Forest. Only after our hike did we realize Gothic Basin was literally right across the road from Barlow Pass; it was just poorly marked and the signs were illegible from the road. Still, we had a great hike and then picnicked at a nearby river. 

Barlow Pass

So, since I don’t have much hiking to talk about, today’s life lately post is going to be a reflection of what I’m learning so far in my first marathon training cycle. I’m halfway through my training plan and Portland is only 9 short weeks away! There’s nothing ground-shattering here, but since I want to be honest and candid about my training, here are 5 things I learned in marathon training so far. 

Fueling Takes Trial and Error

I’m not trying to lose weight at all, but I’m having a hard time fueling enough. I think I eat a lot, but on weekends I find that I easily get hungry on our hikes. We’ve realized I’m probably not consuming enough calories nor the right type of calories after my long run and before a hike. We usually eat my healthy whole grain pancakes with a small side of bacon or an egg on Saturday mornings, but after bonking on a couple hikes, Ryan suggested that change up our breakfast. I’ve been researching a lot on high glycemic vs. low glycemic carbs and decided I probably was eating too high of a glycemic meal due to the maple syrup and the whole wheat, while also not getting enough protein. Instead, we’re going to try a higher protein and lower glycemic meal of eggs, potatoes, bell peppers, and a small serving of oats (and, let’s be real, a slice or two of bacon) so that I’m not feeling low on energy just a couple miles into our hike. 

Overall, I’m finding that front-loading my calories (eating a bigger breakfast) keeps me from snacking too much or craving sweets. I’m adding more fruit, nuts, and seeds to my oatmeal to keep hunger at bay and refuel my body well, since I run before breakfast. This speeds recovery along as well and I notice a huge difference in my energy levels later in the day. 

5 Lessons I Learned in Marathon Training

Activity After a Long Run Helps with Recovery

When I was training for my half marathons, I would often spend a good portion of the rest of a long run day sitting. Part of this was because we lived in Indiana and it’s either 100% humidity or two feet of snow outside for most of the year (sadly, not exaggerating, thanks to the lake effect), but also because I was tired and a bit sore from my long run. 

Since we live in Seattle, though, most of our weekends are spent outside. We’ll hike anywhere from 3-10 miles on Saturday. Surprisingly, staying on my feet after my long run helps my legs feel better. I feel less stiff and like I have better circulation, both on the long run day itself and the following days. While we do have fairly lazy Sundays, I rarely feel as sore as I anticipate and start off the next week feeling strong and ready for my Monday speed workout. 

Ginger is now a Regular Addition to my Diet

One recent addition to my shopping list has been ginger. Whether I buy the candied version as a treat, sprinkle ginger powder into my oats, or grate some ginger root onto a savory meal, I try to eat a bit of ginger each day. Ginger has two major benefits for me this training cycle. First, ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, which means it can play a key role in recovery and reducing soreness without interfering with the body’s natural healing process. Second, ginger is so good at soothing stomachs. Hard and long runs can leave my stomach feeling slightly upset later in the day, but ginger immediately calms it. 

5 Things I Learned in Marathon Training

Don’t Leave It All in a Workout

I noticed in several of my speed workouts that I could have kept going for more reps or done the reps faster. While it’s tempting to add on more or run faster than prescribed by my training plan, part of the benefits come from giving it your best but not your all. If I repeatedly give it my all in a workout, doing that too often during training would leave me with nothing to give on race day. 

In this sense, marathon training is also like a piece of steak (or pasta, for my meatless readers). If you cook the steak too much, it’s not going to taste good. You want to find the happy medium for the best result. Likewise, if I push myself too hard even in a single workout, I’m not going to enjoy that workout. I’d then begin to dread speed work and maybe start to skip it. Enjoying a workout is important for preventing mental and physical burnout and creating a sustainable training plan. 

Flip Flops are My Foes, Not Friends

Obviously, this isn’t universally true, since many people can wear flip flops with no problem and some sports doctors see no major issues with it. So I’m not bashing flip flops, but I’ve just found that they don’t work for me. However, my high arches and flip flops do not get along, and this is even more noticeable as I’m running more and spending a lot of time pounding my feet on the pavement. Instead, I’m all about my Sperrys and supportive flats (I’d share the link, but my supportive DKNY flats are about 8 years old so I’m pretty sure they’re no longer available). Feet provide the base for running and I’m not about to let a piece of footwear cause injury to them and affect my running. Showing my feet some love during the 22-23 hours a day I’m not running has made them feel better and paid off in my workouts. 

Let’s not even talk about heels. Back when Ryan and I started dating in college, I wore heels all of the time. I also had problems with my ankle and was even injured for a few months. Coincidence? No. Heels not only make my feet hurt, but repeatedly wearing them can cause foot and ankle problems and imbalances. The prettiness of heels isn’t worth the pain and risk of injury anymore. The last time I wore heels was my wedding, and  I was that bride who took of her shoes halfway through the reception and walked around barefoot the rest of the night. At least I had a long dress! 

Of course, I’m not saying these things work for everyone! Each runner is different, and what I find works may be the complete opposite for you. I honestly find that fascinating, how differently people can react to the same stimulus or situation.

Thanks to Running with Spoons for hosting the Thinking Out Loud link up! 

Questions of the Day:
What did you learn while training for your first marathon or race?
Seasoned marathoners: what’s a piece of advice you’d offer to new marathoners? 

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22 Responses

  1. Luckily flip flops don’t bother my feet, but I definitely can’t wear heels! I might wear them like once a year for very brief periods of time.
    I was using alot of ginger in my meals during my last marathon training cycle- I need to get back into that habit again!

  2. Ginger is king. I’ve been using it as part of my fueling since the beginning. And I am totally with you on the activity after a long run for recovery. Also the day after. Otherwise you just get so stiff!
    Before you started to read my blog (I would guess), I had a thing called #FlatsFriday, which is when you wear flats because you have a long run the net day! But it was really a misnomer–I just abut always wear flats these days.

  3. God advice on tossing the flip flops and taking care of your feet. Marathon training and high arches are a recipe for PF unless your careful. Trust me on that.

  4. Hello from another Laura! 🙂

    Wearing my Fitbit put me in tune with the fact that taking regular walk breaks during the day helps keep stiffness at bay after a run. Even though I’ve put the Fitbit away (I got too obsessive with it), I still try to fit in plenty of walking even on the days on which I run.

    I used to not fuel at all before running, but I’ve started nibbling on candied ginger before harder or longer runs (training for my first half; longest run so far is a bit over 10 miles). As I start needing to fuel mid-run, I hope to experiment with candied ginger or other dried fruit instead of gels.

    1. Hi, Laura! 🙂 I like your idea of using a Fitbit to keep moving the day after a long run! Mine sadly bit the dust a while ago (it was one of those early models and I think I killed it with sweat). I also love how you eat candied ginger during a run – I’ve been considering taking it on my runs also, so it’s good to hear you’ve had success with it!

    1. Glad you’re loving your Birkenstocks and all the arch support! I’ve heard such great things about those. I’ve also been eyeing the Born sandals because I loved my pair of Born flats (which, I now realize, I accidentally donated when moving).

  5. I need to start eating more ginger! Love the health benefits you listed. I add a lot of cinnamon and cumin to my foods for anti-inflammatory benefits, but I think I’ll have to start incorporating ginger 🙂 I unfortunately learned the hard way that running every run as fast as I could burned me out. I would reiterate that to anyone who was training for their first marathon. That, and run your easy runs EASY!

    1. Cinnamon is another spice that’s so amazing! I have it every day in my coffee or oatmeal. You should definitely give ginger a try – it also tastes amazing! 🙂

  6. YES to front-loading calories (I didn’t eat breakfast for years and it never helped me at all!) and I agree with you so much about the flip flops. Those totally trash my feet, especially now that I’m getting wayyyy older. My advice to new marathoners? Just concentrate on getting the long runs in. Spend time on your feet. Don’t do speed work or hill repeats or a bunch of crunches and squats. A first marathon is all about covering the distance, and doing much more than that will get you injured and burnt out in a hot hurry.

  7. All very important things.. I <3 ginger.. for all the reasons you mentioned. It tastes great, and its good for you! win/win situation 🙂

  8. I always forget about ginger outside of the fall season, but I seriously need to start incorporating more of it into my diet because it’s a pretty freaking amazing food. And bonus points if it’s the candied version :mrgreen: And I know what you mean about front-loading your calories. If I don’t eat enough early in the day, then I’m crazy snacky for the rest of it.

  9. What I learned in my first marathon was the fact that hard work and dedication will get you to 26.2 miles. It’s amazing how every week you are stronger than the week before, it’s a journey of self-discovery like no other. My advice for new runners would be Enjoy every run. It’s so much easier that way 🙂

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