Taking on the marathon (Part 3)

by have0limits

…I apply the medication and decide also to go to a physiotherapist. They give me additional exercise. I interrupt the running training and switch to a bike for a while. It seems to help. And I manage to finish my preparations according to my schedule…more or less.

With the progressing training our ambitions grow. At first we just want to finish in the time limit. It means running the marathon in 6 hours. Then we think we could be able to run it in 5 hours. Finally we set the goal for 4h30.

The big day can come.

There is one thing you should know about running a marathon. It is a question of energy. The amount of energy stored in your blood system is enough for more or less 20-25km depending on your running economy. That’s why most marathonis have their crisis between 20-25km, they encounter the so-called “wall”, when they often feel knocked down and unable to continue. But you have to run over 42km in order to finish a marathon. So either a miracle happens or you will have to somehow supply the missing energy to your muscles. How? There are two ways to do it. Either you take it with food during the race or your organism will provide it from your stored energy in your body fat.

For the first method there is some habituation necessary. You need to eat and drink during you run and you can train it. Usually there are food stations every 5km on a marathon course, but you have to plan carefully where you will eat what and where you gonna drink. You also should take some energy gels, bananas and power bars with you.

For the second method you must train your body to extract energy from your body reserves, meaning burning enough fat for your high energy consumption during the run. How can you do it? Long runs will do it and even better are long runs with empty stomach, for example before breakfast. It isn’t always pleasant but it works. Your body just gets accustomed to processing your body fat.

So, there is a lot of logistics to think about running a marathon, but there are also several limits you have to cross: both physical and mental. First of all you need to be able imagining yourself running such a distance. Then you will have to be willing to absolve the heavy and systematic several months long training. Then you will have to overcome one or more injuries you will encounter during the training due to the overload, continue nevertheless and believe you can still run 42km in several weeks despite of the pain you feel right now and not being able to run at all. Then there is the energy limit I wrote about you need to break through. And then there are the crises you have to get through during the run. Not to give up during the first kilometers overwhelmed by the long, long distance you still have to go, when you first feel the fatigue. Then one or several walls, where you need to have iron will and continue despite of feeling not to be able to. Then the view of  people at the street side giving up due to fatigue, injury or just lying and being helped by the medical personnel. But one more limit, you need to cross, the ultimate limit I will write about later.

We join a group of experienced marathonis going to Athen for the race and sightseeing. Talking to them learn us respect and modesty. We are bloody beginners. They have several marathons in their legs. The leader of the group even won some marathons, with his best time 2:14. Most of the people have been running for years, also in winter. Constantly 70km a week and more, much more than we ever did. But there are some other originals. Among them a truck driver, who doesn’t train at all. He just goes for a marathon from time to time to get really tired. Once, he tells us, he run a marathon having hangover from a drinking party the night before. All this seems unimaginable for us.

I start to feel worried if we are able to finish the marathon at all. If all the people running it are like those guys, then we definitely aren’t. I asked an older couple how they judge my chances. And I get comforted by the woman with the words: “I am sure you will finish. I would say 4h30.” This is exactly what I wanted to hear. Now I can go to sleep, early, since we get up at 5:30 in order to get transported to the starting line in the town of Marathon on time and get all the logistics organized.

Read about the day of the marathon in the next post…