Still learning, 10 marathons in 10 years

I recently completed my 10th marathon, running the BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon on 12th of November 2017.
The event was great – living up to its inspiring story, shared in a TED Talk by amazing founder, May El-Khalil.
My performance though was much more of a slog than I anticipated, or particularly enjoyed.
After running long distance for 10 years, with 10 marathons under my belt, I’m clearly still learning.


A net time of 4:09:16, was only 10 minutes beyond what I guessed I should aim form.  And the time is no disaster by any stretch (I finished 300th from 9000 registered).  But it’s never nice to nearly grind to a halt in the final 10 kms, or finish in a lot of pain.
If I look back at my training, it is quite telling now that I should have managed my expectations and pace quite differently.


I originally planned to run in Jordan a month earlier.  The timing & event didn’t work for me, so (even after coughing up the registration) I dropped out and switched to Lebanon. Even with this disruption, I still had sufficient training time to get myself ready.


Unfortunately a November event requires you to train in July and August. And being a resident of Dubai, UAE that means there was quite a lot of running in 30 degrees, and +50% humidity.


I’m a native of Brisbane, Australia so these conditions don’t torment me as much as it does others.  But there’s no avoiding the fact, some days were HARD.  The best strategy is to start early in the day, no matter what. If it gets too hot, have longer breaks.  If that gets too hot, reduce the distance.  This is a strategy, however there’s also a voice in my head that says any distance in a training plan is a distance that must be run. My training is a balance between doing merely enough til I feel I can complete the distance, and on the other hand I am an unrelenting servant to a full program.


The other finding I have from reflecting upon my training plan was that I did absolutely no speed work, nor followed the recommended pace.
Running more casually than I’m capable of has been a bonus for my body, resulting in no injuries this season.  It does get the body out of the habit of efficient running though.
It would have been wise to run far slower than 5 minute per kilometre pace.  Instead, I completed the first half much too fast in around 1:45. I partly blame the superb, cool conditions and impressive crowd. I was clearly running a marathon faster than my legs were ready for.


My personal best marathon is 3:23, set at the 2012 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.  Since then I have run more regularly, and think I can still get that time if I wanted.  However, it’s not if I want to, it’s if I train to.
And this year, I trained to just complete my 10th, and that’s just what I did.


The final thing about my training, which is unsurprising is there was quite a slump in August as I returned home to Australia on Summer holidays. The visual in my run plan was too revealing, and with tongue in cheek I complained as such.

My eventual 21 week training for Beirut (after changing track in July)
Most of my previous training over the years was tracked in spreadsheets, where it’s easy to lose sight on progress.  If I fell off training, I’d just avoid updating my running records.  But having my completed distance automatically integrated against the plan was so convenient, and so horrifying.
From September on, I completed no more of my weekly totals, though I did run most of the sessions.
I suppose this came from being in reasonable shape, and having the experience of completing the distance nine times before.
That voice I have that suggests doing merely enough til I feel I can complete the distance had beaten the unrelenting stick to the plan!
I arrived in Lebanon two days early, and took in some of the sights.  One of the first observations was Beirut is NOT FLAT! Dubai runners aren’t experienced with this.  In fact, last year when I added a weekly hill session to my training I had to go search for a hill.  And it was nothing compared to some of the climbs along the route.  Perhaps my body would have preferred some rest at the hotel, instead of 12km and 10km walks around the destination.  But that would have surely detracted from my desire to be there.
I figure being my 10th marathon “milestone”, it was an event and experience I wanted to savour. And that’s what I did.


Now back in Dubai, I’m 75% sure I’ll run the Dubai marathon again in January.  So training has to recommence quite shortly.
The learning I have again, is to reconsider my training, or reconsider my goal time.
The end result and experience is always worth it.


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