To say I was under-prepared for the Marathon is an understatement. The gruelling and arduous event of the marathon requires approximately 6 months of specific conditioning, nutrition and lifestyle changes to complete it safely and successfully. I however, created an experiment for myself by attempting to complete it with 7 weeks of relatively-structured yet inadequate training. By allowing yourself 6 months of preparation, you are able to more evasively deal with the road blocks and speed bumps encountered. For instance, you’re better able to deal with niggling injuries and feelings of fatigue, experienced in any significant increase in training. You’re able to progress, and regress your training load much more safely to allow for physiological adaptations required to withstand the significant stresses throughout training but also the event. It also allows adequate time to “get the k’s in the legs’, rather than relying solely on any natural strength and conditioning you might think you have.
I completed 1 “long run” a week for 5 weeks, 21, 24, 27, 24, 21. This meant that my longest run, about 4 weeks out from the event, was only two thirds of what I needed to complete on the day. Some common load management principles calculate that ideally my longest run leading up to the event should have been a minimum of 35 k’s. I complemented my long run with a shorter, quicker run in the middle of the week ranging from 9-15 k’s, as well as 1-2 sessions of approximately 4-6km worth of 500m-1km efforts. Additionally, I was able to continue strengthening with a combination of Pilates and gym. My ability to complete all these sessions was dependent upon a number of factors, and I’ll be honest in saying I didn’t complete all the sessions as well as what I would have liked. Having just finished a 22 game football season, my fatigue and intrinsic motivation was wavering. Some cold and wet mornings, as we often experience in Ballarat, the little voice won and unconsciously clicked the snooze button. Sometimes work or other commitments got in the way and I became time poor throughout those training days. What I realised was, albeit far too late, that what I required was someone to tell me to do the things that I didn’t want to do. Someone else to tell me how far to run, at what speed, on what day, in which shoes, and how long to recover for. By outsourcing my programming, I believe that little voice would have won less, I would have found more time, and I would have had an external third party providing motivation and support. This preparation process, in hindsight, reinforced the need for a) time, and b) a running program developer and c) a strong support network to provide external motivation.
Funnily enough, I felt fairly comfortable for the first 25-27km. From that point on, the mind and body began to increasingly expose chinks in the armour. To add insult to fatigue, we were struck with a heavy north-westerly head wind as we ran from Elwood back towards the city. As I ventured into unchartered territory, my severe lack of preparation became more evident. Cramping in both quads and a nagging foot ache, reminded me every step of the way that I was a fool for attempting it. Kilometres 36-39 were by far the hardest, “hitting the wall” and zapping the spirit. I eventually waddled my way over the finish line, 4 hours after leaving the starting gun.
As expected, I have never experienced such feelings of fatigue and soreness that I felt in the following 3-4 days. Both legs feel like they’d gained 20kg’s, walking in full stride seemed impossible, the stairs at work were twice as high as they were the week before, and any shift away from the anatomical position felt like a stretch. Also as expected, I’ve come out of the event with an injury. Ironically, the outside of my right foot exacerbates localised pain similar to a 5th metatarsal stress reaction/fracture. I took the precautionary steps of donning the dreaded “moon boot” to manage pain and aid recovery, and had the other Podiatrist, Tim, refer me for MRI because certain stress fractures of the 5th metatarsal are very difficult to treat. Thankfully, the MRI came back negative to bony pathology. However, I now have the enjoyment of managing a Grade 2 strain at the musculotendinous junction of the Abductor Digiti Minimi muscle. A very small, intrinsic muscle on the outside of the foot that allows the little to move. It shouldn’t hold me back too much from my Tuesday night Mens Tennis, or the commencement of Football training in November.
I make no apologies for the way I prepared, and the potential injury that has followed. By exposing myself to this type of event and training, I am better able to empathise with patients that enter the clinic and recite a similar training history. One of the major factors of many patients that seek our services is a “training error”. By creating my own training error, and ultimately creating an injury, I am better able to educate on the associated risks involved with increasing your training. Rather than paraphrase from a text book “they say not to do this, this or this”, I am instead able to say “I did this, it resulted in this, so I would recommend you do this instead”. Obviously it would have been more ideal without the injury and probably a bit more training, but I believe it adds further weight to my recommendations for consults to come.