From asthmatic to marathoner in 4 months: a Paris Marathon 2017 review

 

Part 1 – Training

I already had a decent aerobic base when I signed up for the Marathon, and was running 2-3 times a week, but  training officially started mid January. I had a remote running coach who told me what to do 3 times a week.

If you are interested in seeing all my reports week by week they were all loaded into STRAVA. But, in sum, the overall strategy was as follows:

Monday: Strength training / Boxing
Tuesday:  10km usually at marathon pace, sometimes stronger.
Thursday: interval training (for speed)
Friday: Boxing/Strength Training
Saturday: Long run, starting from 12k all the way to 26k
Sunday: RECOVERY. RECOVERY. RECOVERY.

I built the long runs distances gradually and I LOVED them. It was my favourite part. Except for one day when it was FREEZING COLD and RAINING so I had to stop at 18km.

It took some dedication, as I explained on my other post. I had to wake up super early on the dark as I was training during winter. So I prepped myself to success: organized the clothes the night before, think about a delicious breakfast to have after and all that!

FOOD & NUTRITION

I didn’t do any special diets or took lots of supplements.  Because I have a history of eating disorders I rather not tell anyone how to eat, but I have a varied diet, with lots of whole foods and lots of treats as well.  I was usually ravenous after the long runs and didn’t plan to use my marathon to loose weight (which is counter-intuitive).

A NOTE ON STRENGTH TRAINING

I worked with a PT and it dramatically improved my balance. I had surgery on my feet a while ago so my right foot is not that stable. Working on quads, balance and CORE was key. Before the marathon I had my gait analysed and it was almost completely balanced!!!!!!

You don’t need a PT to do exercises though. Planks, squats, lunges and press-ups can get you there (and maybe some skipping!). Lots of other runners do yoga for instance.

The point is: without  this aspect of my training I don’t think I would have achieved such a good first marathon with no injuries and fast recovery.

I recommend reading Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run for more info on this, as he is not only a record – winning ultrarunner but also a physiotherapist, and he succintly explains how important it is to have upper body strength and all around mobility as a runner. It is also good for your bones!

A FEW NOTES ON RECOVERY

1.     GET ENOUGH SLEEP

2.     GET ENOUGH SLEEP

3.     FOAM ROLL. I didn’t do this nearly as much as I should, but I did try to use it as much as I could and it helps so much.  I also have this stick which is great for when you are lazy and watching TV.

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4.     CRYOTHERAPY: again, not essential, but I became hooked to it. It involves stepping into a chamber which takes your temperature to – 140ºC. You could do a ice bath and probbaluy get similar benefits, but this does the trick in 3 minutes. As your body is suddenly exposed to extreme cold, it pushes the oxygen and helps reduce inflammation, recover muscle soreness and pain.  I did one session a month for 4 months and one two days prior to going to Paris and I felt ut did speed up my recovery from my longer runs.

PART 2: THE MARATHON

PRO TIP: we booked a hotel, which was 10-minute walking distance from the finish line. This is because public transportation can be chaotic after a massive event (we had trouble at the Lisbon Half Marathon) so that was the best idea ever.

As predicted, I was super nervous the day before the marathon, so it is a good thing I had a good sleep the day before that. Plan for that!

I separated all my gear the night before:

-Bib number

– Nike leggings (the one I used to do most of my long runs!)

BODYGLIDE chaffing stick (mainly for my armpits!)

– Brooks running shoes

– Stance Socks

– Fitletic Belt

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I also bought a bottle of coconut water and drank the whole thing the night before. This is the one thing I wish I had done more of: drink more isotonic liquids, not just water. More on that later.

Once I arrived at the race area I was hyper! It was just an exciting energy, something I had never experienced before. There is an endless rush of adrenaline. It did help that it was a beautiful day in Paris!

Runners were very friendly while we were waiting for our time to start. I arrived 1h30 before my time because my partner was running at an earlier time, but it gave me  time to go to the bathroom and chat to lots of people.

START

The first 10k were nice and gentle but, one hour into the race, it was over 10am and the sun was scorching hot at 25ºC. I felt very thirsty and didn’t carry a water bottle with me from the previous aid station (rookie mistake) so I slowed down until the next one.  On the next aid station I got two water bottles and carried one with me. That was the standard moving forwards and made a whole lot of difference!

In terms of nutrition, I had brought my beloved SpeedPom gels with me. I had one starting when the race  started and that was it. It was too hot and I couldn’t think about eating any more gels, but I did grab orange slices in almost every aid station. So refreshing! I tried to tune in and listen to my body the whole way, and not force too much because I didn’t want to get sick.

The Paris Marathon sees most of the famous landmarks so it was a beautiful way. The Notre Dame, Bois de Vincennes, such amazing views! And there were so many people cheering, I was shocked!

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Photo retrieved from http://www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com

There is something about feeling like part of that international running club:  all these people from all shapes and sizes and cultures just there, together, having fun.  I was literally smiling the whole way until km 32. That is when things started to get hard.

My legs were slowing down and felt very very heavy. I was sweating salt – a big sign of dehydration.

I had been drinking lots of water but water itself was not enough in that heat. It would have been best to have something with salt and sugar to hold the water because by that time it was noon and the sun was burning. People were throwing up in front of me all that time.

Note to self: bring a running cap!

That’s when I actually stopped at an aid station, had some oranges, one banana and drank a lot of water on the dot. I lost some minutes but as it was my first marathon I just wanted to finish strong!

KM35

By km 35 my legs felt like rocks! My pace slowed down and it was the first time I felt actually tired. But there was no way to stop. In my mind I knew I could do it – I didn’t have a time goal I just wanted to finish – so I knew I could.

It was a mind game at this point.

I blasted some music on my phone and kept thinking about all the podcasts I have listened to about ultra marathons and their challenges, how they can run 100 miles. Somehow, that kept me going. The public was incredible, cheering you on non-stop;  I was getting emotional!

Suddenly, when I crossed km 41, I felt light again. I ran fast until the end, with new found energy from all the adrenaline. At that point, I had tears in my eyes.

I felt proud of myself. I remembered all the times when I had  had to leave swimming classes because I was just to weak to go on.

If my 7 year old self could see me now!

Crossing the line, I was ecstatic, exhausted and exhilarated. I had crossed an internal finish line as well: I could now identify as a marathoner and no longer as an asthmatic. And that is a title I am not holding on to!

In short: people say that if you want to change your life you should run a marathon. It’s a cliché, but clichés are only so because they tend to be true.  Definitely for me!

 

PRO TIP:  don’t just sit down all day after the marathon! We walked a bit, walked to the train station and for the train I brought some compression socks and that was a big help!

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