Posts Tagged ‘Diabetes UK’

London Marathon Training: Week 6

The wall.

Last Saturday was my longest run so far; about 12 miles. Not even a half marathon and I was knackered, although I was pushing quite hard. The snow made it interesting and I came close to breaking my ankles about three times. At about mile 10 my body started to feel quite heavy and I could only really manage a slow jog, just above walking pace (about 8 kmph for those who use a treadmill often). Annoyingly, at mile 9 I was feeling fantastic and was bounding along like Neil Armstrong so why the sudden lull? 

The Berlin Wall - or what's left of it...

Stupidly, I was so keen to get the long run out of the way on Saturday morning that I didn’t eat or drink enough. I had 2 slices of toast, a glass of water and a dash of insulin. In retrospect this was hardly enough to last the best part of 2 hours but I guess there’s no substitute for experience so next time I’ll kick-off a little better prepared. But it did get me thinking about the body’s energy supply and the dreaded ‘wall’ I keep hearing about.

For those that are not aware, the wall is best described as a virtual barrier the body struggles to get through once it has depleted its energy supplies. During a marathon race, usually at around the 20-mile mark, the liver and muscles run out of the much-needed glycogen supplies that provide energy to the legs and arms. Once this happens the body will switch to another energy source, fat. Unfortunately, burning fat for energy is far less efficient and the body grinds to a halt. Symptoms? Exhaustion, weakness, dizziness and even hallucinations. Check out this poor bloke who hits the wall in the final 200m of the London Marathon. I don’t like the look of that at all; the body not even having enough energy to walk like a normal person. 

Annoyingly, most marathon training plans won’t actually set you off on a full 26-mile practice run before the big day. In fact, almost all of them cap off the maximum distance at around 20 miles before tapering off a couple of weeks before race day. So we’ll never actually experience the wall until we’re being watched by half-a-million people, at which point you’ll probably just want to curl up into a ball and die!

So how do you prepare for the wall? Think P.C.D. (no, not the Pussycat Dolls. But hey, whatever works for you).

  • Pace
    Keeping to a steady pace during a run can be very difficult. The top athletes have pacers who tag-team around the marathon course keeping the athletes bunched together so they don’t travel too fast and burn out at the end. There may even be pacers within the masses that you can run with (Runner’s World offer free pace groups). Alternatively, wear a bench-mark bracelet that you can pick up on the day that will give you your correct split-times that you’ll need to stick to.
     
  • Carbs
    Many marathoners (marathoni?) will over-load on carbs during the two days up until the race and decrease their training regime to allow the body to store the glycogen levels for the big day. Also, consuming carbohydrates during the race is a must. Most sports drinks will suffice but some also like to experiment with sports gels at around the 15-mile mark and pre-empt hitting the wall.
     
  • Determination 
    If you do ‘bonk’ (another cracking term for wall hitting) then you’re not going to get through it without a little will power. Having your friends and family there at mile 20, cheering you on will give you a huge boost so make sure you round up your friends and get them to shout inspiring abuse at you at strategic points around the course.

Two pints of Golden Syrup and a pack of sugar please.

Apparently, experiencing the wall is similar to the effects of hypoglycemia due to the low blood-sugar levels. I’m diabetic and have had my fair share of hypos. They’re not pretty and I’m understandably nervous but I’m sure with some experimentation I’ll be OK. If any of you have any suggestions, tips or previous experience then I’d love to hear from you. Although I have had a lot of practice at hitting real walls (I live with my girlfriend), I’m in new territory here.

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Marathon training begins:

…as it seems to have done for a lot of others!

Last week marked week 1 of a 16-week training programme for the intermediate runner. As an intermediate runner I should be comfortable with ‘4-5 hours a week and have previously completed a marathon or 10k race’. Last year I ran in my first race, the BUPA London 10k, and ran a fairly respectable time of 55 minutes.

Before Monday I hadn’t run until before the Christmas break so I’m feeling a little soggy around the mid-section. I’d normally combat this by ‘sucking in’ but trying to do that while running for 1 hour+ is a joke. To be fair, it’s not like I’ll be grabbing any phone numbers as I whisk by (crawl by).

I’d managed to secure a place in the London Marathon 2009 back in November. I applied through the open ballot registration immediately after the 2008 marathon but apparently you either have to be Gordon Ramsey or have run in a marathon a few times before to even dream of getting a place this way. The 10k I ran was for Diabetes UK (I’m a type 1 diabetes sufferer) and I raised just under £600 for them but that didn’t count at all and I couldn’t secure one of their 80 places. I then managed to secure a place running for the MS Society (my sister-in-law suffers from MS), but not before I was denied a place at first and had to be put on their ‘reserve’ list. I thought the hard part was supposed to be the marathon itself!

This week I’ve done 4 hours training. 2 of those were on the treadmills in my local gym. I love running on the treadmill, especially when someone glides up next to me all confident, runs for 20 minutes and walks off bright red in the face, breathing so hard that his personal trainer can hear him while he’s creeping off to the changing room for a cigarette (I would have used the word ‘fag’ but my gym is gay friendly). I look over all smug out of the corner of my eye and mouth ‘pah’.

But the 2 hours of outdoor running leave me feeling pretty pathetic. My attire consists of a grey hoodie, jogging bottoms and a black hat (I look like Rocky) but in the area where I live (Blackheath – the starting place of the London Marathon) there are some supreme athletes. They must be on the same training schedule as me because the number of joggers I’ve seen this week has tripled, and their pace is twice that of mine. I see one of these joggers every morning on my way to work, he passes me at the same point on the pavement. He’s always bounding past and it’s gotten to the point where we exchange the slightest of nods as if to say,

“Morning Ronald McRunner. Legging it again today I see?”
“Yes, I’m awesome.”

I either need a jogging partner (to keep pace with) or I’ll have to start following one of these supreme joggers around as they run. If I’m not in prison for stalking this week I’ll let you know how I’m getting on.

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