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Solo Marathon Tips and Recovery

It is two days after my solo marathon on Boxing Day and I actually felt like I could go for a run today. I didn’t as I have a slight hangover from visiting friends, but I could have run without problems.

I thought I should write a list of things to ensure I would be better prepared next time, so here goes:

1. Only wear clothes you have run in before. No new clothes as you have to be sure you will not get chaffing issues. I was wearing shorts under some thermal skiing leggings and had some discomfort from them gathering as I ran. I was able to get away without any soreness due to making a few ‘adjustments’ while I was running.

Ensure you have your clothes ready the night before so you don’t end up hunting around for things at the last minute.

At my seven mile stop I ditched my hoodie at my car but didn’t want to take off the leggings yet. Top tip: if your hoodie has string pulls to adjust the hood, tuck them inside the neck hole before you start running so that they don’t whip your chin as you run!

2. Wear good socks. I use smart wool socks as I find that they wick any sweat away and reduce the chance of getting blisters. I had none from this run. Hurrah. I keep my toe nails short so none were lost or blackened.

3. Ensure your shoes are properly broken in. If I were to put a number on this, at least 30 miles of wear on shoes before running to ensure that they will be comfortable and won’t rub.

4. Eating. Yes, eating is an important part of the preparation. Running a Boxing Day marathon makes this difficult as the day before is Christmas. Late and large breakfast. Late and large dinner. Lots of sugary snacks. Alcohol. All of these will sabotage your preparation. I need to ensure I eat more of the right things before I do these long runs. I only had one ‘drink’ on Xmas day so I did that bit right, but it is so tempting to have more. We had a veggie tofurkey feast but I only had three slices which probably wasn’t enough protein. I should have had more potato too.

5. Snacks for the run. I ran unsupported which means I was solely responsible for taking the right foods. Making an eating plan is important, using foods you are familiar with. Do not introduce new items on a run of this length. Unfortunately, I dropped one packet of Clif shot blocks as I got into my car so I was immediately restricted a little compared to my eating plan. If you are doing your own run try to do a circuit so you can pick things up at your car while partway through. This also gives you the option of bailing if you get injured.

6. Hydration Plan. It was winter. It was 34F. I still drank 2.5 20oz bottles of water while on the run and then went to the store after for two large coffees (decaf) and two cokes. Either carry enough or plan a route via water fountains remember that some public water fountains will be turned off in the winter! Drinking extra water a few days before is a good idea.

UPDATE: the hydration plan should also extend to the week after the run. I did not pay attention to this and suffered badly with what I will call ‘liquid bottom’. Keep drinking more water or gatorade through the week following the marathon. Try to avoid having too many celebratory drinks (NYE 2014/5) as that is what triggered it for me.

7. Toilet stops. Running that distance will probably mean you’ll need a bathroom break at some point. If you know where some are, plan to go that way. Toilet blocks (buildings) are often nicer than porta-loos (porta potties).

8. Breakfast. Make sure you have sufficient breakfast before you start out. Carbs like toast and bagels are probably better than a bowl of cereal as you may not want all that milk sloshing around.

9. If you are starting pre-dawn you may need extra layers and a light. You might want to plan a short loop back so you can drop these things off at your car (say, after 6 miles or so).

10. Tell someone where you are running, or run with someone else for sections of the route. Wear a RoadID (or equivalent) band. Have a phone with you for emergencies. If you are a member of a running club, start with them and make use of them having multiple groups starting out. Run with the 6am group, then the 7am group, for example.

11. Weigh yourself before you start and after you finish. This is a good indication as to whether you’ve successfully hydrated. I was exactly the same weight after the run.

As for recovery, I had a fairly restful day but didn’t nap to recover. I ensured that I rolled out my thigh and calf muscles that evening and the next morning.

Stairs are a bit of a challenge after a run of this length so be prepared to have to use the bannister or scramble on all-fours. Avoid carrying children up or down stairs for a day or so.

Drink plenty of fluids and monitor your weight.

You will be extra hungry for a few days. Do not deny yourself as it is a part of the recovery process. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway!

Do you have any tips to add ?