Trail Marathon Wales; What I Learnt Training For My First 26 miles
First off, if you’re looking for a fast time or a walk in the park, this may not be the post for you. However, if you fancy a real challenge in the most beautiful environment with an amazing atmosphere, let me tell you about Trail Marathon Wales and everything I learnt while training for it.
Salomon’s Trail Marathon Wales is a 26.4ish mile trail run based in the beautiful forest surrounding Coed Y Brenin, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. The course is fully marked and keeps you constantly entertained with everything from single track to forest roads, all while travelling through some incredible scenery. With 1200m of height gain it really is a challenge!
Why did I chose it? Why do something by half! I chose Trail Marathon Wales for my first marathon because of the location and the challenge that came along with the terrain. I never planned on gaining a certain time, I simply wanted something to work towards. Finishing the marathon was a great achievement, even if it did take 6 and half hours! It definitely wasn’t easy, but every second of it was enjoyable. A few moments that stand out were the beautiful downhill single track, the footbridge over a gorge that literally stopped me in my tracks with its beauty and the ‘does this ever go downhill’ feel of the second half (It did, thank goodness!). And of course we can’t forget the good ol’ ‘Sting in the tail’, a killer bit of uphill that shows it ugly face just when you feel like you’re going to nail the first half of the race. I had decided to walk any steep uphill to save energy for flatter sections, so I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty taking my time up that!
I wasn’t the fittest when I started training for the marathon, I ran a fairly flat road half in 2015 and couple of adventure races and that’s as far as my running career has got. I’m also rather slow, I don’t always run to beast myself, more to enjoy being outside and burn a few extra calories.
The thing is, if you don’t want it to be, this marathon is not about winning or beating yourself up if you don’t get a certain time. It’s a celebration of running through beautiful places, It’s a chance for likeminded outdoor enthusiasts with a slightly sadistic side to get together and have some fun. I loved every minute of it and ill definitely be back next year, and probably at the winter half too. Because why wouldn’t you want to run it in winter when the mountains are white, trees are frosty and the ground is hard? Imagine how great a glass of red and your down jacket will feel after a few hours of enjoying that beauty!
Thinking about it? Go on, you know you want to come and play too!
Here’s 5 things I learnt while training:
don’t let them put you off, it was all worth it!
1. It’ll take over your life and thoughts, even on the days you’re not running.
As soon as my long runs were over, I’d be planning the next route. Each week I’d have to plan my shorter runs around what I was already doing, trying not to run after a mountain walk, taking into account various evening activities and allowing for rest days. Also, Friday/Saturday/Monday (insert other day in here) night drinks? Running hung over sucks and your sweat will smell like cider. Your social life now revolves around running.
2. Long runs hurt, but you feel great afterwards.
Anything past 15 miles and my body starts to shout at me. Even after some longer training runs, it’s still hard. Push yourself that bit further and you’ll start to feel amazing. The ‘long runs’ you were doing early on in your training will soon feel easy leaving you feeling like a ninja, running through the hills with a big grin on your face.
3. Fuelling your body is important, all of the time.
Before: I had thought that I needed to eat and then let it go down for at least 2 hours before my run. However, by this point by body is ready for more energy and caffeine is in no way sufficient! Eating a banana before heading out will keep my stomach happy and energy levels high enough for at least the first 45 minutes.
During: Gels, dried fruit, Granola bars. I tried so many different fuel options during training in order to find which ones irritated my stomach the least. I found that a mixture of dried fruit and certain gels kept my energy up when I consumed them every 45 minutes or so.
After: Something small is all I can handle for an hour or two after a long run so a protein smoothie and an ice lolly are my go to. I then try and get a more substantial meal of carbs and protein in after I’ve showered and stretched.
Between runs: Drinking alcohol, especially the night before a run really affects performance. As does eating icecream, cocopops and crisps for dinner, they just don’t have the nutrients your body needs. A balanced diet with plenty of complex carbs, proteins and veggies will help your body to recover during training and give you the energy you need to keep it up.
The most important thing to remember is that everybody is different. Eat healthily and find what works for you as early on in training as you can.
4. You actually need to stick to your training plan.
Early on in my training I figured I had loads of time and didn’t always prioritise my long runs. This meant that when it got to 2 months before, I was piling on the mileage at a faster rate than I’d have liked and didn’t do the 20 miles I needed to 3 weeks before race day. Furthermore, because you’ve missed a week it takes a little longer to get your mind into the run and your legs need an extra pep talk in the last mile or two. I did however got to mile 19 and celebrate a bit that I had run the furthest I’d ever run. then I realised I had 7 more miles.
5. It’s All in Your Head
Your legs giving up? Nope. that’s your head. Too tired to train today? In your head. Feel like you’re going to die the day before the race? Not food poisoning, that’s in your head too. It’s amazing what your brain can do to your body. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are strong and get out and do it anyway. It’ll all be worth it!
Now please excuse me while I stuff my face, drink wine and spend some quality time with my yoga mat.