Adam Davies says ‘I was not a runner’ prior to doing his first marathon. 16 years on he gives us his memories about his first marathon that then led to another marathon….and then an Ironman. The fact that he hasn’t done another marathon since then doesn’t matter – he has the medal and the memories to last a lifetime.
There are some great tips in here for first time runners so we hope you enjoy this next installment in our ‘My First Marathon’ series. By the way Adam, if you lace up a pair of running shoes and go running, you are a runner. And you are a marathon finisher…
What sort of running did you do before your first marathon and how long had you been running?
None. I’d run a bit in school and uni, but only very casually for things like Sport Relief. I was not a runner.
When was your first marathon?
2003. I’d entered the ballot for London, and to my surprise got in.
How long in advance did you agree or commit to do it?
After getting my ballot place, in December 2002. That’s when it became real.
What was the impetus for doing it? Who or what inspired / encouraged you to do it?
I started running after changing jobs. I was about to start driving to work and not walking between stations so decided I needed more exercise. Also, the company had a football team that I joined to bond more with my colleagues and I realised I needed to improve my fitness.
Having a friend who had done multiple marathons was a huge help. It essentially normalised something I couldn’t really comprehend. It also helped with the practicalities of training around what I should be targeting, good races to do etc. But I did also learn it was my race, and that I needed to adapt what I was being told to match my goals and capabilities
What was your first thought when you had said ‘yes’?
Did you plan to follow a structured training schedule? Did you follow it?
It was more milestone focussed, I picked races that matched where I thought I’d need to be by that time, and then trained towards them. I realised that I was very goal focussed and so needed those intermittent targets. It was also nice to run with people.
Did someone coach you?
No but I did get help from a couple of friends who had run marathons.
Were there others around you (friends / club mates / family) who were also training for a marathon? Did you train with friends? Were you a member of a club?
I prefer to run on my own usually. Running doesn’t come naturally to me and other runners would quite often annoy me. I got to be very selfish about my running – my routes at my pace. That said, I did get a lot of advice, from friends, and also from online communities.
Tell us about some of the highs and lows of the training
The 20 miler. I committed to a 20 mile race when I was, realistically at about half marathon standard. I then went to a wedding reception the night before. Although I didn’t drink, I also didn’t eat, so I turned up tired, undertrained and under-nourished. It was horrific. 2 laps of 10 miles and I blew up at mile 13. Until that day I didn’t understand what the wall/bonking/call it what you will was. I had nothing, completely empty. Pretty much finished last, couldn’t even run the final few hundred yards. I learnt a lot from that event, that I couldn’t just wing it as I had until that point. You learn more from the bad runs than the good.
Did you use a mantra to help you get round?
Next mile, next lamp-post, next dog, next corner, next *anything*
Did you stretch / warm up before, after or both?
Not initially, but I learnt to. Much more in warm down than warm up. I did start to use the first mile of a run as a bit of a warmup.
Were you injured during your training and how did you cope/recover?
Frequent niggles. As a new runner in my mid 30s and somewhat overweight, as my physio said ‘stuffs just going to break/not work that well. Accept it, mitigate it, recover and move on. It’s all you can do.
Can you remember much about the week leading up to the race?
I’d been looking forward to tapering, but just felt rubbish. After all the training to slow down didn’t really feel right.
When I went to register I was sitting on the Docklands Light Railway trying to pick out who the runners were, and I thought I’d spotted 5-6 after a couple of carriages of maybe 80 people. Then the train stopped and practically everyone got off. Runners come in all shapes and sizes.
Did you have a target time? If so, what was it?
To get under 5 hours. A friend had bet me I couldn’t. To my surprise, I did.
Tell us about race day – any particular memories?
I did London, so all the clichés about crowds, people calling out your name etc. I remember hitting Blackfriars underpass and it just got very quiet because there were no crowds there. Just runners, it was a great moment of calm and focus, of a shared experience, before hitting the last couple of miles. I also thought I might walk a bit at that point, but it was easier to run at that stage.
Did you have a lucky charm with you or superstition that you follow on the day?
No, although I did pee quite a lot
Was it harder than you expected, about what you expected or not as bad as you thought it might have been?
In the end it was probably a little easier. I stopped for a pee at about 23 miles and thought I might walk a bit, but it hurt more to do that, and I found that I could still run, so I did.
What time did you do in the end?
4:54. I didn’t have to look that up, you remember your first marathon time.
On crossing the line did you think “yes!” or “never again!”?
Never, ever again. Ever.
If “never again” how long did it take to change your mind?
I carried on with triathlons and so there was never a specific point point when I thought I’d go again, but I carried on entering London and 3 years later got another ballot place.
What were your highs and lows of the marathon experience itself?
Highs were definitely getting fitter, one of the biggest lows were the constant blisters. I have very flat feet and wish I’d discovered orthotics a lot sooner. My feet would regularly bleed after a long run, but it was all part of the experience, and it did make me look very hard.
What lessons did you learn about pacing/kit/nutrition before and after/advising spectators where to meet you?
- Run your own race. Know what your pace is and don’t get carried away or be forced into a pace or style that isn’t yours
- Whatever you’re eating, it probably isn’t enough
- Make sure your suppporters have a flag that is recognisable. You can buy a telescopic flagpole from e-bay for a few quid. Know where they are meant to be, but assume they won’t be in that exact spot. Start looking early, and carry on afterwards. And if you don’t see them it doesn’t matter, they may well have seen you. Also, don’t be too ambitious and expect to see them 6 times. Probably 2-3 times max, depending on the course.
How did you recover / celebrate?
I think I stopped running for a while.
In hindsight, what do you wish you’d known before the race that you know now?
The race itself went well. I should have sorted out my orthotics sooner. Nutrition is part of your training plan, its fuel, and if you don’t fuel up, you *will* stop.
Have you done marathons or other endurance events since? How many, which ones etc?
Yes, one marathon and then an Ironman. My first marathon gave me the confidence to start pushing the distance in triathlon, and moving to tri helped with the injury issues I got with a far more mixed training plan.
Did you parkrun before your first marathon – or do you now?
Too old, wasn’t invented. I did run in parks tho, so does that count?
What four pieces of advice would you give to some thinking about doing a marathon?
- Get proper trainers, got to a running shop and get fitted. And then buy some good socks
- It’s unlikely you will ‘run off’ that niggle. Rest and recuperate
- Some days you will just have a bad run. Its ok, look at it in context
- 3 Sausage rolls the night before a 20 miler is unlikely to be classed as a solid nutrition plan