In the next in our series of articles about running your first marathon we bring you some tips and wisdom from Susie Chan! For someone who only really got into long distance running around eight years ago, Susie has packed in a LOT of racing. Whether it is all six of the World Marathon Majors, four Marathon de Sables, numerous ultras or being a ubiquitous presence on social media she is a great advocate of the fun and enjoyment of running.
What sort of running did you do before your first marathon and how long had you been running?
I had run 2 half marathons before signing up to that first marathon. Not much experience to be honest!
When was your first marathon?
How long in advance did you agree or commit to do it?
About 5 months in advance, I went to do it with a group of Friends who I did a bootcamp style fitness class with.
What was the impetus for doing it? Who or what inspired / encouraged you to do it?
Just being with a group of people who all encouraged each other, during the training and build up.
Did you plan to follow a structured training schedule? Did you follow it?
Yes, I downloaded one online and religiously followed it! I don’t think I missed a day, I was terrified of failing.
Did someone coach you?
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?
Not a member of a run club, but a member of a fitness group.
Tell us about some of the highs and lows of the training.
Like with any training, there are some days its such a chore. Especially the long runs by yourself. Rainy days, days you feel too tired. Then there are days when you can feel yourself improving and it’s worth it!
Did you use a mantra to help you get round?
Not that first time. I just kept on thinking of the finish line. I thought about it every time I felt like stopping.
Did you stretch / warm up before, after or both?
Nope. Probably should have done ha ha!
Were you injured during your training and how did you cope/recover?
No. I was lucky that first time. I took the miles up steadily.
Can you remember much about the week leading up to the race?
I remember overeating all week as I was running a marathon on the Sunday. I was eating way way too much to avoid hitting the wall!! Carbs 3 times a day 7 days a week.
Did you have a target time? If so, what was it?
I wanted to go sub 4hrs. I was hell bent on it. Ha ha!
Tell us about race day – any particular memories?
I can remember being very very stressed at the start. So full of nerves. It was by far the worst bit. I then fell over really badly at around mile 14, and things just got harder and harder from there. The 4 hour pacer passed me at about mile 20 and there was nothing I could do to catch him up.
Did you have a lucky charm with you or superstition that you follow on the day?
Was it harder than you expected, about what you expected or not as bad as you thought it might have been?
Harder than expected. I had put too much pressure on myself and tied myself to a finish time, which on reflection, was a bit silly. I should have just focused on finishing. I was fine in all my training, but on race day I felt worn out by mile 13.
What time did you do in the end?
On crossing the line did you think “yes!” or “never again!”?
I think both those thoughts came into my head within seconds of each other. Then you wake up, broken, the next day and want to do it all again. At least I did. I knew I had to try again to go under 4 hours.
What were your highs and lows of the marathon experience itself?
It’s like the best and worst day of your life. Miles 18 – 20 can feel like it impossible! Everything hurts and you feel like you have so far to go still. But its such a wonderful feeling crossing the line.
What lessons did you learn about pacing/kit/nutrition before and after/advising spectators where to meet you?
I didn’t really do this. I was very new to running so carried far too much gels/jellybeans etc and didn’t really take them or fuel/take on water well at all.
How did you recover / celebrate?
Beers and pizza. That’s one thing that’s never changed post marathon!
In hindsight, what do you wish you’d known before the race that you know now?
Not to get so stressed about it. Think I burnt more calories on nerves prior to the start than I did running!
Have you done marathons or other endurance events since? How many, which ones etc?
Loads. Including the six world marathon majors. Marathon des Sables 4 times, lots of ultras. I love running.
Did you parkrun before your first marathon – or do you now?
Nope. But I do now! They are such brilliant initiative. Every time I come away from a parkrun I feel invigorated by the running community.
What four pieces of advice would you give to some thinking about doing a marathon?
- Do it! you wont regret it.
- Make sure you build up miles steadily.
- Try not to get too nervous at the start, do not put a time pressure on yourself for that first race
- Test out your kit and nutrition prior to race day, and when the going gets tough, keep pushing forward because you WILL make the finish line!