The Trials and Tribulations of Marathon Training

Marathon training

The nature of marathon training is so tough that niggles, illness and missed training are a common part of the marathon plan process. The need to get the long workouts in and the volume of time spent running can make you so susceptible to being on the sidelines. This is where the monitoring side of training is so important. When training for a marathon, it's so crucial that you get the really small things right when it comes to managing your body. That extra set in the gym or the extra walk snuck into the week can really impact the load put through the body. I always liken Marathon training to being like the perfect test match innings. The batter comes to the crease, and they accumulate runs through well-placed and well-timed shots. If the player comes and plays too many shots too early, then they are very quickly walking back to the pavilion. Similarly, if they aren't willing to play a shot at all, then they don't see any progress on the scorecard! When training, you shouldn't be taking risks to get yourself fitter. You should be trying to accumulate work week on week. The consistency of banking that time week on week without taking risks but running hard when required enables you to build up the necessary volume, workload and fitness in order to achieve your goal.

It's easy to become linear in our thinking

It is so easy to get caught up in the here and now when it comes to both running and sports. When faced with a huge goal, we can become very linear with our thinking and one-dimensional. Especially endurance runners! The mental strength and the single-mindedness do not aid us here! Always keep in mind what the long-term consequences of any action are. If making a choice exacerbates the initial issue, then this leads to a longer period of time away from running in the long term. Which in turn puts you further away from the goal! I am a firm believer that when an issue occurs, take stock, practise a pause and focus on doing the small things right so that you only have to get over the issue once rather than taking shortcuts and it taking longer and becoming a more frustrating process!

Despite the frustrating last few weeks, Mel's enthusiasm and drive to get back has been fantastic. After a short break from training we are now currently working on building back the mileage with the hope of starting to race in the early summer period. The aim is to use this setback as a really good time to press the reset button and make sure that we are doing everything right in order to progress this summer. The short-term aim is to build back to getting some structured interval work within the next few weeks before focusing on a half marathon later on in the year.

Previously, in the Building a Runner Series, we had both Joseph Shirley and Mel Hayes targeting this year's London Marathon. Joseph's aim was to target a Good For Age Time, and Melissa to try and achieve the Championship start time for the 2025 event.

The training block started well for Mel and Jo

The block for both runners started well; although Jo was on the return from a niggle over Christmas, he was putting together some really good workouts. Mel was taking to the Long Runs really well and enjoying some increased volume in this block compared to the previous year's prep for the Manchester Marathon. However, when we got to February/March time things became difficult for the pair of them. Jo was struck down with the horrible cold/flu that went around this winter, wiping him out for two weeks with no running. Around three weeks later, Mel picked up a niggle in her groin, which just wouldn't subside and go away.

What do you do when things don't go to plan?

It can be so frustrating when things don't go to plan from both an athlete's and a coach's perspective. As an athlete, all you want to do is lace up, get your SKINS kit on and put the work in to help you achieve that goal. As a coach, all I want is to get my athlete back on track as soon as possible! This is where it's really important to have both short-term and long-term goals in mind in order to ensure the athlete comes back to fitness properly!

Specifically, with Mel's injury it was one where we could have if we really needed to run through it and get her to London to try and achieve her goal. However, in doing that, the risk of serious long-term injury was so high. The risks really outweighed the benefits. So, after a long time deliberating and taking all of the information we had into account, we decided that it was best for Mel to pull out of London for 2024. Having to pull out of your target race is one of the worst feelings in running. That is the main message I want to emphasise with this piece: goals are moveable, and the long-term approach should always be kept in mind!

A note from Mel

The phrase us runners hope we never have to say... I am injured! So unfortunately, this has massively impacted my running mileage.

Early March I picked up what felt like a little niggle in my hip after one of my long runs.. I've been working alongside my coach Josh and a physio to try and devise a plan to return. It's been a challenging six weeks. I've cycled, completed workouts on the elliptical and focused on strength training to try and maintain fitness but also allow my hip time to recover. I'm not quite pain-free yet but I am certainly in a lot less pain and hopefully moving in the right direction.

We've had to make the difficult decision to pull out of the London Marathon. I'd have loved to take part in the event, even running at any easy pace, (I've never ran London before), but the fact that I still can't run pain free, we've had to take the sensible decision to not push it and focus on recovery.

Instead I am using this time to mentally prepare myself for a huge comeback.. I've set some bigger goals for this year and I'm hungrier than ever!