Training for a marathon, or race of any considerable distance, is pretty time consuming. It can take over your life in a way. The early Friday/Saturday nights avoiding the pub so you can wake up and run long the following morning. Making excuses your non-running friends simply don’t understand – “you’re young, live a little.” I am living. Just a bit differently to the “norm”…whatever that is.
But sometimes real life does have to take the lead over training. You may have a hen do or wedding to attend. Other commitments. And that sometimes means a shift in your training pattern.
For me training for the Manchester marathon I’ve had to make a few adjustments, one of which meant running circa 19 miles before work. Before 9am. Twice.
The early morning long run is not something I’d recommend. And certainly not something which should be taken lightly. The fundamentals remain the same as with any long run, but there are a few tweaks.
Before a long run it’s essential to fuel properly. Something which you don’t really have time to do if you start running at 5.30am – unless you wake up at 4am. But doing that hinders another fundamental rule – getting a good night’s kip.
My strategy is to take on a lot more fuel the day before. Ensuring I had carb/protein enriched meals throughout the day. The morning of I wouldn’t have time for breakfast. A few protein energy balls, half a banana and a glass of water and off I’d go. Snack-size pieces, easy to digest. And of course on the run itself chew a few Clif blocs and (if I’m lucky enough to be running with my adidas fam, a small bag of fruit mid-way).
Don’t go to the pub the night before. Before the early long run I’d be sure to get at least 7 hours sleep. Yes you’ll probably have to get into bed earlier than you’re used to. Avoid that 3pm coffee, or late afternoon sugary snack. Switch off, read a book before bed. You’ll be in the land of nod before you know it.
I don’t mean forcing your friends into joining your long run at an ungodly hour (although if they do offer they deserve superhero status). Whenever I’m faced with an early long run I always make sure at least the middle segment is with friends. The first 10km I run alone. It’s early, no one else wants to be running. It’s hard. But knowing you’re running to meet people helps sustain the positive mindset.
The middle 10km or “happy hour” is always with friends. Be it beigel run, or adidas Runners, it’s a welcome distraction, forgetting the miles covered and miles which lie ahead.
The final push is always the hardest. Slugging it alone. But for me I focus on the post run reward. The food. The recovery. And somehow I usually end up gaining speed!
I probably make it sound easy, but it’s not. Early long runs take a lot of planning. They’re tough. They put your body through a lot. They aren’t for the faint hearted.