Dear marathon running


Last Tuesday the ballot for the London Marathon 2015 opened. It closed later that day once 125000 people had registered. My Twitter feed was full of tweets from people who had entered, dreaming of their chance to run the race. While I’ve got to admit that part of me was tempted to chuck my name back in the hat again, I resisted.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have experienced the magic of running the London Marathon on two occasions now. I’m incredibly proud of what I achieved a fortnight ago and would love to give it another go again at some point. But, my fitness plans for the foreseeable future do not include marathon running and there’s a number of reasons for that.

Reason 1 – I want to lose fat

My primary goal right now is fat loss. I’ve lost of lot of fat in the last year or so and I’m pleased with my progress. But there’s still more fat than is strictly healthy on my body and I’m acutely aware of the fact that I’m not getting any younger. With type 2 diabetes and heart disease in my family I want to get to an ‘ideal’ level of fat sooner rather than later.

My experience over the last four months has proved something to me that I’ve known for some time. Marathon training and fat loss aren’t comfortable bedfellows. I’ve talked about this before but now I have the evidence as these sets of photos show.

On the left are photos taken 10 weeks apart after I’d been following Julia Buckley’s Inferno programme at the end of 2013. On the right are photos taken after 8 weeks of marathon training.

10 weeks fat loss8 weeks marathon

While the difference may not be staggering, it’s noticeable. 10 weeks of fat loss training and I’m smaller, in particular around my stomach which is my problem area for storing fat. 8 weeks of marathon training and the fat around my belly is coming back and I’m wider across the base of my back. I can feel it on my body too – my clothes all still fit but I know I’ve got more fat on my belly again and it’s not a feeling I like.

There’s a number of reasons why lots of long distance running isn’t great for fat loss – I talked about them in this post last year. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t enter the marathon with the aim of losing fat but if sustained fat loss is my goal then marathon training isn’t going to get me there.

Reason 2 – I find it a bit boring

The second reason is that frankly I didn’t enjoy the marathon training as much this time around. Long slow running on a regular basis is quite honestly a bit dull these days – give me my weights and High Intensity Interval Training sessions any day.

If I could just rock up to the start line of a big city marathon and run the race I think I’d run one every year. The atmosphere and experience is just amazing. But that’s not a very clever plan and one that would ultimately lead to some pretty damaging injuries I imagine. At the moment I’m not at all motivated to put myself through all the mileage that a training plan involves – and who wants to be following a training programme that they don’t enjoy?

Reason 3 – Marathon training broke me

The third reason is that I think I’ve got some issues to sort out with my biomechanics. A trip to the osteopath and then the Drs this week has more than likely diagnosed bursitis of the hip. That would explain the pain that I experienced during the training, the marathon itself and in the two weeks afterwards. I’ve got a referral to the hospital for an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis and then possibly a cortisone injection to look forward to.

Recent physiotherapy has suggested that I’ve got weak glute muscles on my the left hand side which could be the underlying cause of all this. Before I even think about taking on 26.2 miles again I want to sort out this imbalance through some targeted strength training.

Training with an injury and making that injury worse in the race itself wasn’t fun. In retrospect it also wasn’t particularly clever, but it’s done now and I need to concentrate on getting better and then addressing the issue. That’s going to take time.

Reason 4 – I want to be faster next time

Before I even contemplate entering another marathon I want to get faster. I want to be confident of finishing in under 5 hours, preferably quite a lot under. I am sure that I have that in me. But to really improve my running ability is going to take some time. The first goal is to get that fat off me which will also decrease my weight – the thing that I think will make a lot of difference. And then I’ll concentrate on getting quicker over shorter distances, before making the leap up to 26.2 miles again.

For all those of you who entered the ballot for London 2015 or are entering any other marathons then I wish you the best of luck. Running a marathon, particularly London is an amazing experience and I will never regret the two that I’ve run. I’m certainly not saying that I’ll never run another one, in fact I’m pretty sure that I will.

But for now, and the foreseeable future me and marathon running are on a break.

12 thoughts

  1. I should probably do the same but something is telling me to go for another marathon in the autumn before possibly trying for another baby. I also put my hat in the ring for london for 2015 too, so I guess I will just wait and see what happens!! I will be following your progress eagerly x

  2. Good luck with your plans Becca, it all sound very rational to me. I’m sure that you can still get the buzz of running races by doing 10k’s etc and working on your speed which won’t take up as much time Re fat loss there’s a really good book by Matt Fitzgerald called racing weight, which explains how people with lower body fat run faster etc.
    I’ve been really inspired by your posts, and yes I got up early to catch the ballot. I think a 1 in 3 chance is pretty good and I’m excited about the prospect of giving it a go, training starts now though! Good luck with the fat loss, I hope that you will keep us up to date with your progress. Best wishes, juliex

    1. Thanks Julie. I’ll still run some races for sure – I can definitely still get the buzz from shorter ones, it’s just the training for a marathon isn’t consistent with my goals right now. I’ve heard of that book – will have to look it up. And fingers crossed for the VLM ballot for you. Such a special race.

  3. My thoughts exactly! I had signed up for the Seattle RnR Full in June and I’ve decided to do the half now. My body needs to lose a lot more weight before I try another full, if I ever do. I’m happy to go out with my last one being Chicago ’13. I can stick with perfecting my half times. Glad to hear I’m not alone. Can I borrow your “Dear marathon” picture? It’s perfect for announcing my drop from thew full to the half. Hugs!

    1. Now Chicago might be a reason to run another marathon. It sounds amazing. But I’m totally with you on halfs over fulls. The training is so much less daunting while still being a challenge. And yes of course – borrow the picture!

  4. I am with you Becca. I am not sure I will run another marathon, apart from the one I will do on my day out in July. The training is long and bit dull. On the other hand I would run half marathons as often as I could. They are a nice digestible distance with a similar sense of achievement. Having said all of that, I did enter the VLM ballot!!!

    1. Your day out in July? Love it! I agree half marathons are the way to go. Challenging yet achievable without taking over your life. I’m sure in years to come I’ll be chucking my name back into the ballot for VLM as well – that race is such a special experience.

  5. I’m always pleased when someone realises that long distance running is not the way to lose weight. I find it hugely frustrating when I see people wanting to lose weight spending hours per week pounding the pavements or, worse still, the treadmill when there are quicker, easier, more effective ways of doing it. Thank you for sharing your experiences and good luck 🙂

  6. I share so much of your thought process. I went in for the ballot thinking I probably wouldn’t run next year but if I do get a ballot place I’ll defer and run it the following year. I really want to know I’m in the best possible shape to run it and know that I can go under 5 hours. I ran 5:20 this year which was disappointing but it gives me something to aim towards and whether it be next year, the following year or tens years down the line, I’ll make sure I do it! Good luck with you training!

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