Marathon Training : One bad workout doesn’t mean a bad race!

Saturday was the third of my TLT long runs, and should have been a great run. The weather was perfect, the route also good, allowing me to run an errand (the assistant displayed a great sense of humour as I stood there in running gear, sweating like crazy), as well as taking in a route around Regents Park and the Regents Canal in London, all while allowing the ‘mechanics’ of a TLT run to be completed. Despite all this in my favour, the run sucked. Like ‘worst run I can remember’ sucked. Like one of those runs where the language to describe it is suitable only for blogs like AngryJogger

So what went wrong? I don’t really know. I just know that is was going well until around the 14km mark where I saw my pace dropping off and my fatigue rising quickly. The next 2kms were a real slog, as the fatigue and pain started to set in. At the 16km mark I resorted to that great trick – mind games – telling myself “it’s only 10km left, a doddle! Just keep running” and employing another trick I learnt from Hal Higdon – “if the pace hurts, change it”. Slower was worse, so I went faster, figuring at least I’d get home faster. This seemed to work. The pain and fatigue didn’t get worse and I was at least on pace, until I hit the 20km mark and the wheels really started to wobble….


I stopped in a Tesco (another obliging assistant dealing with a sweaty man in running gear), got myself a drink, had a gel, gritted my teeth and ran on. Getting back up to pace just wasn’t happening so I contented myself with a bit of mental positivity – “you’re still running, and that’s enough”. The 22km mark came and it was time for a 2km threshold to finish the run. You guessed it! This is where the wheels fell of and the engine blew up as well! I got through about 600m, saw it was all falling apart and just forced myself to get to the 1km mark, where I just simply stopped running. My body had called it quits, spat the toys out of the pram and given me the finger. I felt like this…


Walking was even a slog. It took me about 10 minutes of walking before I could face the Sainsbury’s near my house (the third obliging assistant dealing with a sweaty runner, this time a sweaty runner with a pale face and wearing a scowl) to pick up some bananas and a chocolate milk for some recovery.

What a bonk! A completely bonked run. Needless to say at the time I was shattered and pretty disappointed, however after some stretching (and some chocolate milk) I recalled a Running Competitor article about rebounding from a tough marathon workout and I decided to review my run to find the positive lessons and any areas where I could benefit from improvement. Here are the things I’ve learnt:

1)        Shit happens. A bad run will happen from time to time, often without any real reason; just sometimes a lot of inconsequential (and even unknown) factors line up to make a run go badly. Get over it!

2)        A bad run is NOT indicative of a bad race. It’s one run in dozens of runs that culminate in a race. Multiple bad runs are a sign which requires further investigation. One bad run is a statistical blip which should be reviewed, but not over analysed and NOT used as a predictor of failure.

3)        The feeling of pain, exhaustion and needing to find the willpower to continue reminded me what the closing stages of a marathon feel like. Maybe the run wasn’t particularly good for race preparation, but it was bloody useful mental preparation.

4)        Hal Higdon was right. Going faster can make you feel better, even if it is only temporary, and at least you’re getting to the finish line faster!

5)        I need to work on my fueling and hydration while running. I was more dehydrated than I expected after the run. Even though it was cool, the sun was up and I had obviously not been taking in enough fluid. I should have drunk to my thirst and got replacement fluid earlier.

6)        I probably need the cutback week that I have in my schedule this week more than I think. I will NOT be tempted to re-run the same work-out to try and do it better. I’ll just stick to my schedule and trust in the training. It was designed by someone who has completed a lot more races than me and has coached many more people to success.

So, where now from here? Onwards and upwards of course! It’s a new week, a new month, and the forecast looks like more running!

Positive running everyone!


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About getgoing-getrunning

Hi, I’m Bernie and I’m a just guy who writes about the things which get me going and get me running, even though my running is never going to result in me standing on a podium!

Posted on September 3, 2013, in Marathon Training, Positive Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Those long runs that fall apart can be discouraging, but it looks like you have the right attitude.
    You mentioned that you need to work on your fueling and hydration, that’s what these long runs are for. On race day you need to have these things pretty well figured out in order to have your best race possible. The long run is not always/often fun, but it is educational.

    • Thanks! You’re right – It’s much better to have a bad long run in training than not know how to cope with it when it starts to go awry in the marathon!
      Fueling/water management certainly is an issue. The issue with this long run was not planning out my refuel spots beforehand, for instance I had a gel with me, but no water to have it until a few km too late. I’m sorted for the race though, I’ve got my shorts with pockets on the hips to carry gels and there are very frequent water stations in the race.
      On a more positive note, despite bonking my last long run, the TLT sessions seem to be working. I did a 5km threshold run last night and got a new PR for 5km distance.
      Well, to be fair, it’s ‘AG’ – i.e. After Garmin – I can remember being able to do 5km in about 22 minutes about 17 years ago, so my time last night was the fastest since having my Garmin, i.e. in a few years. There’s probably a blog post in that story somewhere…

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