Whilst travelling around the world for almost a year, I failed to keep up with my fitness and this had to change, so I challenged myself to run the Metro Group Marathon in Düsseldorf where I had to push myself beyond my personal limits and unleash my inner athlete. It required hard work, strong dedication and determination, and now I share my runner secrets. I based the article on my own experiences to give valuable advice to fellow travelers, runners, and any individuals seeking another challenge. Here are the 5 runner secrets to make running a marathon a success…
5 Runner secrets to make running a marathon a success
- Training: Strong dedication and determination during the 17-week marathon training period ! Train with a time goal per mile. Use a sports watch to track your pace and distance (Nike+ also has a cool app to track your distance and to challenge your friends).
- The prep phase: Get enough sleep ! Eat and drink healthy ! Carb load at least five days prior to race day !
- Marathon strategy: Set yourself a goal time per mile and pursue it !
- The challenge: Keep hydration and nutrition top of mind, especially towards the end ! Bananas are the key !
- Go beyond your limits: Be ready to go beyond your limits and unleash your inner athlete ! Cheering up the crowd that comes to support the runners is a big encouragement. Last but not least, SMILE and enjoy.
One important thing before the marathon: stay healthy !
THE MARATHON SUCCESS FACTORS
Strong dedication and determination
With all the amazing traveling around the world I do, my fitness always comes a little bit short and so I decided to get back into my routine by casually entering another marathon where I had a goal to work towards; but more importantly I knew I had to train continuously to be prepared and succeed in this challenge. After intense training for several months, a healthy diet more or less (sometimes better, sometimes worse) – you know how it is – the day I had been working towards had come. The training plan until then included six days per week, which involved some strong dedication, but hard work does (did) pay off.
Marathon Training Plan
For my first marathon in London while researching on the Internet, I found a pretty good training plan on the Virgin London Marathon website and I now use the same source for the marathon in Düsseldorf. The training plans ask for a lot of commitment and dedication and offers three different kind of fitness levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced. For the London marathon, I trained with the intermediate plan reaching the finisher line in 3:38:07 hours. For the Düsseldorf marathon, I used the advanced plan to challenge myself a little bit more and ended up finishing in 3:30:19 hours.
Click here to download the PDF: beginner, intermediate, advanced.
All the plans have a 17-week training period, which involves easy runs, threshold runs where you have to go to your limit, interval runs, fartlek training, and a marathon pace to get used to a target pace during the marathon. During the training, you also learn about hydration and nutrition strategies, which play an important role in getting your body used to liquids and energy gels.
My experience plays a crucial role in keeping my energy going until the finish line. As a pre-plan fitness foundation to build on, you should do a 4-8-weeks steady run preparation. This pre-preparation is something I didn’t do myself, but it may be of great benefit to you. Sometimes, you feel that the weekly plan doesn’t fit your weekly schedule, so what I have done was to swap things around; for instance, after a long run on a Sunday, I preferred to have an easy run on Tuesday and then swapped it with the interval run from that day to Wednesday.
THE MARATHON PREP PHASE
This is probably another challenge for all of us! Getting enough sleep during a stressful work week and all the other things that are happening in your life is hard, but before a run or prior to a marathon race, sleep at least 7-8 hours.
Eat & drink healthy
Since the beginning of the year, I stopped drinking alcohol and started a new life, or to put it in other words, I started to be a new me. When I decided to do this, I didn’t even know that I was going to run a marathon. I also started to change my daily routine by eating healthy instead of junk food; and I can tell you that I feel so much better. I would be lying if I say that I only just eat salad and drink water, but most of the time, I try not to overload with carbs, sweets or sugary drinks. However, if I feel like eating something less healthy, I do because with the training plan, I burn so many calories, which even leads to unintentionally losing some weight. So, I can basically eat what I want.
Keep stretching & rolling
A couple of weeks before the marathon, I decided not to exercise in the gym anymore to focus on the race. During the training period, I stretched and rolled out my legs (with a black roll) after a run – something I would recommend doing !
Print a t-shirt with your name
I always did it and recommend to print your name on a t-shirt in order to get cheered by the supporters. This really can make a difference if you have supporters screaming your name and motivating you to the fullest !
Carb load at least five days prior to race day !
THE MARATHON STRATEGY
Target your time per kilometer and keep track with a watch
After my experience having run two marathons, I feel like sharing and giving recommendations to other to impart valuable advice to conquer the 26.2-mile marathon challenge. A crucial point that makes a difference is running a marathon with a set strategy in your head and following it during the race. This is very important because when you run in the big crowd, you easily tend to catch up to some other runner’s pace, and that’s why tracking every mile / km with a sports watch helps to pursue your marathon strategy. The one I used is the Polar FT4, but I would recommend the brand new Polar M400, which I will soon get!
THE CHALLENGE / RACE DAY
On race day, I got up 2.5h prior to the race. I used the roller to roll out my legs before I breakfast. Luckily, today I didn’t feel ill any longer or the tiredness that came with it, but the muscle ache in my legs was still there.
For breakfast, I had scrambled eggs, oatmeal with fruit and orange juice.
It was a very cold day and I was uncertain about my health, but I started stretching and jogging lightly 15 minutes before the start on my way to the start line.
Continuous hydration with water
Once I started the run, I hydrated mainly with water, energy gel (by PowerBar) and Gatorade. One of the biggest marathon mistakes is that runners wait too long to refuel. I would recommend fueling up after 30 minutes into the race, and I preferred a little sip rather than too much. However, I had to stop once to pee. I also used two energy gels at km 16 and 32.
Eating banana along the way
Bananas really did the job for me and provided me with the important energy I needed to push myself until the finish line. I ate them when offered at the pit stops.
THE PUSH TO GO BEYOND YOUR LIMITS
The legs say no but your mind says yes
Around km 30, I realised that everybody was slowing down; but with your marathon strategy in mind and on the target time per km on radar, you must keep pushing yourself. I felt like I was overtaking a lot of runners because I continued at the same pace. At km 32, I started counting down the last 10 km and, believe me, time didn’t seem to pass. I knew that my parents would be waiting at km 41, but running km 34 and 35, my parents still seemed far away. With every step I took from that moment getting closer to them and the finish line, I just couldn’t get it off my mind which made it so difficult. Finally reached km 39, I whistled to my parents on the other side, waving with my hands like crazy (ha ha) but then there was another 2 km ahead before the hug.
During that time, I still felt pretty good, very exhausted, and my legs said “no no, no more” but I kept doing my thing, which also included cheering on the supporters. I was still smiling while overtaking other runners and the supporters acknowledged it by saying to each other: “Look, this guy still seems to be fit compared to the others!” I finally made it to my parents, hugged them, and took an incredible selfie. This gave me a lot of motivation but I was totally forgetting how quickly the time had passed. After all the pain of the race, this was the moment I was so looking forward to before the last km prior to the finish line. Thanks for the great support and love to my parents. Who doesn’t like a selfie ?
… and then there was …
Pain is temporary, pride is forever
Yes, there was the finish line in sight running along the Rhine river edge in Düsseldorf with the remaining 300 meters to go – the cheering cheerleaders screaming my name, holding my GoPro selfie stick, and I still had a lot of energy to sprint through the finish line with the biggest smile on my face. I did it! What an incredible feeling after 3:30:19 hours.
Being nterviewed at the finisher line
The next moment I was interviewed by German legend, Wolf-Dieter Poschmann. He was pretty interested in my run and asked if I had been running with my GoPro and a selfie stick all the way. My response to that was “Let’s do a laola !” – and so we did. A couple more questions, another interview, and then I proudly walked to the tent where I had left my bag. I was feeling so happy chatting to everybody around me and still couldn’t feel any pain in my legs.
It was such a great feeling running through the finish line finally leaving behind the burden of the goal toward which I was training so hard. It finally paid off. After a few more moments of joy, I randomly found a tent with volunteers giving massages.
A secret FREE massage
After the run, probably the best thing I did was enter the massage tent. I had two girls massaging each leg. Pretty nice and I totally recommend every runner to look out for it.
The potential marathon aftermath
After the massage then I reached a point where I was freezing cold, shaking and overcooled. People around me actually got worried but the best thing you can do then is to hydrate with some Coca Cola and eat energy bars / sweets / etc.
A must do
I would that it’s a marathon rule to wear the medal the next day wherever you are going. It’s the pain that is temporary; pride is forever !
The Metro Group Düsseldorf marathon experience
The day before the race, I didn’t feel well, had muscle aches and felt like I was getting a cold, so I had to take some strong vitamins. The night before I even took something (Paracetamol) to avoid fever. The next morning I felt great. The race included tough weather conditions with just 4°, unexpected sunshine, hail and some rain, which didn’t bother me. The atmosphere along the track was good with a couple of street musicians encouraging fans with their music and bananas kept me going. I managed to take a selfie with my parents at km 41 – check ! – that took 30 seconds; I was smiling while running all the way; I got through the finish line with the biggest smile and my GoPro before I then was interviewed by a German legend, Wolf-Dieter Poschmann.
Running a marathon is something that should not be rushed; it demands dedication and needs a lot of preparation time in advance to build up your fitness !
Something that is really starting to annoy me is that most of my friends have started to acknowledge that I ran a marathon and achieved my time. Their reaction is pretty embarrassing because they just laugh in an arrogant way, which shows me that they think it’s easy and they underestimate the 26.2 miles (42,2km). They think I am crazy when I tell them that I like to go for a run on the weekend or in general. They think it’s stupid to just run and you know what, I would totally agree with that, but I still continue to do it because I I enjoy it, think its good for my fitness and I even able to organise things on my mind whilst running. It makes your mind free and I love it !
Frequently asked question: How did I prepare for the marathon and what plan did I use ? I decided to include some more detailed information about it and the choice to download some plans.
I TRAVEL FOREVER’s VIEW & RECOMMENDATION
Running the marathon was a great experience and I enjoyed every kilometer. I also loved that my parents came to support me on this personal challenge. We even went together discovering Düsseldorf. Ha ha.
The marathon brings together people who care about you, but I missed the real social factor – the get-together afterwards ! But I guess everyone is so tired that they just want to rest. There are after parties so if you feel like it, go, connect and make some new friends.
Thanks a lot to everyone to support me, especially my parents. After smashing the marathon, it was time to smash some food !