Running Tech & Tips - A First Time Marathon Runner's Experience
One of our lovely Onetrack club members ran their first marathon recently and have been kind enough to share with us how things went. We've broken down their experience into two parts: Part 1 covered recommendations and feedback on running gear & shoes, and Part 2 will cover tech & tips.
Have a read and let us know what you think, what kind of tech do you like to use on your runs? Do you have any tips you'd like to share with us?
A Onetracker’s Marathon Notes:
Rather than advice or recommendations, this is a summary of my findings through my marathon journey, I’ve included a few links which will hopefully save some time or help progress something you’ve been thinking about. Everyone’s journey is a personal one so what worked for me might not work for you but I hope something does.
NB: I have no affiliation or commercial relationship with any of these products or websites. I also have no professional qualifications so any information is subjective and should be researched independently (or run by Fletch!).
Let's Talk Tech
The Peloton digital app was an easy win for structured sessions to push me harder when I was training on my own without a marathon program. The outdoor sessions are a little limited but on tired days I found it helpful to have a coach talking in my ear alongside the music. The treadmill sessions have more variety and again I found I worked much harder with a 30-minute interval session than if I’d just gone to the gym and done a run on the treadmill. With 30 days free, and £13.99 a month after is a pretty reasonable addition to your program and helps break the monotony.
Google Maps is great for a lot of things but city running routes is not one of them, it's difficult to overrule the proposed routes (e.g. to avoid Oxford St) and the timing doesn't suit running paces.
I found the https://www.komoot.com/ app was an intuitive interface for planning your own routes with some neat tools (e.g. out and back) and the timing of guidance was just right for running meaning I didn't have to keep getting my phone out even on urban commutes.
I’ve had the Garmin 235 for a couple of years and have always liked its simplicity and found the app is pretty intuitive. If you don’t have a running watch and are thinking about getting one don’t be afraid of getting an older model and saving the money. There isn’t that much that has changed in the last few years that will impact an amateurs runner’s performance or any new metrics you’re missing out on – I never did manage to work out my optimum stride length…
Outside of recording all my training, the main benefit I got was using the interval session functionality to help follow my training program. For both treadmill sessions and outdoor it really took the pressure off once I’d started the session. Setting up the sessions could be a slicker interface in the Garmin app but I found after a couple of weeks you could just edit the previous session and it didn’t take long at all. Having that setup meant I could focus on form and how I was feeling rather than monitoring time elapsed or calculating when to stop the next set.
As I mentioned, feeling free is important for me when running (or commuting for that matter) and that definitely meant no wires. I’ve been running with the B&O E8 for a year after picking them up in a sale and have been really impressed with the performance. They can get a little squidgy with sweat or if it’s raining but stay in place surprisingly well and the touch controls work most of time if you need to skip a track or listen to the outside world without out stopping to get your phone out.
My Strategy For The Day
Nutrition and Hydration
In the past, I’ve had all sorts of stomach issues during endurance events due to jamming down gels or not understanding the mix of fuel I was taking on. For this program, I decided I was going to experiment with natural fuel and I found it made a real difference to my stomach et al. I also experimented with putting together my own mixes and found things like dried mango and Lara bars gave similar amounts of carbohydrate and protein as the artificial products. A guilty pleasure was Kendal Mint cake for the last stretch of long runs…
On the hydration and electrolyte side coconut water, pomegranate juice and a pinch of salt replaced artificial solutions and alleviated all of the stomach issues I had suffered from in the past, however, I will hold my hands up and say that on the big day I ended up falling short on the nutrition plan as my blood sugar dropped more than it should. It didn’t stop me finishing but I was in rough shape after so more work to do here but overall the natural approach was a vast improvement and something I’ll stick with.
When I started my training I had a target time in mind which I wasn’t sure if I could achieve. Naturally, as I was training I started calculating the paces for my goal time to see if they were possible and see how they felt in training. Of all the calculators I found this Runners Connect one made the most sense to me. It breaks down a strategy that acknowledges you need to run different paces at different points in the race. Even with this format, I was getting anxious about trying to remember and monitor the different paces at different times in the race.
For the day I decided to simplify everything and just note a pace I should not go faster than and not worry about the pace if it was slower than that. The best advice I’d had from experienced runners was to go slow at the start and build as you go. I found by just having a max pace it was easy to stick to that bright line rather than worry about staying in a specific 10-second pace range and continually adjusting. It was frustrating as hell at the start as it felt slow after my taper but I appreciated it when I breezed through 13 miles and felt like I was only just getting going. I also chose to have my watch only give me 5km splits to give me some feedback but reduce distractions. Following this max pace approach, each of my 8 and a bit 5k splits were within 60 seconds of each other with the exception of one, at 20+ miles which I’m ok with. And my time…
That’s personal but after all the hard work I was happy with it.
Running Gear & Shoes
If you'd like to know more about this marathon runner's thoughts and choices on running gear and shoes (speed shoes, lace locks & running belts etc), head over to Part 1 here.
Thank you to our anonymous Onetrack Club runner for sharing their first marathon experience with us.