marathon training woman running

From 0km to 42kms: My First 4 Weeks of Training For a Marathon

"This is the last time I am doing a marathon"… this is what I said in May 2019 when I finished the Adelaide Marathon. I was in so much pain throughout the last 15kms and could barely walk after finishing. This led to me swearing that I'd never run another marathon.

I always say that running a marathon is like having a baby. The hard training and the pain during the event are so much that once you finish it, you almost always say, "this is the last time" or "I'm never doing this again" – similar to when you go through pregnancy and give birth that may be hard at times. Afterwards, you may say, "this is the last one"…

You look at photos of the event and smile, thinking about how you did it (or you look at your baby smiling at you). Then eventually, you decide to give it another go.… but then you forget all about the pain. You look back at the happy memories of finishing the event, the sense of accomplishment and the motivation to have a new goal.

marathon people running
Fast forward to 2021, I have forgotten all about the excruciating pain and decided to run another marathon, the Sydney Marathon, in September.

For the last two years, I have not done any running. My typical fitness routine is gym-based group classes like F45 or kickboxing. Sometimes I go cycling. Sometimes I try to go for a run but then end up walking.

For those who run and then have had to stop running for a bit, you know that "running fitness and endurance" really goes away quickly. You may have been able to run 10kms, but if you stop doing it and start again, you really have to start from zero. You could be "fit" in other sports, but running is a different beast. This is why I am starting from zero again.

I will also not tell you how long it took me to finish my last marathon. Let's just say it wasn't great. It wasn't even average time. It was terrible. I was cramping the whole way through. I had to stop multiple times due to the pain in my legs. My husband and kids were wondering if I had an accident because almost every other participant had crossed the finish line except me. That is how bad it was.

Below is me before and after the marathon in 2019. Yes, I was smiling, but internally I was slowly dying of pain….

But this time, I have set the goal to finish this marathon strong. Stronger than before. I am motivated to not make the same mistakes I did last time (not having trained properly, not taking my nutrition seriously, and definitely didn't have the proper hydration).

Here is what I am doing different this time:

I asked a professional runner/running coach (hi, Riley, Izzi and Jacob!) to give me a proper training schedule. After 5 months of training and starting from ZERO running fitness (I could barely run 2kms on my first day of training), I knew I needed to get help to be able to gain running endurance.
As part of the running training program, I joined their running group, where we get together two days a week to train. Then there are some long runs on Sundays where everyone gets together too. I never knew how much fun running with other people was! I am getting the extra motivation to keep going when I see all the other amazing runners (99% faster and fitter than me) smash their running PBs.

I am also chatting with an expert in sports nutrition. What do I need to eat and drink to properly fuel my body? In my first consultation, I told Tara that I started drinking wine on Wednesdays "because it was basically the weekend". She laughed. I've now learned that Wednesdays are not the start of the weekend and to try and minimise my alcohol intake at least during the week (but don't you worry, I can still have a few vinos ;P).

The below is me drinking on a Wednesday because "Wednesday is basically the weekend" 😛

feet running marathon
After my first 4 weeks of training, this is what I have learned so far:

  • SLEEP WELL AND HAVE RECOVERY DAYS: I've got a full-time corporate job, I also have my own business (which I do after my corporate job), I've got a husband, a dog and two kids too. Between all of that, I was getting no way nearly enough sleep. I didn't realise how important it is to sleep to rest and recover your body to function better the next day. I thought my 4 hours of sleep at night was fine. I am busy. I needed all of those hours in the day to do everything that I needed to do. For the last 4 weeks, I started to sleep at least 7 hours, although trying to get closer to the 8 hours when I can. I feel so much better, and my body thanks me for it. Also, getting 1 or 2 recovery days (no training).
  • DRINK ENOUGH WATER AND PROPER HYDRATION: I must confess that I was very bad at drinking water. I have always known the theory of having a minimum of 2L of water daily. I just never did. I got "too busy" to drink water. I am proud to say that I now drink a minimum of 2L daily, although 3L is my daily goal.
  • PREPD has also helped me immensely in the hydration space. I am not an athlete, nor am I doing hours and hours of long runs. My training sessions this month have all been for an hour (nothing longer than that yet). I didn't have PREPD for the first couple of weeks, and by the third week, I added it to my routine. WOW. The difference was palpable. I now have PREPD on my three key training sessions of the week. I noticed a HUGE difference between taking PREPD Prime the night before the session and when I take PREPD Recover after! Definitely a game-changer. I want to tell everyone how they need to add PREPD in their weekly training, not just for race days.

  • DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF; YOU DO YOU. In group training, when everyone runs so much faster and much longer than you, it is inevitable to compare yourself. I've learned to stop that. I can't compare myself to someone who has run their whole life or started their running journey 5 months before me. I've learned to focus on my own goals, focus on my own small improvements, and focus on my own pace and my own ability. I am competing against myself and nobody else.
  • RAMP UP YOUR TRAINING GRADUALLY: In the first week of training, when I realised I couldn't even run the warm-up, I kept thinking, what else can I do to get my running endurance up? If I didn't have my coach, I would have probably started running every day to ramp up my running as fast as I could. But this is how injuries happen. I've learned to calm myself down and just enjoy the process. I am currently in my second month of training and my "long runs" are still only 5-7kms. But that's fine. It is not good for your body to go from 0kms to long runs in a short period. For now, I am enjoying the process. Slowly and safely preparing my body for 42kms in (now) 4 months!
See you next time! I'm going to go and post on Facebook about my training session today (Because if it's not on social media, it is like it never happened)….only kidding.

Lili Thomas – Marketer, e-commerce entrepreneur, lover of wine and good laughs, mother of 2 kids and a dog called Waffle, wannabe runner and athlete.