Doing Marathon

I did my first marathon in Florence November 2012. An interesting experience. Why I did it? Main goal was to be obliged to train and doing so to maintain under control my weight.

As per every target we want to reach, and therefore also for the Marathon, 50% of the result depends on preparation and 50% on that day’s performance. Our body is not done for running. It is for walking: from 10 to 15 km per day, that is already not too bad for a modern employee. Understanding that you can imagine that if your target is to run for 42.195 meters you are already entering a question mark area. One km walking costs 40% less than a km running (in kcal), therefore 42 km / 60% = 70 km walking = one week walking for a prehistoric walker human been; almost 3.400 kcal for an 80 kg man like me.

So first 50% is training:

A SMART objective:

you need to fix a reasonable target. Each goal need to be SMART: Specific (I want to finish the marathon – 42,2 km in less than 4 hours); Measurable (easy – use the chronometer); Ambitious (I was a 5 minutes per km runner on the 10 km – final time in the marathon around 4 hours 2 minutes, so less than 4 hours was ambitious); Realistic (with good training and strong effort, no more); Time-bound (in July 2012 I already decided to run the Florence Marathon end of November).

The training program:

doing Marathon is almost a scientific job. You need a training program. You can find, easily, hundreds of Marathon training programs on the web; selecting which can fit with your target and current shape is a different thing. First of all I suggest to simply run for a month every two days for minimum 40 minutes in order to understand your basis. I started running regularly in 2008, almost every day around 7/8 km per day. I discovered to be a 5 minutes km per hour runner if I run 10 km (more or less equal to 4 hours for the Marathon).

Been realistic is also to balance other activities you are engaged on with the training. I selected the lighter program I found: 4 training session per week equal to from 40 to 60 km per week. I tell you, you cannot doing seriously the marathon with less train.

Marathon = networking:

Marathon is a challenge with yourself, but I decided to share with as much as possible people around me my target in order to be emotionally involved in the training. I hardly found other people available to run with me because of different training time, different speed, different target Marathon. Nevertheless I found occasionally people to run with in order to let the training less boring and to share point of view about training program. Marathon, I discovered, is a massive networking activity. I think I met tens of people like me with whom share emotions.

Some numbers about Marathon:

Once I found my target (4 hours minus) I started planning the training (4 days a week). In summer time I used to run in the morning, just before breakfast. Once Autumn arrived, I begun to run at lunch time. In both cases I found useful this. Running in the morning, before breakfast, increases the loss of fat. Running at lunch time reduce the time for eating. You need to dedicate minimum 10 hours a week for training, shower included. The training I chose was about 12 weeks, so around 120 training hours and 600 km = 50.000 kcal = 5,5 kg fat.

Regular and consistent:

I think that one of the pay offs to reach the target is to be regular and consistent with the training program. I think I jumped no more than 3 training sessions on 50, and I did them almost every two days. Sometimes it was raining, but I discovered that is not so difficult to run with the rain, at the end you are indeed wet even with good weather; sometimes was really hot, but if you drink more also this is not a real problem.


I do not want to bore you with my Marathon training program details. You can easily see what I did in the website because of I utilized a GPS app and I brought my Black Berry with me all the trainings I did. I found really useful to record all my training in order to control my improvement, but also to motivate myself about the amount of effort I put on this project.

Few memories about “the first Longs”:

My program was about 16 weeks and every 4 weeks of 4 training session of about 10 km per session I had to do a “long track”: meaning, from 27 to 33 km, let’s say almost 3 hours running. In order to do so you need to be prepared as you are doing the full Marathon, and I think this is the real payoff of this exhausting and killing thing. I used to have also a gift after them: my right knee used to remember it for almost a week.

I do remember my first “long track”: 30 km. Before I never did more than 21,1 km (the Half Marathon). My forecast was to run it in almost 3 hours or a little more. I organized it for the 11th of August. The 10th I went sleeping early in the evening after a dinner carbohydrates based (a big pizza Margherita) and no alcohol. The 10th I went to the supermarket buying 4 liters sport beverages. I wake up 7.00 and I reached the place where I intended to perform my longest run ever. I was me and myself, alone and concentrated. I chose a 5km flat track with the target to do it 6 times. I parked my car close to the track with inside the beverages. Drinking is the most important thing when you run long, mainly in Italy the 11th of August. I started with 25 degrees and I finished with around 30 degrees.  

I have to say that I was motivated, well organized and in good shape. What you immediately discover doing “the long” is that you need to balance your effort, starting slower than you feel and wait for signal from your body. I tend to check all my body’s parts every one km: feet, nails, ankles, knees, back, neck, breathing, arms, muscles in general. Sounds crazy, but sometimes a small friction can damage your performance. For example I suffer from bleeding nipples, so much that I have to use Vaseline and a tight T-shirt. I continuously “talk” with my body and repeating in my mind the target, to be concentrated. Once a signal pop up I decide to slow down or to drink a little bit more, or to push on breathing. It is an endless Plan Do Check Adjust: planning the rhythm, “do” – apply it for i.e. a km, then check the condition and if something changed you need to adjust the approach.

I do experienced few “walls” in my first 30 km. The first after 20 minutes, but this is normal, you know it and you wait for it. In 5 minutes usually disappear. Then the 10 km: it is more about a mind games. Your mind cannot simply stop to repeat that you are already tired and you decided to do it three times. The third was km 18th: my knees started to hurt me; bad signal. So you try to change a little bit the way you are running: the step a little bit longer or shorter; the feet touching the land a little bit more external or internal. At the end the noise disappear and you didn’t know why.

The worst was the half Marathon: for me it was the most important. I never ran more before. I was really enthusiastic once the GPS trainer communicated me that I overcame the 21th km. That lasted for 3 km than again I felt really tired. At 25km I stopped a little bit to drink: still one 5 km round to do. I thought “I could simply walk, or getting back after a km if I cannot go ahead”. At that moment you check every step hoping not to destroy something that you built up with so much effort. You try to foresee everything: a guy running toward you; a hole on the track; your shoes a little bit tight. Your mind lost concentration and you simply run. I couldn’t trust when the electronic voice said 29 km done. I was at my 4th training week, around 200 km training already done and so I started to think that one km is nothing in comparison with what I did: I slowed down a little bit and I finished the 30th, “the long” was done. Immediately the mind starts to think about “if today would be the Marathon day, could I do that? Other 12,2 km?” and the answer, for me, was “yes, but over the 4 hours”, because of I did my first time 30 km in 2 hours and 56 minutes, not bad but not enough to run under 4 in the Marathon.

The Marathon day – the focus here and now counts for 50%:

An apparently stupid thing that make the difference:

The first time you try to do the Marathon it is by definition the first time you run for more than 40 km. This is a concept that works every time you try to do better in distance / quantity. Anyway at the end you don’t really know if your body can do it. All the running world talk about the wall of 35 km; the last 7 km seem to be the most difficult part.

FOR TODAY I HAVE TO GO – LET’S continue tomorrow…. regularly 🙂


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