Marathon preparation can be ugly sometimes

Only six days until Berlin Marathon, so I thought I could give you a little look back on my marathon preparation that started on July 4th. It’s all over my feeds in the social media, everyone is tapering, starting to feel excited, a little stressed. Some of you might be worried because the marathon preparation didn’t go as planned. But guys. Writing these words today, I believe there is no good or bad marathon preparation. There is no black and white. Preparing for Berlin, Paris and again Berlin in the last years, I believe I am able to compare what went perfectly and what could be improved. But still. You can have the best-adjusted plan in the world, that suits your needs and level, you will never be able to control all factors influencing your training.


From injury into the marathon preparation

I mean let’s face it together. When I started my marathon preparation, I was injured. Yeah, a bit silly it is, I admit. I can totally recall. I was in Cortina, rocking some trails with friends, hiking and running around. And I could feel some improvements around my adductors. And when the physio told me I could totally start running, well. I took it as it was. And started the training.

You know that feeling: you were not able to run for two months, cancelling one race after the other. You thought you would never be able to run again – yes this is a bit dramatic, but please, no judging. And suddenly, someone belonging to the medical authority (yes, authority) tells you that you are on the good path. I mean, who wouldn’t start to prepare for a marathon, right?

Note to yourself: of course, you can start with a marathon preparation. But don’t overdo it and stay realistic. I mean. I was running ultra-races since January, barely training (which got me the injury) and when I started to run again, I wanted to run a 3:15H marathon. Realistic? Oh no. Silly? Oh yes.


What about your emotions

Emotions? Really? Do you want to go that path?
Yeah, let’s talk about your emotions during the marathon preparation. See, training isn’t only about how many times you spend on your legs, how many weight you lift in the studio or at home. How many yoga poses you can master. Of course, it all matters. But it’s not it. Your training is more than that.

It’s not a surprise that mental training has become such a hype for elite athletes but even for hobby runners tackling marathons, ultra-race, or even 10K distances. When I started the marathon preparation I was not feeling confident about my body. I knew my state was not perfect, I could feel the pain from time to time, even when I was not running. So. Before each session, you feel like you must be careful, that you can’t give it all because you know that you might make it worse. Regarding mental and emotions, it’s difficult to believe in your training when you don’t believe that your body is at 200%. Compared to my marathon preparation for Paris, this one was ugly.

Note for you: If you don’t feel confident about yourself and about what you can achieve, well as harsh as it sounds, your training is going to be crap. So what is it you can do? You can reassess your goals and set up some realistic ones instead of the one you dream. You can try the power of visualization, and start early in training to visualize some key sessions of your marathon preparation but also the race itself from where you will start to the finish line.
Another great thing for me is to keep track of my training and mark the goods. Before the marathon or when a session is really not going well, I try to re-read my training diary. During the race, I recall all my crap workouts and bad training sessions. Because no matter what, I did overcome all of them, which made stronger.


The power of the community

During my last harsh training session, I felt so bad. I felt like my marathon preparation was really going down. That I had to reassess my final goal of running a personal best. This 10K really got me so deep. I started doubting, telling myself to quit. My mum who has always been supporting me (see cover) never saw me like this while running. It was gold to have her on the training course. Later that night, my friend Lisa, just wrote me: “Marathon can be ugly. Stay strong.” And she’s right.

It’s amazing sometimes, how people that you know or barely know, can push you to keep going. You feel like you owe them, because when you are down, they motivate you to keep moving and reaching the edge. You get inspired by these people, whatever the level. Maybe you inspired them too. Our running community is so strong. And I know it kept me running these last months when I was not motivated for a session, or when I decided to fuck it all. Here again a big thank you to everyone. I hope I can give at least a percent of the love I got from you.

Note to yourself: surround yourself with amazing people, people that inspire you and keep you moving. People who will listen when you are doubting. People, who ask the right question. When you lose your wings these people around will keep you from falling, and push you to fly.


Don’t overestimate your environment

When I started my marathon preparation, I was just coming out of a difficult situation in my life. Which definitely got me really deep. We tend to focus on the miles we log, the time we spend on our feet. But we underestimate the impact of our environment. Today I know that the injury, looking for a job, not knowing where I will be or do in the next months really got me emotionally. And this emotional state I took with me like a little package in all my training sessions.

Note to yourself: your environment has a strong impact on your training. Life is going on, and on, and on. And you have to couple with everything. Don’t overestimate the impact of a new job, a changing career, a new born or the move in a new city. It has an impact on your emotional state, on your sleep, on your training. There is no perfect solution against it, instead of embracing and accepting it. A marathon preparation might not be the best right now, or your goal is too high compared to the reality of your life. But if you know it, and try to adapt, then you will do great. No doubt about it.


My marathon preparation for Berlin was ugly. Like really. It was two-faced, with a lot of tears and joy, doubt and faith, uncertainty and calmness. I don’t know how my marathon is going to be. The variation of moods and results experienced during training was totally new. I lost faith so many times, the fun, asking myself why I was doing that to myself, dreaming of mountains instead of bitumen.

But now that Berlin Marathon is in six days, I feel like I want to give it a try no matter the outcome. It’s the first time I will go into the race, not knowing what I will be able to run. And it feels exciting. In a way.

Like my friend Jenson said to me. Never surrender! Bad days during a marathon preparation make us stronger for D-Day.
A marathon can be ugly. But it can also be one of the best experience in your life.

© Picture: Always surround yourself with inspiring people – here my Mum
Courtesy of Jacques Fdeda following some of my training when I am in France.

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