I learned a major lesson about long distance running this week - the stomach is as important as the legs.
Week Four begun with two dawning realisations:
- the hard work was really beginning
- marathon training cannot be all silver lining and no cloud
My long run started on Sunday with leaden legs and it’s the first of the training schedule that I haven’t really enjoyed. I covered 25km and chose a hillier profile than before but it felt like a slog from very early on.
I did get the benefit of some beautiful frosty weather and it was nice to explore some old trails around Youlbury Scout Camp and Boars Hill that I hadn’t seen for a few years. A major advantage of running early is that frozen ground means you can get deeper off-road than might be made impassable by shoe-sucking mud just a few hours after the sun comes up..
But I couldn't work out quite why I was devoid of energy later in the route. My legs plodded and my shoulders drooped - I couldn’t keep any meaningful pace going .and started to feel a bit confused about how far I’d been and what I had to do next.
I got home, snarfed a huge bowl of porridge and got down to the serious business of being Hulk to my boys’ Spiderman and Wolverine, Dragon advisor to my daughter and chief picture-hanger of the Bradbrook household.
But the hunger never left me. I started to understand how Walkers feel as they try to take chunks out of Rick Grimes and his crew and how newly ‘made’ Vampires inevitably go on an insatiable blood-sucking spree before settling down with a feisty young lady such as Buffy Summers or Sookie Stackhouse.
I didn’t actually develop a taste for human flesh but if one of my kids’ hands had fallen in my mouth I may not have been able to help myself. As the day wore on I was unable to combat the hunger and treats snuck into my mouthy with growing frequency. Kit Kats, Mars Bars, 9 Bars, Haribo - it was all stuffed in without ever filling the aching hole in my gut.
On Sunday evening I caught up with an old friend - Emma-Kate Lidbury, who is a professional triathlete living and training in San Francisco.
When I told her how I was feeling and she heard the shame in my voice and saw the guilt in my face, her first question was "what did you eat on the run?" Her second question was "what did you eat after the run?"
My answers of "Nothing" and "Porridge" drew a knowing chuckle. "Your body needs fuel Malc. Fuel to work and fuel to recover."
Of course, I know this. Or at least I used to. I've done a marathon before and cycled long distances but this time it seemed to sneak up on me.
I need carbohydrates for fuelling the run and protein for helping my muscles recover and crucially I need the carbs after an hour running and every 30 minutes thereafter and the protein straight after a run.
Monday morning came and the hunger still nawed away at me so straight away I ordered a race fuel package from Lucozade and a protein recovery package from Osmo Nutrition.
Why those two? Well, Lucozade is the official sponsor of the London Marathon this year so it seems sensible to train with the products I will be using on the day and Osmo is recommended by Emma-Kate. She has been racing at the top level for more than nine years now and the report she gave me of the way Osmo Nutrition products help her made it a no-brainer.
Friday was my son's birthday so I was up early and left for work later. I don' t have anything to eat before running to work but this time I was up early and left a bit later than usual so by the time I was 3km away from work I was bonking badly. I grabbed a Lucozade gel from my rucksack and the results felt instantaneous which leads me to believe there must be a substantial psychosomatic effect.
As a result the hunger did not stay with me all day and I managed a run home. It felt a satisfying end to a week that had started badly. I had done a great treadmill session on Thursday - my best ever - so there was still plenty of sliver lining in Week Four.