• Sarah Russell

Your marathon is postponed... what now?

Hugely disappointing. Believe me I get it. I wasn't training for a spring marathon personally this year, but am invested in many, many clients who are. You may also be grappling with conflicting emotions - on one hand you're gutted about the marathon, but on the other given the gravity of the current situation, it's important to keep things in perspective. You may be feeling guilty about feeling disappointed, especially when so many people are being affected by what's happening. It's a confusing time. But it's important to recognise your feelings especially if you've sacrificed much and trained for months. Getting your head around it is tough.

But getting your head around it is all you can do.

But all is not lost. Let's look at how we can turn this around.

If the current situation is teaching us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable and we have to learn to be resilient, flexible and adaptable. Which luckily is what runners are great at doing 😊

Try not to see it as what you’ve lost, but what you can gain. (Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck is a great book to read given our current situation).

Also spare a thought for the race organisers who are now faced with the daunting task of trying to reorganise the worlds largest marathon in only 6 months, at a time when the world is shutting down. It’s hardly conceivable.

But anyway.. back to you and your training. So the London Marathon is postponed until 4th October, just over 6 months from now. So what now?

Do you carry on training as you were? Do you try to run a marathon on the day? Or should you stop altogether and start training again in July or August? Or do you forget all about it? How do you stay motivated when all you want to do is throw in the towel.

So many options to think about.

What are your options?

Much will depend on your running background, if it’s your first or 10th marathon, if it’s your ‘one and only’ marathon, your current fitness/health status, your goals and reasons for doing the marathon and where you are in your training.

And also whether or not you’re even available on the 4th October… I’ll get to that.

For some it’ll be a blessing in disguise.. giving you more time to get on top of injuries and get your training on track. For others it’s a crushing disaster. So where do you go from here?

*One thing to bear in mind, that over the coming months many of us will be exposed to the virus, or will be around others who are, so our overall health, wellbeing and immunity should take priority. Heavy training can lower our immunity and make us run down and more at risk of becoming unwell. Your running/recovery strategy as we head into the peak of Covid-19 will be different for everyone, but probably will need to involve a more considered/gentle approach to training, reducing volume/intensity and duration and training in a way which doesn’t deplete the immune system. Over the next few weeks, take care of yourselves and others around you. Rest, good nutrition, sleep and sensible training is vital. Watch biometrics like resting heartrate (if it’s elevated, then back off training) and sleep and pay attention to signs of fatigue and overstress.

But back to the marathon:

So let’s imagine the 4th October clashes with your best friend’s wedding (or your wedding) or a family holiday that you absolutely cannot cancel or work commitment that means there’s absolutely no way you can make it… Arrrggghhh! What now?

You can’t do 4th October ☹- what are your options?

Option 1 - Transfer to 2021

Transfer your race entry to 2021 – VMLM have announced that this will be possible. Then forget all about it and pick up your training again later in the year. Obviously check with your charity (if relevant) about what you need to do about fundraising in this case. Annoying, but it is what it is. Let it go.

Option 2 - Do a 'virtual marathon' on the day anyway

Continue training as you were (sort of) and do a ‘virtual’ marathon on the day of 26th April (uploading your watch, phone image or data online as ‘proof of the distance’ for your sponsors/charity or online for fun) – I would only suggest this if you’re fit, your training has gone to plan and you can’t see yourself ever doing a marathon again – perhaps this is your one and only and for other reasons you’ll never do another? – or conversely if you’re a very experienced runner and have already done a number of marathons, it might just be a nice training day out and another notch on the marathon post.

*HOWEVER, If you do this option, I’d suggest (given the current virus situation and the effect that a marathon will have on your immunity) doing it in a safe way with support, with a runner partner, choose a looped route, go much more slowly than you would in a race, treating it as a day out rather than a race. Safety and health should be our priority. A marathon is very challenging on the body and not to be undertaken lightly. Even a virtual one.

Option 3 - Find another race

Find another marathon to do later in the year – it’s not ‘London’ but it’s still a marathon. Although this could be a risky option if others are cancelled too. All you need to do now is re-plan your training for this date (take some time off first) – use the same principles you did last time, but also look at what went well or not and apply this knowledge. Again check with your charity (if relevant) about the possibility of this and what this means for your fundraising.

So let’s assume you don’t have any commitments and you CAN run on 4th October – hurrah!

But what next?

Everyone will be different and is coming at it from very different places. So don’t follow the herd. Shut out the marathon noise online (if you thought it was bad before...). Do what's right for you.

Take a step back and use the opportunity to think about where you are with your fitness, training, injuries etc and what you’re doing more closely. Take stock of what’s gone well or poorly and learn from your training so far.

Regardless of where you’re at, what you CAN’T do is continue to train in the same way for another 6 months. You’ll need some time to recover (mentally as well) from the tough training and long runs you’ve already done, so take this great opportunity to take some time out, back off the training and sort out any niggles.

Spend some time cross training, walking, spending time with the family, Pilates, foam rolling and getting your body back on track. Have the confidence to bank what you’ve done (secure in the knowledge that it’s a great base), take time off and look at how to build back up for October.

There are 2 main options:

Option 1 - Mark the day with a virtual half marathon

If you really want to ‘mark the day’ on 26th April you could keep ticking over with your training over the next few weeks and aim to do a virtual HALF marathon on the day of the marathon.. just to mark the occasion. Again would only suggest doing this in a relaxed way without stress and just have a nice easy jog out. Use a GPS, phone app etc to ‘record’ the data and upload an image to your social if you want to - just for fun. You could arrange to go with friends at the same time and make an ‘event’ out of it.

If this is your ‘one and only marathon’ or your first (and you're going to run in October), I would probably NOT recommend doing the full distance now and then doing it again in October. If you really want to do something, just do a half.

Of course if you’re a regular veteran marathon runner and you know you can recover, then do a full one, but pay attention to your training load, immune response and recovery status in light of the virus.


Option 2 - Back off training, take some time out and rebuild in time for October

Back off completely. Take some time out. Rebuild and take stock. This would be my recommended approach. The blow of the cancellation, re-arranging your life and your training is mentally tough. You need some downtime.

With 6 months to go, I’d recommend taking the next 2 months off (ish) - just tick over (but don’t stop altogether) – take the pressure off, reduce the mileage, long runs and stress.

Work on niggles, focus on foam rolling, strength work, cycling, cross training, and keep the intensity down. Add in the Pilates and strength training you’ve been meaning to do. Keep running.. but keep it to 2-3 x per week.

You could keep one long (ish) run going – perhaps every 3-4 weeks do a ‘long’ run (whatever this means for you).

Choose a distance that challenges you, but you know you can recover well from and doesn’t add huge stress to your body. For some that will be a full 18 miler, for others it might only be 8-10 miles. Whatever is right for you.

Just keep things fun and enjoyable for a while!

Then mid-July with around 12-14 weeks to go, start to look at building back up again with a more structured approach. BUT look back on your previous training and assess what went well, what didn’t go well. Was your mileage too much? Were you running your long runs too fast? When did you pick up injuries? What caused them? Did you need to do as much running? Is cross training suiting you better? would jog walking your long runs work better? what can you learn about your nutrition and hydration?

Use what you’ve learned so far, and apply your new knowledge so you can come back fitter, stronger and healthier.

How to plan your training for October:

1. Plan it out by starting with the marathon date, then work backwards, adding into your diary family and work commitments, holidays and any other races.

2. Next, plan to do your ‘longest’ run about 3 weeks before the marathon – put that in your diary too

3. That will leave you around 8-9 weeks from the start of your plan to the ‘last long run’

4. Then work out where you are now and where you need to get to.. and work out how to build up the long run again – making small increases to each long run and spacing them out 2 weeks apart.

5. Also add into your diary other sessions such as swimming, long bike rides, weight training and Pilates classes. Then plan the detail of your week around that.

For an October marathon, you’ll now be training in the summer, so you’ll need to look at hydration much more closely and avoid doing long runs in the heat of the day. Use SOS rehydrate on your long runs and to hydrate well before and after runs and on hot days.

Read my blog post about running in the heat.

Final word

Marathons are NEVER easy. That’s what makes them so amazing and special. Just getting to the start line is always littered with barriers and difficulties and our current situation is certainly adding to the challenge. But if you can adjust your mindset, work through it and get to 4th October fitter, stronger and in better shape, the finish will be even sweeter 😊

You've got this!

Please reach out if I can help you in any way. If you’re feeling confused, struggling with an injury or motivation, I’m here to help. I offer virtual video/email online mentoring and coaching for running and injury management, and can offer a package of nutrition/hydration advice, injury management and coaching all in one place.

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