Marathon training journey — part 2

Chris James Smith
4 min readOct 22, 2018


Yesterday I completed the Great South Run in 1 hour 39 minutes. If you’ve read part 1 of my training journey, you’d know it was the furthest I’ve ever run, and it was also about 10 minutes quicker than I thought I would finish it in.

Considering I’d missed my big 12.5k run last week and preparation hadn’t been ideal, I would say it was a big success for me. Why was my prep so bad? Unfortunately, it was the age-old excuse of running out of time. Excuse the pun.

It sounds pathetic but work was hectic, the weather was getting worse and before I knew it I’d missed my last shot at getting some serious miles in.

So since my last blog, here’s what happened. On the back of a successful 10k training run, last weekend was pencilled in as my last big bit of training (I wanted to get a 12.5k run under my belt).

It began with a few too many bottles of red wine on Friday night, followed by no training on Saturday or Sunday — poor start.

Monday — I worked late so didn’t run, again.

Tuesday — I played 5-aside football so got a different kind of cardio workout in. I did say I’d potentially run home (about 4 miles) but was genuinely too puffed to even entertain the idea after the game.

Wednesday — I worked late and wanted to rest post-football. More excuses. Time was now running out with the run on Sunday, plus I was getting angry with myself.

Thursday — I decided to go for it. How far to go was the hardest decision. The advice I’d been given was to go no further than 6k, with it being so close to the race day. However, I really feared the Great South Run distance so decided I would push myself a little bit further and hope I wasn’t aching on the day. I clocked an 8k run at a slightly slower than normal pace — 6:20 kilometres. I felt pretty strong but was still nervous about not getting a bigger run in before the race.

So my training for my first long-distance race had petered out slightly. The longest training run I’d done was 10k, about 10 days prior to the race. Needless to say, I had no idea how my body would cope once I was over the 10k mark on the day.

Friday and Saturday — I savagely carb loaded on pizza and pasta, before getting an early night on Sat.

Yesterday — Sunday — was race day. I have to say I was quite nervous when waiting to start, simply as I had no idea if my body was physically capable of running the distance or how my body would react.

To me, this was my Mordor.

I like to call the feeling when you are on your last legs physically the ‘red zone’. And I’d been in the red zone on both of my 10k runs at the end. How, then, was I going to run 16k?

Anyway, the Great South Run turned out to be the perfect race to start with. It’s flat, it’s a great course, the sun was shining, and the atmosphere was superb. Essentially, it’s a prime race for all abilities — 20,000 runners joined me on the start line.

Surprisingly, my own performance exceeded my expectations. Using Strava’s running pace calculator beforehand (a handy tool), I’d calculated that my 10k pace would result in a time of between 1 hour 45 and 1 hour 52. So my final time of 1 hour 39 was both surprising and incredibly pleasing.

It wasn’t just me. My fellow Vivi runners, Nick Smith, Claire Donnelly and Nicola Meighan (pictured), all PB’d as well. Congrats everyone! A good day all round for Team Vivi!

Personally, I have to say the atmosphere on the day made a big difference. I unexpectedly coasted the first 6 miles, having to actually slow myself down rather than be dragged along with the faster runners. About a third of the way through I started to hit the wall, or enter the Red Zone, but two energy gels quickly sorted me out. I didn’t have too much left by the end but my legs had just about enough juice in them to finish strongly and get in under 1 hour 40.

So what lessons have I learned?

Pacing during a long run is key. There were times when I got overly excited and sped up to my 5k pace. I regularly had to check my Garmin watch and slow myself down to get into the rhythm I was used to over a long distance.

Additionally, don’t forget to hydrate during the race! As tempting as it is to power on without taking on fluids, you’ll regret it by the end.

Lastly, fuel properly. So many people ask me all the time whether energy gels work. In my opinion, yes, they absolutely do. I first felt the Red Zone coming on at mile 8. An energy gel gave me the boost I seriously needed to carry on.

And there it is. My first long-distance run complete, and a successful step towards marathon glory. Dare I say, I even enjoyed it…

The key now is maintaining training to ensure I don’t lose the progress I’ve made over the winter. My next event target is the Hampton Court half marathon in February, which should give me a good indication of my marathon-readiness for April!

Originally published at on October 22, 2018.