10 January 2013

An attempt to run a marathon using SCIENCE - part I

Like the idiot I am, I've signed up to a marathon. I now have until 14th April to figure out a way to run 26 miles and I need all the help I can get. So I'm going to be harnessing the power of SCIENCE to try to do what Pheidippides did (before collapsing and dying, remember) all those years ago.

Sunday is traditionally "long run" day for endurance runners and there are 13 Sundays left before my attempt to run the Worcester Marathon, so each Sunday after pounding the streets of Bristol, I will be reporting on my progress. In particular, I'll be reporting on different bits of SCIENCE that I have been, and will be, employing to make my way around the marathon course without meeting the same fate as Pheidippides.

(At this point, if I was on the telly, I would probably have to say something like "Do make sure you consult your doctor before embarking on any strenuous exercise regime." Thankfully, I'm not on the telly. So it'll be fiiiiiine.)

(And of course, I'm doing all this at the same time as trying to write a book, which has to be completed at vaguely the same time as my training regime... It'll be fiiiiiine...)

Hopefully, this may be of some genuine benefit to other runners - many will be training for the London Marathon on 21st April. If it is of no genuine benefit, then it may at least be vaguely amusing (see bullet point number nine in the list below). I'll be covering bits of SCIENCE related to:
  • High intensity interval training (running as fast as you can and then jogging for a bit before running really fast again, otherwise known as pain)
  • Eating to run (most importantly, is it okay to eat cake?)
  • "The wall"
  • Drinking (not that sort - hyper/hypo/isotonic and all that jazz) and energy gels
  • Muscle recovery
  • Kit, including the mythical "right shoes"
  • Stretching (eek, I'm very bad at this, must do better)
  • Yoga / pilates / core strength
  • Ice baths (no no no no no no no no no no no no no no)
  • Niggles and injuries (I am a complete hypochondriac - Mr Hayley will attest to many phantom Achilles injuries and broken toes)
  • Other things that will undoubtedly crop up along the way (unlike the niggles and injuries, hopefully)
I will be citing actual scientific research and using myself as a test case. Which means you can probably trust most of what I say about other people's research and forget all of what I say about my own research, since n=1 is a pretty poor scientific study.

I should also say that I'm not starting from zero here. I've been running for about ten years at varying levels of fitness. I can run a decent 5k, 10k and half marathon no trouble. Yes, I have a Garmin sports watch. No, I don't have one of those weird feeder tube things to drink from when I'm running. I run about 30-40k a week depending on the time of year/weather/number of weeks till very infrequent races. I've even recently joined Bristol & West AC... although training with them makes you feel like a complete amateur again. But I've never run a marathon. I am also no expert in sports science. I am simply a science writer who likes to run, trying to find a way to do it for several hours without dying. So let's see what happens...


soozaphone said...

Excellent! I will be checking back here regularly for inspiration xSuzi

Anna said...

I think you should add this to your bullet list: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1469029202000419

Years ago my iPod died when I was 2 mins into a 5K race...it felt like I was running for DAYS....

Hayley said...

Good topic for a blog post Anna. Incidentally, I recently stopped running with podcasts because I found I could focus more and run harder without. But a week of testing out rock vs jazz vs hip-hop as running aids strikes me as a fun experiment...

Anna said...

Ah that's probably because you enjoy, rather than endure, running? I tend to need distracting during any bout of exercise otherwise I give up pretty quick...