Ultra Training Diary: A Marathon as Training

Marathon in training

If someone had told me 6 months ago that I’d do a DIY marathon as training for my 50k, followed by a run (well, more of a painful walk) the following day, I would have laughed. And that laugh would have been a loud, verging on hysteria. But on Saturday that’s just what I did. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

It’s been a strange week. My facet joints in my lower back have sorted themselves out and I’m back to doing core work. But it was still the case that on Wednesday I had one of the worst runs I’ve had in a long time – too hot, feeling ill, hayfever. I cut the miles short and came home early.

I wasn’t expecting much on Wednesday. But I felt strong. It was only 4 1/2 miles and I ran up hills I’d usually avoid just for the hell of it. Now I get the elements of the Bad Run, but if only I could bottle the elements of the Good Run!

So on it comes to Saturday and the grand experiment: could I do a solo marathon as training?

Marathon as Training

I’m pretty predictable with long run routes – to Tower Bridge and along the Thames to Greenwich, or down to Battersea Park. I didn’t want to do my usual route or cover off all the Royal Parks. I needed a change of scenery. My decision: to run part of the Thames Path.

I spent Friday night working out my route and how long it would take me to get home at the end. I knew if I was to cover the distance, I didn’t then want a long trek home. So the plan: to Battersea, down to Kew Gardens to Richmond and around Richmond Park. I knew portions of this route but had never covered the distance.

marathon in trainingMy aims were simple:

  • try new snacks
  • go for 26.2 miles with a walk/run combination without destroying myself in the process and
  • not get attacked by cows.

The snacks

Marathon in trainingPrior to the London Marathon, I tried out some of the advice I was given at a session with Science in Sport (SiS). This gave me the impetus to try gels and we got on. I used these for the marathon and will continue to for longer runs. But I also want to try ‘real’ food to mix it up a little so I went for a mix and match approach. So into my running backpack that has a bladder holding about 1.5 litres of water went the following:

  • SiS gels and a cola Caffeine Shot
  • a couple of small wraps with vegemite
  • sour cream and chive pretzels and
  • jelly babies and dates.

I also threw in some sunscreen, vaseline, and handwipes.

Sugar and salt – love it. Yep, the food combo worked well and kept me going. About half way I stopped at a pub to top up my water supply and bought a ginger ale. It still amazes how good the simplest things are after many miles on a hot day.


The run

marathon in trainingI took a meandering route down to Battersea and along the Thames – through industrial landscape, housing estates, parks and along green paths.

On the running side of things, I wasn’t feeling it so decided to take it slowly. I started walking early on which is something I wanted to practice. So run, walk about, run some more.

It was peaceful and I let go all the stresses of the week. I don’t run with music anymore. It gave me the space to listen to the birds and the rustling of a squirrel or two. And clearly there was a need to watch out for those ducks crossing!


marathon in training

In addition to the ducks, there were…


The cows

Living in London, I don’t get much sight of farm life. Entering the field there were warning signs not to let dogs onto the field when there were cows there. Hmmm… big animals scare me. But it was a well worn path with lots of folks so there was nothing to be worried about.

What was strange is after running through Richmond Park to make up the miles, in heading to the Thames Path, it was flooded. Lucky I hadn’t been on the path an hour earlier or I would have had very soggy feet. I was told by some folk that this happens every few months. Quite a view!

Marathon in training


Once I hit that 26.2, I was done. It had taken a ridiculously long time but I took it very slowly – I didn’t want to risk being too exhausted to not be able to run for days on end.

Upon finishing I graciously wiped my face and underarms with handwipes – I fear I was somewhat stinky by this point.

I got myself a mocha then headed off to Tesco for some food – crisps and sandwiches.

I ate on the train – I wanted to apologise for what I must’ve smelt like, gorging on food, and my utter inability to walk normally.

It was a fab day!

The plan post-ultra is to explore more of the Thames path so watch this space!


Training recap with 3 weeks to go


Monday – rest day; core and stretching


Tuesday – 4.5 miles; core and stretching


Wednesday – 8 miles that sucked big time!


The good run!

Thursday – 4.5 miles – frigging awesome run; core and stretching


Friday – rest day; core and stretching


Saturday – 26.2 miles run/walk


Sunday – 5 miles; core and stretching. OK, my plan said 10 but my legs were about to go on strike!


TOTAL – 48.2 miles





Where has your running taken you lately?

4 thoughts on “Ultra Training Diary: A Marathon as Training

    1. Cheers Stu. It was so good – tastes a little sour but you get used to it! Even though I guzzle down caffeine, I was bouncing after a few sips so suggest you don’t take it as a single shot! Let me know how you get on with it.

  1. Great job Sophie…I cannot imagine running a marathon as a “training run” but having said that, I’m already eyeing 50K options next year so I totally get it! I technically have completed an ultra…at the Route 66 marathon in Tulsa, they offer a detour to run the “worlds shortest ultra” where you take about a 0.5 mile detour in the final mile of the marathon to get the ultra! It’s all for fun of course…you run up this big bloody hill down the other side, they give you a beer and then you run back up and down to rejoin the marathon course…everyone does it! good luck over the last few weeks…cheers!

    1. Cheers James. I’ve got to say I can’t imagine 1. running up a big hill at the end of a marathon and 2. having a beer in the last mile! What I’m loving about the training is the stress is off – I’m not a competitive runner and while I want to do the best I can, for me it’s much more about the experience than fretting about times!

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