What can go wrong in a marathon?

This is my fifth marathon – everything should go great

View from my morning walk

I have registered myself for May 15 2015 Ottawa Marathon. This will be my fifth marathon. During my usual morning walk with my youngest daughter, I started to think what can and what will go wrong.

It’s now eight full days till race day. What can possibly go wrong? Why am I even thinking anything could go wrong?

More training

I have been training actively last 14 weeks, and I have one more week to go. Instead of usual 12 weeks pre-marathon training period, I chose to extend it up to fifteen weeks. Well, I was actually forced to register to Ottawa marathon instead of Toronto marathon, but effectively it is the same. Ottawa marathon will be held three weeks later, and now I have three extra weeks compared to my initial plan.

More experience

I have more experience than I had in my previous marathons. Last time I was actually able to get to my goal I set for my first marathon. That was because I knew how to set my expectations. I managed to run under four and half hours my finnish time being 4:25. Now I know even more about running marathons, how to train to a marathon and how to eat while training to and during marathon than I have ever known before.

Less weight

I’ve been able to lose some weight. Actually, I have been able to lose a lot of weight while training. Earlier I have always gained weight during marathon training, so this time I made it differently. I actually monitored what I’m eating, and instead of gaining weight, I was able to lose more than 20 pounds.

More speed

My previous marathon

I’m faster than ever. I ran 5k sub 24 minutes. I was able to run 10k in less than 50 minutes without having the race bib attached, which I have not been able to do ever before. My PB 10k is still 48 minutes, but that was Toronto 10k race with optimal conditions on really fast downhill course. My PB for 10k has always been over 50 minutes while running in Aurora on my own. Finally I managed to do it in less than 50 minutes. I did half marathon as my long run in 1:51. I did 30k long run in less than three hours. I should be faster and in better shape than ever before.

More endurance

Previously I’ve run one over 30k long run before the race day, while my other longs runs have been between 20k and 25k. This time I chose to do three long runs over 30k. I started my long runs on very slow pace, but while I became more comfortable, I raised my pace from earlier. The whole meaning for running in slow pace is to be able to recover faster. While increasing my pace, I was still able to recover either as fast as earlier, or even faster.

So what can go wrong in Ottawa May 24?


Running in Vancouver

First of all, my goal might be wrong. I might be faster than I have ever been, but have I set my goal correctly? Do I really have what it takes to run sub 4 hour marathon? My initial goal for this Spring was to manage marathon in less than 4:15, so why did I change it to sub 4:00? In a good day, I might be able to do it in less than 4 hours. Not all days are good. If I start too fast, I might not be able to do it in less than 4:15 and there goes my goal. That’s what has happened to me previously. Eventually it seems, that  I manage to put my bar too high, and then I’m not able to get to even to my initial goal.

The weather

If it’s going to be hot, which is normal at the end of May in Ontario, it will give me chills instead of warm and fuzzy feeling. Some times I feel, that my finish time is directly in relation with temperature. The warmer it is, the slower I am. Last Autumn in Toronto I ran my PB, but it was quite cold. When I started it was 7C/45F and it never went above 15C /60F. That was pretty close optimal. If we go above 20C/68F or even worse, close to 30C/86F, then I’m definitely going to struggle.

Injuries and recovery

I been quite healthy so far. I’ve already run all my long runs, and I’m not going to do any further fast runs either. I’m going to take it slow and steady now. Few 10k and shorter runs keeping my pace at 5’40” it is going to be. That said, my left feet is a bit sore and my ankles are making me worried. Nothing I’m not used to, but if I really start to think, maybe the feeling in my ankles is something I’m not so used to.

I ran my last 30k three weeks before the upcoming race date. That’s ok, I will recover from that. But my last 21.1k. Was it too fast and too close to the race date? I just wanted to get some self-confidence and run it in 1:54. But it was this Monday, so less than two weeks to the big thing. I’ve read forums and articles just to find enough evidence that it was not too close and not too fast.

Sleeping and resting

I haven’t been sleeping very well last couple of weeks. I know I’m not going to sleep well last nigh before marathon either. I never sleep well in hotels, and even at home ground, I will not sleep well last night before the race. So I better try to sleep longer now, that I have a chance for it.

Resting is most important part of recovery.  Not running too fast or doing any more long runs will guarantee that I get enough rest.


I told about loosing weight. I have been following a somewhat restrictive diet. But it doesn’t mean, that I haven’t been eating well. On the contrary. I have been eating a lot and making sure that I get enough carbs, protein and fat. I have also been interested to try out something new. Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet just to make my ability to burn fat better. I usually run my long runs on Sunday mornings without eating anything before run. I know some people don’t like the idea, but it seems to work very well for me. It’s easier to run when feeling light. During colder weather, I don’t even need to carry water or gels with me. I’ve also tried to get with as little add-on energy and water when it got a bit warmer. I’m hoping this will make the last 10k easier for me.

I’m not going to switch to LCHF any time soon, and especially not in middle of training. So I’m going to do some carb loading before the race. This time I will actually do it a bit earlier than just last day. I’m going to avoid my previous mistakes. I’m not going to either drink or eat too much just before the race.

Every time you try something new, there is always a chance, it will not work. Even when you are trying to fix something  you know didn’t work last time. It is a normal trial and error method you just need to do till you succeed .

Nothing will go wrong

Vancouver trees

And everything can go wrong, but it will be only one of many races. I heard many times, that if you would really remember how bad the last miles on marathon are,  you wouldn’t run another. That also points out how important it is to have right mental attitude. You can do your part on training to get your self physically fit, but that is not enough. If you are mentally set to go, you can get better results than others with same physical capabilities and training behind.

It is very important to know your limitations, but it is even more important to focus on your strengths. So instead of thinking what will go wrong, better think how you can achieve your best possible result with the given conditions. You can only affect how much and well you train. That’s all done now.

And then, even if you manage to make some mistakes you could have avoided, or if the weather or any other external condition  is not optimal, there will always be another race. So for now, I’m not going to think what will go wrong, but what have I done right so far, and the things I’m going to do right on the race and on these last eight days before the race.

What about you?

How do you handle your worst marathon fears? What you think is the best way to get to the best possible result?

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