In 2019 I ran my first half marathon. For 2020 I wanted to go even further, so I set myself the target of running a full marathon.

It didn't go quite as planned.

Race Information

Date March 15th, 2020
Distance 26.2 miles
Time 5:37:39


Goal Description Completed?
A Finish in under 5:00 hours No
B Finish in under 6:00 hours Yes
C Finish the race Yes


I stuck pretty close to Hal Higdon's Novice Marathon plan. I kept notes throughout my training, which I've tidied up below:

  • Early training weeks are hard because of lack of practice. Later weeks are even harder and tire me out.
  • Motivation really dipped halfway in, around the time I completed my first 13.1 mile training run.
  • Training is REALLY time consuming. Longer runs can hours to complete, and then there's added hours for recovery.
  • Foam roller helps a lot with recovery. As do compression socks and knee brace.
  • I wanted to eat a lot of food ALL the time.
  • I felt really out of shape, even though I was the fittest I've ever been.
  • Somebody tried to run me over on one of my long runs, and they followed me home in their car. That put me off running outside for a while and made me quite nervous.
  • Tuesday runs are the hardest to get motivated for. I still ache from the long run on Sunday, and 3 miles doesn't feel like worth bothering with. Once I got going they were fine.
  • Failed my first 15 mile run. I only hit 11 miles and struggled with the last hour. Walked a fair amount. I did swim the day before, so that might be why.
  • Cold weather running is brutal. Thermal undershirts help.
  • My run on 30/01/2020 was awful. I REALLY wanted to quit after 1/4 mile. I stopped and turned around before forcing myself to keep going. I felt a bit agoraphobic.
  • The 18 miler went okay, but got boring towards the end and the last few miles were very hard. It hurt my quads and took two days to recover from.
  • I got to run side-by-side with a train. That was neat.
  • Ran my 20 mile week pretty comfortably. First 5 mile run was nice and quick. 10 miler was pleasant enough. Last 5 miler hurt due to aches, but was doable.
  • Last 20 mile run was a complete bastard. Coming up the hill was agony, and my upper thigh hurt a lot. Took two to three days to recover properly. Rolling helped.
  • It was REALLY hard to motivate myself once tapering was in place. Retroratcheting goals on Beeminder helped.
  • 8 miler after 20 miler really hurt after about 4/5 miles.
  • Took the last 12 miler off due to IT band soreness. Didn't want to do take time off, but didn't want to risk further injury.


I stuck pretty close to my half-marathon prep:

  • No alcohol for at least 7 days before the race.
  • My night before meal was fresh spaghetti and meatballs.
  • I ate 40g (dry weight) of oatmeal 4 1/2 hours before my start time.
  • I drank around 8oz of sports drink (Skratch Labs) before starting.
  • Applied a healthy amount of astro glide to the appropriate areas.


The actual race was canceled due to COVID-19. The race was due to take place on March 15th, and on March 10th I received an email saying it was still going ahead. Two days later it was canceled. I spent the day deciding on whether or not I'd do it by myself or just wait until 2021.

In the end I decided to go for it.

The first half came in 2 seconds under my target time, but I knew as soon as I hit the mark that I wouldn't make the finish at the same pace. I shifted to "finishing slow is better than DNF" mode.

The last six miles were extremely painful, especially in my thighs. I walked for around a mile until the pain decreased.

It was difficult to stay hydrated. I brought 20oz of sports drink with me, but I had to ask for someone to deliver two bottles of water around mile 20. That might be the best water I've ever drank.

I found running alone to be particularly challenging. There's nobody to set pace with, and I was running laps which was boring. My headphone batteries died around 4:30 which really tanked my energy. I ended up running the last few miles on the street to break up the monotony.

Finishing alone was a bit of an anti-climax; I was waiting for my watch to say "26.2" so I could stop, rather than running under a banner to the sounds of cheers. Having done it both ways, I can say that having other people around makes a huge difference to how it feels.


Post-race felt a lot like a really bad hangover. My mouth was dry and no amount of water helped. My lips were chapped. Everything hurt. I sat in the car on the way home and confidently declared "I am never doing that ever, ever again".

My next marathon is March 21st, 2021.