What I learned from a 32K

The 32K was meant to be the prelude to my first-ever marathon run. It represented my farthest run. I don’t think I could’ve run for more than 3 hours by myself. And, as mentioned at the Run United site, the 32-kilometer mark is the point where marathon runners encounter the dreaded “wall.”

My 32K didn’t go as planned. There were a couple of things I got right—I wasn’t intimidated by runners who were overtaking me, I was taking advantage of the hydration stations and consuming energy gels at regular intervals.   My average pace in a half-marathon was 6.5 minutes per kilometer. I figured I could run a 7-minute pace. I guess I over-estimated myself. I was able to average a 7-minute pace for at about the 25-kilometer mark, but then I crashed at the last two kilometers. It wasn’t my stamina that gave in; my legs weighed me down.  There was no juice in them.

Maybe it was because I lacked sufficient training?  I checked my training log.  My last long run, a 2-hour slow run that covered just 16.75 kilometers, was on October 30.  But after that I just had 4 short runs.   I don’t know if that was enough mileage, but I think I have to begin logging in some serious distance running!

Here are the other things I learned in the 32K and should note in preparing for the 42K:

  • My other mistake was the same mistake I made when I started off on a distance that I have never run before.  I would start out strong, brimming with confidence and filled with motivation, only to crash and burn at the final kilometers.  This happened to me when I first ran a 10K.  It happened to me in my initial foray at the 21K.  I should realize that 32K (and my upcoming 42K) is a long, long, LONG run.  I have to pace myself and maybe steel myself for the final 5K.  The goal should be to finish; a decent time should be secondary.  Note to self: run at a pace where I can finish, not a pace where time is important.
  • I should bring enough water.  In the 21K runs, I would only bring one 500ml bottle of water, and more often than not I wouldn’t open it during the run.  It would serve as my post-race thirst-quencher.  However, in the 32K, the hydration stations ran out of water.  I guess it was because I was towards the bottom-half—or maybe even the bottom-third—of the pack.  So I relied on my sole 500ml water supply.  It was enough to get me through the finish line, but if this was a marathon, I may have ended up parched and dried-mouth.  Note to self: don’t rely on hydration stations as their supplies may run out; bring three bottles of water.
  • I really didn’t pay attention to the risk of chafing.  But somewhere during the 32K, my armpits became sore.  It was rubbing against the seam of my singlet.  And when I took a shower, raw blistering pain shot out of my inner thighs.  Note to self: check the singlet for raised seams, and remember to use Vaseline or a similar lotion.
  • I need to respect the “wall.”  When I ran the 21K, most of my efforts were aimed towards avoiding the wall.  I guess it will be inevitable in a marathon.  I guess the trick will be to postpone that event as late as possible.  If I hit the wall in the 32-kilometer mark, that means I will have to struggle for more than an hour.   Breaking the wall is part physical but it is also part mental.  I need to build mental fortitude.  In the last 5K I was focusing on my body, on the pain I felt in my hips, calves, and shins, impatiently counting down the kilometers.  Maybe this technique heightened my sense of fatigue?  Note to self: I need more dissociative techniques—maybe imagining myself in a beach or in a hot tub.

One thing I need to do: between today and February (my scheduled marathon run), I have run another run that is longer than a 21K.  Maybe a 25K or a 32K in January.  I’ve been checking the running sites for run schedules but couldn’t find such a race.  If there are no such races, then I have to do such a run by myself.

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