How I prepared for my first marathon

 

The early morning alarms. The aching legs. The incessant hunger. Adding ‘marathon runner’ to your identity comes with a whole host of consequences that seem less than ideal on paper. But, as 35-year-old RYAN CZWARNO discovered while preparing to run precisely 42.195 km, the sacrifices are worth it.

I’ve always been a fit guy. I played footy throughout my 20s, but I gave that up a few years ago. I’d always been a runner, but I started taking it more seriously to maintain my fitness. I started doing some trail running, then I decided to do a trail half-marathon and really enjoyed it. I do Pilates once a week, and my instructor told me about a running club, so I joined. That’s how I met my running coach and got into training for a marathon.

I read some books on running that inspired me. One was ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall, and another was ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami. These books planted the seed that I’d like to do a full marathon. At 35, I’m starting to feel my age a little more, so I like the idea of running the furthest distance I’ve ever run now – I’m not getting any younger.

I love how running makes me feel. I work as a consultant and regularly do long hours. I like running because it helps me de-stress from work and gets me out of my head. It feels like an escape. It also gets me away from the news cycle. I get to put down my phone and leave behind my internet addiction.

Preparing for a marathon all comes down to planning. Rohan, my running instructor, helped me out with a solid training program. He thought I could do it; it was just good to have help with the actual preparation side of it.

The biggest sacrifice I’ve had to make is time. My program – which I’ve been pretty good at sticking to – means I need to do about five long runs a week, and I need to fit them in between work and social commitments. If I know I have something on or I need to work late hours, I’ll have to get up really early to get the run in. I’ve had a couple of hangovers here and there too that I’ve had to work around.

My diet hasn’t changed much. I’ve been eating the same food, but I’ve just been hungrier, and eating more of it. That said, in the week leading up to the event, I’ll start to carb load with big pasta dishes. You need that to get through the distance. I’ve also stopped drinking alcohol in the final lead up to the event.

The most surprising thing has been the weight loss. I was already pretty lean, and I didn’t aim to lose any weight but preparing for a marathon means I have lost 5 or 6 kilograms. My clothes aren’t really fitting, and I’ve dropped a whole pant size.

The other surprising thing is how much I’ve enjoyed it. I find it so much easier to train when I have a goal to work towards. That’s the biggest benefit of doing a marathon – having something to achieve. I’m fairly confident I’ll get the marathon done, so I’ve set myself an ambitious finish time to keep up my motivation. That helps to drive me. To achieve that, I’ve got to put in the effort.

I’m lucky to have a very understanding fiancée. She’s looking forward to the marathon being over so she’s no longer a ‘marathon widow’. It helps because she’ll be running the 10-kilometre distance on the same day – her longest ever run, also – so we’ll get to celebrate together. She’s booked us into a nice restaurant for the night after the run, so we’ll have some nice food, a couple of wines, and then probably the best night’s sleep of our lives.

(As told to Taryn Stenvei)

 

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