Please don't read if you are tapering

So here goes not sure where this post will take....

I entered my first full marathon this year, it was on this Sunday past and it went!!

Well.. it didn't go very well at all. Myself and my running partner started at our agreed pace, we kept to it pretty well for the first half always being a minute or so under, so far so good. The conditions were fairly good we were at the back so didn't have to cope with crowds and congestion, we were still on target a mile 13 which was also good.

But to be honest I never really got into the run as I normally would, I felt very warm my body never felt like it regulated - I had to pour water over myself to cool down plus my stomach was upset. At this point I will point out that I had tapered as per my plan and I had two 20 mile runs under my belt with no problems at all in fact I enjoyed them both and ran the same times with the same partner at each. But I started to feel a twinge in my calf coming up to mile 13 and them it spasmed, and again so I told my partner to go on without me.

I knew that I wasn't running again even though I had never had this experience before. I stretched and walked for a bit I had fluids with me I had taken on fluids at each of the water stations then I tried to run again. This time I ended up screaming in pain a very kind man helped me to the side put me on my back and stretched out my leg while I cried in pain it was fairly awful. I walked the next 13 miles only able to gingerly run across the finish as I was shouted on by a fellow park runner on the sidelines.

All my friends from my group have been so supportive and positive but I am bitterly disappointed and cant really figure where I went wrong nor can I really appreciate that I finished. To me I ran a half marathon and walked a half marathon the two don't marry for me personally. I am not normally this negative sorry if the post comes across that way.

One of the best bits of the day was finding out my partner crossed in the time we both wanted that made me feel better as it was what she had wanted and I was afraid I had effected her first marathon too.

I wouldn't wish this experience to happen to anyone else and please don't let it put you off your first marathon. I suppose what I am asking for is advice as I am feeling so gutted and no one I spoke to yet seems to understand they all feel I should be thrilled that I was so determined to finish. Thanks for reading.

37 Replies

  • Sounds to me that it might have been the Dublin Marathon? Sorry to hear of your misfortune.

    I heard that whatever you consume along the route should be the same that you use during training. My understanding of this is that you practice using the same brands throughout all training rounds beforehand.

    For that reason I always carry my own tap water (platypus backpack); home made electrolytes (water+fresh lemon juice+1tsp/lt pink salt in belt carried bottles); and some Chiroso sausage - sessions of 60/120 minutes+

    Do not try this as you will be getting into serious trouble along the way unless you are following a LCHF regime (not using starch at all) and reached the keto-adapted stage.

    Last month I completed my first full marathon (25th Sept) running solo in a slow 4hr 36 min; and

    my first cycling event (100 km) (11th Sept) in a moderate 4hr 11min.

    In both instances my recovery was swift and I was back training 48hr later feeling recovered and refreshed.

  • Yes it was Dublin in unseasonably humid conditions. I had copied my training runs brought my own water and had bottled water along the course. That is why it was so hard to figure especially as I had hydrated well all week and the 24 hrs leading up to it as I always would.

  • Having read some of the other responses, I suspect that the (potential) over-hydration depleted the body of the crucial electrolytes, something worth experimenting with during training leading up to an event.

  • You maybe right. Even though I used a hydration tablet before bed and again in the morning with breakfast and taking some with me in my water bottles, maybe the little extra water the day before combined with loss of fluids (nerves) just before the race start and weather conditions all added up badly. I am quite short and never seem to need the as much water as other too.

  • First - congratulations on finishing - it is an amazing achievement to go that distance, even if you don't quite feel it at the moment! I really sympathise - when I ran my first marathon this year I got a terrible pain in my right knee/ ITB at 10 km ( only another 32 to go - haha) which I had never really had before and seemed to come out of the blue. It meant I had to stop a couple of times, and really slow down, sometimes walking, which was not what I had in mind at the start. But hey ho, it could have a been worse - I could have not finished at all.

    Take heart, you did finish, you did the training, and you have had the experience. Have a break - and then do another!

  • Oh good grief again my experience was one I wouldnt wish for anyone but to have difficulties that much earlier is awful-awful- sorry. I hope u didn't do any lasting damage continuing!? It must have been terrifying I know I was daunted facing 13 miles of walking. Where did you go from there with your running and what helped in the days after the marathon? Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences x

  • It's a bit like having a baby - it was probably really awful - but now it seems so long ago I can hardly remember it! 😂 Actually at one point I remember seeing someone hobbling along with an ice pack strapped to his knee, and thinking well at least my knee isn't that bad!

    Anyway I think you should be really proud of yourself for doing a whole marathon!

  • I now get why people make that analogy even though I haven't gone through child birth!! I had a similar experience to you I stopped at a physio table on the route just after I had the worst od the spasms and there was a guy there on the table with acupuncture needles in his hips when he got off the table I get the feeling that his race was over for him he could barely walk at this was probably around mile 14.

    You have said what everyone else has said to me - you finished .

  • Need we mention that you completed 26.2 miles - I suspect it was Dublin - I was there supporting my husband and other club members/parkrunners. My husband has done a couple of 20 mile runs and he also found Sunday very tough. We had been cheering everybody on at the 20 mile mark (nasty hill before the heartbreak hill) and he was struggling but the support gave him a wee boost. We were able to cut across and meet them again at the 40k mark and there he was really struggling so I decided to run alongside him until he stopped dead with pain in the back of his leg - cramp just like you. He had plenty of fluids with him, gels, sweets etc but the cramp knocked him for six. He hobbled along until he got within sight of the finish line and then insisted on running across the line! My point is really that firstly - you finished it - just as he did - it may not have been the way you wanted to - but you finished it! What an achievement! I am not sure how you prevent the cramps next time but the point is that you can say you completed a marathon! Very well done!!! Congrats from the McGurrans. And by the way - a friend of ours who was doing his 17th marathon (why would you do 17 :) ), passed us at the 40k mark walking! Just goes to show that even the experienced ones found it very tough. Very well done you!

  • Thank you for such a warm honest heartfelt response! Yes I was whipped by Dublin.

    I think even if I had of slowed down and tried to get into it I may have still have gotten the cramps but next time I feel I'm over heated like that I will listen to my body rather than just putting up with it. The last time I was that hot was at the half marathon in Madrid. Then I just got away with it as I started to cramp but stretched it out as it was close to the end.

    Someone at work mentioned that an experienced runner he knows commented how the weather on the day wouldn't suit the Irish.

    I hope your husband is okay now and wasn't too sore after I know it took quite a bit for my calves to loosen up. I hope you all enjoyed the celebrations together! Thanks again

  • He has already said he will do it again!

  • It was a bit on the warm side for running - we don't do heat! :)

  • He's a real soldier!! A lot of the girls in my group cant wait to do it again too. I'm with you on the heat though I'm not a fan!!

  • Sorry to hear about your marathon. I haven't done a marathon yet, but I was disappointed with my performance in my first half marathon last year. I had trained really well, run the HM distance a few weeks earlier, and everything was on track. But fairly early on in the race, I realized that something was wrong. Like you, my temperature just didn't seem to regulate, I wasn't sweating, I got the chills and goosebumps, and things were just off. I ended up walking quite a lot, and was very disappointed in my final time. It really soured the whole experience for me, and I wasn't able to feel pleased about having completed a HM. I did some reading later, and realized that I probably had heat exhaustion.

    Maybe that's what happened to you? Apparently it's quite serious, and you're really supposed to stop running as soon as it happens. I didn't know that at the time, so I just upped my water intake - luckily I was running with a hydration pack. In your case, I'm thinking that it might explain why you got the cramps.

    I know I was bitterly disappointed for a long time. I just had to keep reminding myself that I had also proved that I could run the distance. It was just an off day. And then I started looking ahead to my next HM.

    Remember that your poor result wasn't down to anything you did. It was your body that just didn't play fair that day.

  • Thanks so much for your reply. I think you might be right I may have gotten away with it because of the extra hydration too and the fact that I walked after the cramps. It took me a while to feel right after too I had no appetite like I normally would after 20miles and my tummy too was off my system was out. I'm sorry you had such a similar experience it's hard to shake it off.

  • I really feel for you. I got away with it, but I was so close to crashing out of my marathon at the weekend, it gives me the horrors when I think of it! It really knocks the self-confidence, but I hope you can put this behind you and try again.

  • You hit the nail on the head when you said it really knocks the self confidence. They say if you can do a marathon you can try anything (almost) but feeling beaten by it knocks you back quite far!!! How are you feeling now, what effect has the experience had on you and your running? I hope you are so proud that you had the strength to keep going!

  • I fell and hurt my hands, and I freaked out because I was frightened about falling. I did it a few months ago when I was visiting family overseas - I went for a run in Texas, which should have been brilliant and nearly was! On Saturday at the marathon I got up and carried on, but I had so much negative self-talk going around my head. I thought my family would tell me that I shouldn't be running marathons because I was incapable of looking after myself. But after a while I gave myself a good shake, because apart from the fall I was having such a brilliant day. It's a lovely off-road marathon, with a very demanding elevation profile, and I had planned to walk some and take my time. I'd trained well, and I felt fit and strong. So nothing really was wrong, I'd just had a bit of a setback.

    A few months ago I had a horrible half-marathon with a sore throat and sinus trouble (plus warm, windy weather - yucky!), and I was so, so disappointed with my finishing time. So I really do understand how you feel. Unfortunately there's no way of knowing how things will go on the day, we just have to train hard and be prepared to make some tough decisions I suppose.

    I felt good after the race, a bit sore the next day, and a little stiffer the day after that, but capable of doing some short strength workouts on both days. So I'm pretty proud of myself actually :) Today my legs are pretty much back to normal, and I would have gone for a run but we had a few drinks last night... :) Tomorrow I will go out for a 5k!

    I hope you are feeling better, and that you will carry on with your race training xxx

  • Thanks I still feel a little 'delicate' today but in terms of pain I am ok. I have a few residual aches, the main problem being a blister on my toe from walking.

    Its lovely to hear how strong you feel already and how resolute you are about not letting it get to you too much - you seem to have an 'onwards and upwards' outlook which is lovely!! Enjoy that 5k

    The marathon was the first time I had actively decided to do a race with a partner, it seemed a good idea given it was my first and given the distance involved but maybe that brought a little too much responsibility with it for me too. It seems there were a lot of little but hard lessons in my day on Sunday.

  • Overhydratonight could well be part of the explanation - I have suffered with cramps on runs and every time it has been when the race day was hotter than I had expected and I have ended up drinking more water than planned. Every time I have had a cramp, I have had a salt craving, so I am trying out raking on electrolytes as part of my marathon training.

    I would mark this one down as a bad run - they happen! - and look at it this way, you will SMASH that time next year! :)

  • I think you have a very strong point it explains why my system felt all out of kilter is wasn't very hot but definitely unseasonably so. I may have undone whatever good I did with the hydration tablets before the race as I did 'lose' a lot more fluids than usual beforehand. A tip I was given which seemed to work for all my other races was a hydration tablet the night before and one with breakfast that morning also. Just don't take too many together as it has nasty side effects as a friend discovered! I really feel for you suffering leg cramps as I'd only had them at night before but I have a high pain threshold and I was screaming in pain at the side of the road - awful!

  • Huge hug...I feel for you... we build ourselves up and have specific aims and targets with regards to races and when it doesnt go as planned its very hard. I hope you have had this awful pain seen to? I hope its easing off now? You did however do it and your medal is well deserved. Would you like a badge?

  • Hi thank you for your kind words it really helped yesterday chatting to everybody as it was hard not knowing what had gone wrong but also the understanding of people and the shared experiences really helped. The leg cramps were ok after and the pains eased. I'm pretty good today thanks. My foot is healing without needing a trip to the doctor also.

    Maybe I should take a badge thanks as the first step to a more positive outlook on the experience thanks! Happy running

  • Yes Sharon see wot u mean

    Can I firstly congratulate u on finishing cos most people would have given up at 13 miles!

    However I suspect u want another crack at the marathon and why not?

    The marathon is a hard event and. Lot can happen on the day

    I would get your calf sorted out and then try again next year

    I bet u will run all the way!!


  • I love your steely optimism and determination I sense that this is the advice you would give yourself in the same situation. I guess even now the situation I am in is a process, something to go through and learn for but its hard going through the disappointment.

    Its funny you mention having another crack at the marathon, I nearly chocked on my lunch at work the other day - as I was reading emails (still feeling sorry for myself) I got an email saying I had won an entry at the expo - for the Barcelona marathon!!

    I well on the mend and very lucky not to have an real injury. Thanks and happy running!!

  • Sharon

    Wow Barcelona eh? That's brill!!

  • Oh I'm not sure...I don't know if I want to face in to that level of training especially over the winter. But I am making no definite decisions just yet! I just thought the irony of it when I opened the mail I had to laugh!

  • Sharon

    Yes see wot u mean but this could be fate calling you to have a go!

    Have u thought about joining a


  • I know that's the problem I do often believe things happen for a reason.

    Technically I am in two running group one that I have trained with up to now and one I was going to do speed training with over the winter - I was going to train with both. Just need to relax find my mojo and then figure out my master plan.

  • Sharon

    Sounds like you have it covered!

    I always found running in a group situation helps especially doing speed sessions and the tempo runs

    Good luck


  • Right back at ya thanks !!!

  • You can do everything right but still pull up with an injury. A calf pull comes out of the blue with no prior warning

    I hope you are OK now and can put it behind you. Good on you for finishing ☺

  • Thanks its hard pill to swallow, that like you said an injury can just come from no where!! It wasn't my day so I suppose I was looking for advice as to where to put my focus now. I've learned plenty of lessons since I started running this was the biggest and the hardest.

    I am well on the mend now and I am grateful that I didn't injury myself which could well have happened especially given my stubborn determination to finish.

  • I so know how you feel - did the GNR this year, my first half marathon and had slogged away through the humid summer to prepare. All good til out of the blue awful nausea and vomiting from mile 9 on. Got to the finish where I cried - sheer frustration that I hadn't been able to run every step as I had planned. I don't know why it happened and the same thing occurred at the GSR couple of weeks back, tho I did manage to keep running for all of that. At the time - "you made it to the finish line " felt very hollow but looking on line I read something about an Olympic champion who had the same problem for the last few miles. I bet he never thought he didn't deserve his gold medal. Also- this is not a criticism as I think Paula Radcliffe is great but we all saw her pull out in the Olympics so you can pat yourself on the back for showing great mettle to keep at it. I was lucky and had the GSR already booked so had to get out again and do some (for me) longer distances again quickly, but it does knock your confidence - you obviously have great determination tho. As a friend said - it is what it is on the day and you can only do your best with that - just, I wanted to speed over that finish line with flowing hair and lightly glowing skin!!

    Just seen you got a place at Barcelona - go girl!!

  • Oh we are very similar souls!!! And it is funny that I registered my interest to enter the GNR after watching it on TV for the second year, thinking how brilliant it would be to be a part of it!!

    Like you I cried many different types of tears through the last 13miles - pain frustration, anger and shame!! Its sounds like the start of a very dramatic novel, oops. I would love to have been like you and been able to keep running or at least to have run/walked. Its strange I had an upset tummy too, no where near as bad as you but it added to the discomfort. Did you ever figure the common denominator??

    I am exactly like you - I wanted to run over that finish line with a proud smile on my face having done as I had set out to, thankfully my running partner was able to get across the line in the time we'd set and I was thrilled for her. But my medal and t shirt didn't feel to me that they meant the same as they did to many others, as I mentioned before it felt I had run a half marathon and walked a half marathon - they just happened to be on the same day.

    I hope I get a spot in the GNR as I would love to do it. I have signed up for a race series in January so most likely I will still do that. Funnily enough I won a free place in the Barcelona marathon at the expo it came through email the other day but I don't know if I want to face into a winter of such heavy training....

  • Well, the only real common denominator was they were organised races with a lot of hanging around before, it never happened in training. The GNR it was hot and initially I thought it might be that I drank about 50mls of water in one go rather than sips on the way round, but the GSR I didn't drink any water on the route and it was really cold beforehand so I don't know. I had run over 10miles at least 12 times before the GSR so it wasn't brand new to me. I did wonder should I go and stand around outside for an hour or so to practice!!! I read the Brownlee's include that kind of detail in their training - but I don't have the motivation.

    I hope you get a place on the GNR because it is really all the good things they say about- just took an hour from the starting gun going to get to the start line, but then I am always in a pen at the back.

    Good luck

  • I don't know about you but it is frustrating when you cant quite put your finger on what it is that happened. I like to know what I can do differently in the future!!

    It would be nice to do the GNR but I have to say I'm glad I have nothing else booked for a couple of months, I need to regroup and figure my direction from here. I think race day nerves really didn't help me I think so many different things combined meant that I had little or no salt left in my system by the half way point. I hope you have the determination to keeping trying til you hit your goal

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