As a keen club runner, I decided in December to run the London Marathon. But this time, I was determined not to make the same mistakes I made several years ago, when training for the Manchester Marathon.
Back in 2014, as a more inexperienced runner, I’d been pleased with my eventual time of 3.22. However, I’d massively underestimated the toll that the training takes on your body, especially on someone who was new to the sport. I kind of blindly started training, unaware, as time went on, of how my diet and body composition was being affected. Eventually, despite absolutely loving the actual day of the marathon, I found that the following few months left me exhausted, constantly unwell, and injury prone.
Unfortunately, my experience with my GP left me feeling frustrated. Understandably I don’t think my symptoms (tiredness, generally unwell, resulting in a reduced ability to run 50 miles a week) were particularly high on their list of importance, and so my constant fatigue, and injury after injury, went largely untreated.
It was only after a recommendation letter sent by my physio that my blood was tested and my injuries scanned. The result of the test and scans was a surprise for both me and my GP. I felt vindicated in some way, because the scans showed I needed cortisone injections into my spine for my injury, and that I had a severe depletion of iron and vitamin D which required a very high level of supplements.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, aside from the cortisone treatments, the period needed to normalise my iron and vitamin D levels was quite a long one, which also played havoc with my digestive system. The end result was a pretty unpleasant few months – all of which could have been avoided, quite simply, if I’d had a blood test earlier.
So, here I am, several years on, going for my 2nd marathon. Despite being a stronger and faster runner now than before, I was adamant that if I was going to train for a marathon, I was going to respect my body a little more. At 42, wasting time being injured and feeling fatigued is just not something I’m prepared to do, if I can help it.
So, I decided that I’d have a comprehensive performance blood test at the beginning of January, prior to training, and then follow this up post marathon, at the beginning of May. The earlier test would identify any problems that needed to be addressed, tell me if my body was ready to take on the extra training, and also identify any markers to watch out for, so that I could adjust my training schedule and diet. From experience, I knew that if I’d done this before my last marathon, I could have stayed much healthier throughout an intensive training period, and avoided the months of injury & fatigue afterwards.
Fortunately for me, the initial tests came back as relatively pleasing. I was a little low on vitamin D, but not so low that it would require too much intervention. I hadn’t been taking supplements, so by adding these, I’m hoping the levels will rise during the next several months, pre-marathon. My testosterone was also low. Unfortunately, this is not so easy to address and I’m pretty sure that my age is a contributing factor, however it’s nice to know this won’t be affected by my training over the coming months. My iron levels, while not the highest in the world, are acceptable, so I know I’m OK there – unlike last time!
I found the testing process to be incredibly simple. Order the test online, pop along to the nearest clinic to have the blood taken, and in a few days the results were available online. They were incredibly easy to interpret, with a simple sliding scale indicating whether the various levels identified were low, normal or high, and what to do accordingly. Their platform also enables me to track my results, so when I test again after my big race I can see how my training has affected my numbers.
Having received the information from Forth, I felt really in control of what I needed to watch out for, and confident that there were no glaring reasons why I shouldn’t train – apart from the fact that it was going to be bloody hard work, again!
January and early February’s training has gone well. Five weeks in and a 1.31 time in a half-marathon in the first week of January has given me a benchmark as to where my fitness is and what I can expect come April. There is no doubt that the training is hard work but I definitely feel more in control & confident this time, aware of the exact internal condition of my body before I start.
Roll on late February – when the hard training begins!!
Jude Peck, Training for The London Marathon