Marathon Running in 30 Days – An Idiot’s Training Program

Every now and then I love to set myself an “impossible” goal and test my physical and psychological limitations, so why not a Marathon? like that time when I decided to run my first half marathon when I couldn’t even finish a mile, or when I wanted to live abroad and spent 1 year in Malaysia instead of any other European country, or even the day I decided to cycle 30km up a 1000m mountain in Portugal with zero preparation and still made it home for dinner.


This time was no different so once I made up my mind back in September I found out that my only chance of running a marathon in 2017 would be to go for the 14th Porto Marathon back in my hometown. With thirty five days to get ready, how the hell was I going to pull this one off? After doing some research I found out that preparing for a marathon in one month was not only done before but also that the internet was full of advice and training plans to get it done without injuries. Challenge accepted!


Marathon training program


As you can see above, this was my 35 day training plan with all the steps to make this successful. You can see on the left columns the instructions on the running style and distance and on the right my fitness data as well as what I’ve eaten and how my body felt after each run. The red lines are the days that either my body or my head failed me where I was supposed to go for a run but didn’t. So in total there were only 27 days of training that covered more than 250km and burned around 32000 calories.

The devil is in the details

Doing a marathon is nothing that should be taken lightly and it’s a huge stress for the body, so it’s convenient to respect and take good care of it before, during and after the race. Before day 1 I was working myself to death and doing one run per week every now and then, not more than 8-10km each time so I wasn’t (and I’m still not) what you can call fit. Nevertheless I decided to give it a shot and see how my body would react along the way.

I’m not an expert in fitness so this is not something that came out of my head. After spending many nights reading the internet end-to-end, fitness blogs and pro-runners advice I built the excel sheet above that sounded both solid as well as doable considering my life style and routine.

Running gear

As for the running gear, there’s nothing really that ground breaking that anyone that runs on the weekends won’t use, but there are definitely some small tricks (specially that energy gel on the right) that help you get to the end of it both alive and still with two legs.

As you can see in the image:

  • Running shoes: my loyal, comfy and gorgeous Nike Lunarglide 8 with Dynamic Support technology that proved to be very reliable and stable during the entire time. Never felt any bit of pain, discomfort or skin injury in my feet.
  • Top and shorts: Nike Zonal Cooling short-sleeve training top and shorts to remain dry and without skin rashes. The shorts are very comfortable on the legs and have a nice handy back-pocket for the car/house keys or music device.
  • Compression socks: This was the latest addition to my running gear after the last 34km run before the race. Once I completed 27km I started to feel a big discomfort and what could be the beginning of some very painful lower leg cramps. With the help of these babies I got the full 42.3 done with no cramps or pain besides the one you can expect after running for 4 hours and half.
  • Smart watch: I resisted for a long time to buy one of these (I can get resistant to new technologies sometimes, specially if it comes in a form of yet a new device to carry around) but it was the best decision I ever made after my friend Alexander convinced me into it. I bought a Garmin Forerunner 235 integrated with Strava and now after each run I can keep track of all my biometric data (including heart rate which was a big issue when I started one month ago) and compare how things evolve with time with zero effort logging stuff after the run. Highly recommend, great value for money.
  • Energy supply: for the race day and long runs above the half-marathon threshold  I bought the Energy Up! gel from Victory as a source of carbohydrates and sodium. It contains 25g of the fast-absorbing carbs, dextrose, fructose and sucrose. These carbs are quickly absorbed into the body and immediately replenish the energy reserves. It also provides the body with extra amounts of sodium to avoid getting dehydrated and giving up on the race as a consequence.
  • Music: and of course I got the essential support of my iPhone with this Spotify playlist to get me through the rough parts of the race.

Some of the places I’ve seen on the way

The most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life I did it while running. From the Malaysian hills, passing by the beaches of Thailand and California, Berlin’s first snow, and ending right here by the ocean in my hometown. Check out below some of the photos I couldn’t resist taking on the way.

Volkspark Friedrischain, Berlin
Arrábida Bridge, Porto
Sunset by the beach, Porto
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Foggy early morning run, Porto

Race day

Obviously I couldn’t sleep very well the night before and woke up around 6am to have a slow and relaxed start into the big day. Only ate one greek yogurt with some nuts and one banana and off I went to the race location near the ocean.

The race started as usual with a big party in the starting line with all three marathon groups and the two other fun races (15 and 5km) leaving at the same time. To be honest I didn’t feel the first 10km go by, had a very strong start and was feeling better than in any other run during my training. The next 10k went on also pretty smoothly with an average pace always around 5min/km.

The night of the walking dead

It was my second best half-marathon time (never thought it would be possible to write this, but I actually did three half-marathons in less than 1 month!) and that was when my problems started. The road started to get rough, the moral decreasing and everyone else around me (the group aiming to finish around the four hours) also looked in trouble. I saw a couple of guys giving up, some other started walking in an apparently huge muscle pain and many running like if they were part of a zombie apocalypse. I got the feeling that the same could happen to me at any moment given I just left behind Checkpoint 11 (30km) and was approaching my all time consecutive run maximum of 35km.

Those last meters with the heart

Fortunately nothing happened and I kept going, the sun was burning (it was around lunch time), something close to 20ºC and my entire body was yelling me to stop. Knees started failing, joints were burning, however surprisingly my upper body was pain free after having my back giving me trouble for most part of the month. I don’t know exactly how I reached Checkpoint 12 (38km) – I remember for the most part I ran with my eyes closed (true story!) but now I was too far in to stop and all that was needed was this tiny little final push to get me to cross the finish line.

Those last 2kms were, hands down, the hardest thing I ever did in my life. After that last turn into the final 200m I kissed my mom – cheering and hoping I was still alive – and rushed to cross the finish line after 4:26:42. What a ride, one I couldn’t even dream of when I started running seven years ago.


What’s next?

The good thing about testing your limits is that it’s a never ending journey. There’s always something more crazy, more impossible or more dangerous to achieve and people doing it every day, so for now my plan is to have some serious rest and enjoy Christmas as much as possible. After the new year starts I’ll take a serious look into triathlons and one half marathon in the Jordanian desert that is calling for me for quite some time now.

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