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How not to train for a marathon – have a baby and then get no sleep.

30 April 2014


On this day in 2013, I had a baby. 2 hours before she was thrown onto my chest in the operating theatre, I had my first sleep for 3 days: 30 minutes of epidural-induced bliss.

Before Martha arrived, I was not a big sleeper. Never had more than 7 hours a night. Didn’t do lie-ins. Always up early. Fond of a night out.

Now? Sleep – oh, sleep, is the holy grail. The answer to any question. The solution to every problem.

At the beginning sleep is plentiful but sporadic. You all fall asleep at random times, in short bursts like Ellen Macarthur. You feel like Olympians trying to do a decathlon in the dark wearing wellies. Team spirit gets you through – “we can do this!” you croak to your partner as you pass in the hallway at 3am, handing off the baby like a baton. You watch a lot of box sets.

Slowly, progress is made. The baby sleeps for longer in one go. Unfortunately this long sleep starts at odd times, usually in the middle of dinner, and once you realise it’s happening, it’s half-way through. “Bed!” you yelp, abandoning the washing up to the cats and failing to brush your teeth for a week. The moment your head hits the pillow you are asleep.

Then, just as everything is getting better, everything goes wrong. The long sleep starts well, and sometimes lasts a bit longer, but it is fickle, oh so fickle. One night in two weeks she will sleep through the night. You, on the other hand, will still wake up every two hours. All the other nights she will wake up at the drop of a phone, or the clink of a belt buckle. “Why can’t you get changed in the bathroom?”, you will hiss at each other. The TV, like everything else, is now a distraction from feeding. Box-sets remain unwatched, possibly forever.

Slowly, real progress is made. Only now you know better than to talk about it, even to each other. Slightly more rested, you realise how tired you actually are. You go back to work and pretend to be a normal person. You drink a lot of coffee, but never after lunch, because then you lie awake after a 3am wake-up and know you are up for the day.

Running helps, up to a point. When you’re a little bit tired, exercise makes you less tired. It also helps you sleep well.

Not marathon training, though.

If I have learned one thing in the last year it is this: marathon training when you’re getting no sleep is a stupid idea.

I realise, looking back on old photos, that I was a MASSIVE SLEEPER. All I did during my previous marathon training periods, or possibly my life in general, was NAP. I loved naps. I had no idea how much I loved naps until it wasn’t possible to have any. There are so many photos of me asleep – on benches, in the garden, on the sofa – that either my husband is a somnophiliac or I took a whole lot of naps.

Sleep is important for athletes, and non-athletes who happen to be runners of marathons. It’s well known that Kenyan runners just eat, run and sleep. I have found time for the first two during this marathon training (well, mostly the first to be honest), but the third? Not so much.

On Monday I’m running the Milton Keynes marathon and I am worried. I’ve done (most of) the miles, but I really haven’t had the rest. Will I be able to run at anything like my target pace over 26.2 miles (8mins 15 secs per mile)? Will I be able to get to the start on time given that there are no direct trains from London (grr)? But mostly, will I get a full night’s sleep beforehand?

I will let you know.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. kathleen permalink
    30 April 2014 1:06 pm

    I can completely empathise with this post! My recent marathon was all the more difficult because of lack of sleep. Good luck on Monday, have a great run. p.s Martha is adorable!

  2. 30 April 2014 2:34 pm

    Congratulations on all of your hard work. You will be great. Good luck!

  3. 1 May 2014 8:03 am

    Thanks Ladies! I’m looking forward to the actual race, just all the stuff beforehand I’m stressing about…

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