Marathon Girl

Posted on October 06 2018

Gemma Hocket is a runner and award-winning blogger who wants to achieve her best whilst inspiring other women and runners. Read on for some fabulous marathon training tips and to learn about her time training in Kenya!

1. You started running at school - was it love at first sprint?

Was it love at first sprint? This is a funny question, only because I have recently realised what it was about it that I loved so much. It wasn't the distance, it wasn't the speed - it was racing. It was more like love at first win. I remember winning my school races like they were yesterday. The calm before the storm, the complete silence before the gun, the thumping in my chest and the tingling in my toes. Having no idea what was going to happen, but going along with it anyway. I still feel like this on the start line now, only the distance is 26.2 instead of 100 meters.

2. What prompted you to switch from short to long distance running? What advice would you give to someone looking to do the same?

In the early days of my marathon journey it wasn't about a switch, it was just about getting fit as I had gotten a bit out of shape. My sprinting days were behind me. I vividly remember calling my mum after I finished my first 12 mile run, simply astounded that I had run that far. I was fascinated by covering the distance to begin with, however one thing lead to another, and I found myself on the start line of the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2013. By that time it wasn't just about completing the distance anymore – it was about pushing myself. I set myself the goal of breaking 4 hours and I wasn't going home without it. In terms of advice; I would say focus on building up very gradually on the distance, listen to your body, rest it and fuel it well. My first time increasing miles was extremely tough on my body -  I did a couple of half marathon races before dropping the big one. Seeking help from a running physio to help identify any weaknesses to work on would be a good idea.

3. Do you have any top tips for surviving a marathon?

OK, I would say the following: Energy is king, so ensure you fuel well on the lead up to the race. Hydration is also very important - electrolytes in your water on the final days leading up to the race are great way of helping with this. Bank lots of sleep on the week leading up to it. Do not risk trying anything new on the day, practice everything in training, for example: race outfit, breakfast, gels and gel strategy. Dress appropriately in accordance to the weather. Control only what you can and have faith in your training. When the going gets tough, remind yourself why you're doing this and draw on those motivators. Make friends with the pain and embrace it. The final few minutes of a marathon are simply magical and teaches me the most about myself. Be in the moment, soak it all in and enjoy the final moments of the journey.

4. You've consistently broken your own records with every marathon — how do you keep yourself motivated and focused on your goals?

I think the love I have for 26.2 keeps my motivation, drive and focus going. I enjoy the grind, therefore it's rarely a chore to train. I also keep a training journal where I keep track of pretty much everything, lol. Seeing the little improvements as the weeks and months pass, keeps my eye on the prize.

5. Can you describe a typical day of marathon training?

I leave the house at 5:30am and commute to London from Essex, where I fuel and hydrate along the way. I make a pit stop to the office, dropping off my bag before hitting the road for my training session. I start training at 7:00am and finish by 8:45am. I allow myself a ten-fifteen minute window to shower and fix myself up (back at the office), before heading up to my desk to start the working day. In my lunch break I usually train. Depending on the day it could be strength or core, rehab work or yoga. Unless I have a second run to do, as soon as I finish work (typically between 5:00pm-6:00pm), I commute home as quickly as possible. My evenings consist of cooking dinner for my husband and I, meal prepping for the next day and having a hot bath. I usually stretch in front of the TV and turn out the lights to go to sleep pretty early.    

6. You've trained in Kenya, what did that involve and what was it like? 

Training on the hills of Iten at altitude was absolutely brutal - I often tripped up, and even fell over a few times, lol. Typically we would run twice a day, once at sunrise and again in the late afternoon. Training out there really hardened me up. Just being around these people made me realise my idea of hurting and their idea of hurting were two completely different things. Our maid Sally cooked for us three times per day – the food she cooked for us was incredible. I got to hang out with legends such as the Robertson twins (Jake and Zane) and even had a cup of tea at Brother Colm's house (also known as "the Godfather of  Kenyan running )! I documented my time in Kenya on my blog, which can be found here:

https://www.themarathongirl.co.uk/single-post/2017/01/29/Kenya---Part-1
https://www.themarathongirl.co.uk/single-post/2017/02/06/Kenya---Part-2
https://www.themarathongirl.co.uk/single-post/2017/02/13/Kenya---Part-3

Richard, my Kenyan training partner (28:00 10km runner) would shout things out like "kill the hill" like every two minutes. I just remember the look on my friends faces when I got back to the house -  they would frequently laugh at the state I got into. Living and training with the Kenyans was one of the best experiences of my life and it made me appreciate everything I have so much more. I do very much hope to go back one day.

7. How do you recover after a marathon?

Rest. Lots of food, sleep and deep tissue massages. I like to go on holiday after a marathon to relax and switch off. This year I went to Thailand and it was wonderful.

8. What are your must-haves for marathon training? Do you have a routine pre and post race?

My must-have items are things like my Garmin GPS watch, ifitness belt, CEP compression wear and Optimum Nutrition products. I do have a routine both pre and post-race. Each time I run a marathon I record what I did before and after, this really helps me to learn what works well and to identify potential improvements for next time.

9. Since your injury in the Manchester marathon, do you have advice for dealing within an injury and overcoming obstacles in training?

I always believe that a disappointment is replaced by my next success. I draw upon this during the frustrating times of injury, or the times following a lousy session for example. I try to be kind to myself and take comfort in the fact that I am trying my best. I try to feed the good woolf in my head and focus on the positives. As most runners will explain, this isn't often an easy task. Injuries are so testing, but just not giving up is key

10. Do you find that running/regular exercise causes you any skincare issues? 

Yes it can do, yes. I have combination skin, so I suffer with breakouts if I do not look after my skin properly. Also, 90% of the time I am in a rush, so I prefer to use products that are quickly absorbed. During the winter months, long runs can really batter my skin as well. I have to say that I am chuffed with the full Pretty Athletic range, especially the serum and the body moisturiser - they are just beautiful.

11. What are your gym bag / kit bag essentials? 

OK, gym bag essentials besides food, lol: Dry shampoo, Pretty Athletic cleanser, Pretty Athletic body wash and moisturiser, not forgetting the serum. Oh, a hair brush and always two sets of training outfits for the day ahead

12. Outside of running, what's your favourite way to work out? 

Iyengar yoga, which is a form of Hatha where the focus is on the structural alignment of the body. I find that holding the poses for longer helps both my muscles and my mind to relax.

 For more, check out Gemma's blog here: https://www.themarathongirl.co.uk and her Instagram account here.

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