Ironically I am writing this post from my sofa, with a delicious G&T (and an equally delicious husband) for company however, since the clocks sprang forward last week my social media feeds have been rammed with talk of lighter evenings, perfect for getting out and today it has been all about final long runs, tapering, ice baths and Paris…For runners, the arrival of April means MARATHON SEASON and I challenge any one of you to watch the coverage of the Marathon in 3 weeks time and not:
- Cry your head off
- Want to sign up
Though I would never be so bold as to call myself a ‘serious runner’, I suppose I have a bit of experience having run the London Marathon 3 times. It is the only marathon I’ve ever run however but I do plan on ticking off some others before I hang up my trainers.
Here’s my take on making sure you get the best out of your marathon experience where ever and when ever that may be. Who knows, you might even feel inspired to sign up yourself…
OK- First things first, lets get the disclaimers out of the way- I am not a medical expert, in fact, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in anything so take this advice in the spirit in which it is intended and, if you’re not sure about anything health related, check with an actual expert- not Google.
Right, now the ugly legal side of things is out of the way, here’s my marathon brain dump on…running a marathon.
- You can almost certainly run a marathon.
Even if you are reading this having not seen your toes since 1996, I reckon, with the right preparation you would be able to complete a marathon. I’m not saying it would be fast, I’m not even saying it would be in the next year or 2 but getting fit (or fitter) can be done with planning, perseverance and determination.
One of my favourite quotes is
So, if you want to complete a marathon you just need to tell your body you can (and then check with an expert, get fitted for a sports bra and a pair of trainers and perhaps download the Couch to 5km app as a starting point.
2) Run for a cause
A cause needn’t be a charity- maybe the cause is yourself but whatever your reason, it needs to be a compelling one because sometimes, getting motivated to go out for a run is tough. You will need motivation to keep you going.
Point to note- If you’re applying for one of the ‘big’ marathons via their ballot and don’t get a place be wary of accepting a charity place for a cause you don’t truly care about. The first marathon I ran was for The British Heart Foundation. I lost my daddy unexpectedly to a heart attack when I was a little girl and I wanted to raise money and honour his memory. It worked. I raised over £4,000 but these days fund raising can be really hard. Every man and his dog is climbing mountains, giving up alcohol or bathing in beans for charity these days and if you aren’t genuinely passionate about what you are raising money for it will be harder. There are so, so many excellent charities out there and they are all worthy so have a good look and do your research. Equally, there are loads of brilliantly organised marathons that do have spaces so, if it’s more about the distance and proving yourself to yourself then they might be better options. Check what your options are here, I think Chester (2nd October) is excellent.
3) Find a community
Whether this is a group of mates, a local running club, your gym or an online community find others with a common passion and goal. They will be your cheer leaders, your support network and the ones you share PB’s with, injuries, fears and feelings in a way that non runners just won’t get. If there is a Park Run local to you GET. ON . IT. They are an excellent way to boost confidence, speed and meet people.
4) Take it as seriously as you want
When one of my best friends ran the marathon he stopped drinking on New Years Day, treated his training like a second job and got injured with 2 weeks to go falling off a curb. I on the other hand took it a little more with a pinch of salt- I trained a fair bit but no where near as much as the training plans recommend, didn’t really amend my diet and got round in a little over 5 hours. Looking back I don’t think either method was ideal. I am disappointed I didn’t put more in but I still had an absolutely incredible experience and raised a whole load of money for an incredible charity.
5) Prepare for an emotional Rollercoaster
I applied through the ballot for a place in this years VLM and was gutted when I didn’t get a spot. I applied through a couple of charities that are very close to my heart but didn’t get in with them either. I was shocked by how disappointed I was and I know I’ll be feeling it all over again when I watch the coverage on 24th April and hear the amazing opening score.
Those that did get a place however will have had months of
‘YES- I am nailing this’
‘What was I thinking- I can’t run a marathon, I can barely run a bath’
and every single emotion in between…often all experienced in the time it takes to do your long training run on a Sunday morning! These feelings (in my experience) are easily dealt with with a hot bath, a good cry, a glass of red, bar of chocolate and a bag of chips but that may have been my downfall!! Some days everything will go like a dream, you will feel as if you are running on air and could go on forever, other days it is like pushing water uphill with a rake and I for one have never been able to work out WHY.
The marathon week is something else all together- you’re stressing about a last minute injury, carb loading, getting enough rest but not over sleeping and missing the start. The weather, the water stations, the toilets and everything else in between and then, when you see the crowds, hear them shouting your name and willing you on, when you read peoples reasons for running and make your way around the course it is quite simply an incredible and very humbling experience- I am getting emotional thinking about it now. At some point you’ll find yourself crossing the line, collecting your medal and wondering how on earth you got there. It is an amazing, amazing experience and one that I am so so pleased I took on.
So, there you have it- my take on marathon running. In short, it can be summed up as follows:
and I am telling you now, this girl can AND WILL again (and hopefully in under 4.30).
Go on; Just do it, GOOD LUCK.