Now we’re into November, most people undertaking a spring marathon will be starting to think about their training. I think it’s fair to say that the hardest bit of doing a marathon is the training and I know when I signed up to do Brighton in 2011, most people thought I wouldn’t do it. I think they were forgetting that I can be really stubborn when I want to be and I took great satisfaction in proving them wrong.
Whether you have a supportive bunch of friends surrounding you or not, it’s important to stay motivated and do your training. If you are not a regular marathon runner, the marathon distance isn’t one that you should attempt to “wing” on the day. You will hurt at the end and you will probably find it tough at times and think “why did I decide to do this, whhhhhhhhhhy?”
So, how did I stay motivated? I’m not an expert by any means, but here are my tips from my one and only marathon to date, by a non-skinny girl with a thing for cake. I intend to put these into practice when I run my next in 2015.
- Get on Twitter.
Honestly, Twitter is ace. There are so many runners and athletes on there and most are super-friendly and happy to chat. The comradeship is incredible and I found one of the best ways to get out of the door was to tweet “can’t be arsed and I’ve got 6 miles to do”. It’s guaranteed that someone will shout at you to go. It really works and you’ll thank them later. Plus, you can brag about your achievements to a supportive audience, unlike your mates in the pub who will quietly think you mad. Ignore them, they don’t understand.
It sounds simple; jog, log and blog every day in January. Now, when marathon training you will not be wanting to run every day. The beauty of Janathon is that you can make of it what you want, whilst making new friends (see above). I used Janathon in 2011 to kick start my training for Brighton. I didn’t run everyday, but I ran 3 times of week and made an effort to do some more gentle cross-training in between, whether it was just walking or stretching. The leaderboard adds an element of competition which is motivating in itself and I finished the month a lot fitter than I was when I started. I also made some fantastic new friends.
- Mind over Matter
Tell yourself you are going to finish the marathon. And tell yourself you are going to complete the training. If you tell yourself you’re going to do it, you will. If you believe you’re going to give up, you will. If all else fail, make sure you have a friend who will never let you hear the end of it if you pull out. Then prove them wrong. I enjoyed every minute of Brighton 2011, bar a mile stretch when the sun just got a little bit much. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t finish and I crossed the line grinning and saying I wanted to do it again. This prompted a look from another runner, “you’re f***ing mad” he said. My then-friend and now boyfriend also ran the marathon. We did half together and then I left him. He found it very tough (he hadn’t trained enough) and said that at the 18 mile point, he seriously considered pulling out. He then realised he would never hear the end of it (from me, we had that sort of friendship of competition, now it’s a relationship of one-up-manship) and thought he better carry on. He finished.
- Charity Running
Maybe not for everyone and I would certainly think hard about a bond place. However, if you have your own place and you are passionate about a charity, why not set up a fundraising page for them on Virgin Money Giving? If you have sponsorship money riding on you completing a marathon, it’s incredible the additional sense of responsibility it adds and helps get you out of the door.
- Be adaptable
Obviously you don’t want to miss any runs, but missing the occasional run is not the end of the world. I used to schedule my long run for first thing on a Monday morning so it would be out of the way for the week and that worked well for me, but obviously for people who work, not so good. I found it really helpful to have that long run “timetabled” and then my other runs would be one mid-week and one on Saturday. However, sometimes things happen and you won’t always make it out of the door. I missed a week of training due to a nasty cold and subsequently, my planned 18 mile run. I still did my 20 mile run the following week, I just took it easy when necessary. There was also another week when there was bad snow and it just wasn’t safe to run on the ice. I did consider it and then a friend pointed out to me “If you miss a run, you can still do the marathon. If you run and break something, you won’t”. So that week, I went swimming and played badminton instead which was a lot of fun and still got me some exercise. The badminton in particular was great as it felt a bit like an interval session! In a nut shell, sometimes the best plans get trampled on – don’t get annoyed, find a way of adapting, whether it’s just changing the day of a run, going to the gym, or even accepting that you may just have to miss one.
- Don’t do too much, too soon
Build up gradually. Don’t just go and expect to run 15 miles in one go. It will end badly. Build up gradually as it’s the best way to prevent injury and build stamina.
- Mix it up
I like running. However, occasionally it can be boring. So mix up your runs. Do a long run each week, but also do shorter fast runs and hill runs. It might be tough, but it keeps things interesting and will only benefit your fitness.
- Health benefits
Making the decision to train for a marathon should be not be taken lightly. But do it properly and you can enjoy cheerful moods, toned muscles, increased stamina, possible weight loss and all sorts of other good benefits. Yay!
- Think of the cake
And the beer and the pizza and the chocolate…