Alright alright, I know. Who the heck am I to give any kind of advice about running a marathon. Well that’s exactly what I thought but in the online running Club I joined (The Clubhouse – it will re-open for new members in April with a new look and programme including expert input, challenges etc – looking forward to it) there are a few of us training for marathons and a few people doing their first marathon. One lovely lady was having a marathon sized and shaped panic this morning and it made me reflect on how I feel about London looming. In 10 weeks it will all be over so how do I feel?
I am mostly calm. I am worried about the patchy training. I am a little concerned about the next training run which is a ‘get the train to Leeds and run home’ kind of a deal but I realised that I am totally calm about the event itself. So here’s what I know and what is keeping my calm
- Trust in the training. You have to train for a marathon unless you are some insanely fit freak who has a natural running ability. You have to train but no training plan ever really goes completely to plan. I met so many people doing the Dopey Challenge who missed runs, who were injured at some stage or who just didn’t get their butts out as much as they’d wanted to but they all finished. It’s about getting out there, doing the long runs as best you can and then trusting in that on the day.
- Clothes are more important than you realise. You don’t want to have to think about clothes at all while running. They shouldn’t be a thing so everything has to fit and be comfy. It has to be perfect. I ran the Dopey 5km in 3/4 pants I hadn’t worn for running before because I wanted to wear them round the parks after and not have to get changed. BIG mistake. They chafed massively on my tummy where the cord sat to tie them – and this was only a 5k! For London I will wear my trusted marathon pants and either the T-shirt I have worn for a half marathon and the Dopey marathon or possibly a charity top if I train in it on a long run before then.
- Knickers – Some of my comfiest knickers are horrendous for running in. Don’t know why but they chafe. Work our which are good running knickers and which are not
- Socks – I am so lucky to have really resilient feet. My little toes were mangled after Dopey but everything else was fine. But like everything else, you have to know that your socks and also your socks and trainers combination works.
- Running belts etc. I don’t even notice my running belt is there but make sure that you train with roughly the same stuff in it as you will have in it on the day – it feels different when it is full than when it is empty. Just remember that different isn’t a good thing on marathon day
- The Wall – is it worth worrying about? Not sure it is. Chances are we will hit it at some point. I was really concerned about the WALL before Dopey. Now I couldn’t care less. I hit the wall so so early during the Dopey marathon – at around mile 5 – and I finished. Try and see the wall as this thing that will be there for a little bit of the course, it’s part of the marathon. That’s that. It has no bearing on whether you finish or not.
- Mantras: I have them, I use them when it gets tough. They’re useful but also remember to allow in new thoughts and new mantras as you run. I started with a ‘there are no hills at Disney’ mantra and ended up with ‘not a real hill – this is Disney’ when I was faced with a slope or two!
- Target times: However much people say they just want to finish, I can’t quite believe that. Everyone will have a time in mind. That’s not to say that they won’t genuinely be proud (and rightly so) if they ‘just finish’ but I bet everyone has a ‘I’d like to do it in…’. I did. I wanted, really really wanted, 6 hours for Dopey. That wasn’t to be. That’s fine. I’m a little disappointed but mostly I am bloody proud. So, London. I just want to finish but I’d really like to finish in less than 6 hours. Really like to. I will use that target time to keep an eye on my pace, make sure I go slow at the beginning and maybe to help me speed up a little towards the end but it’s a marathon. It’s not about doing it fast, it’s just about doing it.
- Fuelling: Because I now know what works for me in the run up to a marathon, right before it and during it I am not panicking. You’ll need to work out what works for you but eating plenty of good carbs like pasta and veggies like broccoli etc the days leading up to the run works, porridge about 90 minutes before running works (this is tricky given the long wait to cross the start line etc but basically means eating a porridge pot on the way to the start line) and then having a banana shortly before setting off works and my porridge bars work for during the run.
- Water stations etc – I am happy to take water at fairly random intervals – I haven’t trained for specific points and I am happy to take them as they come. That worked before, it works in training, it will work for London
- Maybe the key thing is that I have gone the distance before – maybe that gives me a huge advantage but I am not sure. I don’t really believe I can do this any more than I did last time – except that I sort of do. It’s hard to explain. I do not believe I am the sort of person who can run a marathon but I absolutely believe I will complete London. I am stressing about all sorts of things like reaching the fundraising target (you can help with that here), doing the course justice and being able to enjoy it, doing better than last time, not getting injured in the next few weeks, people laughing at me… but I am not stressing about getting it done. If I can get my arse out and train for these next few weeks then I’ll do the 26.2 miles on the day.
- Don’t underestimate the power of support – whether that’s from the crowd on the day, people tracking you and sending you messages of support, people who have sponsored you. I thought a lot about that support during the Dopey. It helps more than you can imagine
- Look around, soak it up and love every second. This is actually my biggest aim for London. I did this on the Dopey Half Marathon and I have such warm fuzzy memories of that run – even the really tough bits. I forgot to do that for much of the marathon. I had to be reminded every now and again but by then my head just wasn’t in it anymore. Look around and smile. You’re running a marathon, you’re fucking awesome.