On Sunday the 22nd April (along with over 41,000 wonderful human beings) I ran the Virgin London Marathon 2018. Like many others gathering at the start line, it was my inaugural voyage into the world of running (26. 2 miles) and even though I’d trained like a beast for the past six months, I was consumed with nerves, self doubt at ruminating thoughts of “can I actually do this?”.
It didn’t help that it was the hottest London Marathon on record. My training runs had been throughout the Winter, so I was more accustomed to ice, snow and torrential down pours than sunshine and as a result I was beginning to doubt all the strategies I’d put into place.
The advice at the expo was to run at a slower pace, not to strive for PBs, listen to our bodies, run in the shade (where possible) and stay hydrated (all of which was invaluable in hindsight) but as I headed to the start line at Greenwich Park last week (after 200 trips to the toilet) the fear was real!
But little did I know that this little run through the streets of London was going to be one of the most magical experiences of my life and would spark a passion for running that I didn’t even know existed! It is everything people say it is (and more) and if I encourage you to so one thing on Monday 30th April, it would be to enter the ballot for London 2019.
Many of you have been asking about my journey as a newbie to marathon running, so if you’d like to learn more about my journey to London 2018 then read on…
Last year (after being inspired by the bbd documentary “mind over marathon” ) I decided that 2018 would be my year to run a marathon. Mainly because this was the year I was turning 40 (I know – I can’t believe it either) and I decided that such a momentous occasion needed to be marked with something extraordinary. I knew I wanted a challenge that would push me beyond my physical limits and I needed conformation that turning 40 is just a number (sob…please insert a crying emoji here) and anything is possible if you want it badly enough, so a marathon seemed like the perfect fit.
I’ve always been “fit”. I trained as a contemporary dancer and have practised yoga and pilates for over 20 years. I have good cardiovascular fitness, can knock out a hit class with relative ease and pride myself on my competitive nature and fighting spirit. With this in mind, I nievely assumed that my back catalogue of fitness prowess would equate to having pretty good running fitness too …right? er…wrong! Especially when entering the world of endurance running – it’s a whole different ball game. Even though my baseline fitness certainly helped, running I’ve learned (and am still learning) is not quite the same thing.
Before I started training (seriously training) my running history was pretty much non existent. Yes I’d run the odd 5k and even participated in my local Tough Mudder, but running any kind of distance was completely ailien to me. I soon realised that to turn my marathon dream into a 26.2 mile reality, I was going to have to go back to the drawing board and start from ground zero.
I started running once a week, slowly building up my distance but never actually running more than once. In October, I threw myself in the deep end with a local (very hilly) half marathon and quite frankly it was hell. My once a week training session had not prepared me for the distance, I didn’t have enough miles in the tank, had no clue about pacing (or nutrition) and I hated pretty much all of it (especially the last three miles). I hit the wall (if that is even possible in a half marathon) and the last mile felt like 20! A series rethink in my strategy was needed…
After brushing myself (and my ego) down and jumping back on the a marathon band-wagon. I decided that if I’m actually going to complete the London Marathon, I’d need a training plan. Preferably one that was written by someone who actually knows what they’re doing! As clearly making it up as I went along wasn’t quite cutting it.
I decided to go onto the London Marathon website (after all this was the event I was training for) and even though there were loads of options, I downloaded their improvers plan. Because even though the half marathon had pretty much been a disaster, I felt I was a little bit beyond the walk for a minute, run for a minute stage and it was here I met my running mentor (he doesn’t know it BTW ) Martin Yelling.
Finding a running plan (and Martin) was revolutionary. I finally had a week by week/step by step/ run by run schedule that I could follow, that had been designed by someoe who knew his potatoes! He also uploaded lots of Facebook lives that were full of helpful hints, tips and reassurance!
I started to get experience with Intervals, speed work, hills, track sessions, strength and conditioning, flexibility/mobilty, pilates all of these things continued to enhance my running but in all honestly this is still a bit of a minefield and I’m always asking those with more experience for advice and tips on how to improve bot my training and running performance.
By the time I ran my second half marathon in February I managed to knock 15 minutes off my PB and include a sprint finish! After that my confidence grew and more importantly it taught me to trust in a process because it works. So by the time 22nd April rolled around – I was more than ready to take on the challenge!
Running (and training for) the London Marathon has taught me more lessons than I could have possibly imagined…
- Anything is possible. If you want something badly enough, you can turn a dream into a reality.
- It taught me that I’m a capable, strong and consistent runner! Yes me, the person who five months ago could barely run 5km without moaning “when will this be over”
- If you’re training for a specific race, follow a plan, it will give your training runs a focus and avoid the “doing too much too soon” issues that can arise.
- Join a running club. Its a great place to meet other runners, get advice, share tips and strategies, learn about pace/distance. It also makes Winter training runs much more enjoyable and keeps me accountable. After all if I’ve made an arrangement to meet someone, I’m much more likely to turn up.
- Vary your runs (this is where training plans and running clubs come in handy).
- Listen to those more experienced than yourself (which is most people in my case). Social media channels have been a great platform for me to gain tips, advice, anecdotes to learn from. There is a wealth of information, so make sure you follow people who have a proven track record and offer advice (Martin Yelling, Ben Parks, Susie chan…)
- Trust in the taper. The plan I was following had me running my last long run (20 miles) three weeks before the actual event itself. After this my runs became shorter, less distance and pace driven and more easy paced short runs to keep the legs lose and limber. Even though everything I read assured me I wouldn’t loose my fitness, I spent the whole day before the marathon convinced I wouldn’t be able to run the distance (I could).
- Enjoy every mile.
- Never compare yourself to others (only compete with yourself).
- Human beings are amazing. The London Marathon bathes humanity in a glow of golden light. From the runners to the volunteers to the spectators, to the elite athletes – it showcases the wonder of people and what we can achieve when we encourage,support and celebrate collectively.
What’s next? Well first I’m going to run the final 3.7 #milesformatt and after that I’ve going to start a training plan to achieve a sub 1:55 half marathon before putting my hat in the ring for London 2019!