This morning watching the London Marathon on the telly brings back so many feelings and memories of when I did it, six years ago. In fact more than that. I look at the marathon and I feel excitement deep in my belly because I remember exactly how I felt, when I journeyed up to London in the morning, the first few miles with the crowds, when I ran across Tower Bridge hoping to be interviewed, the moment at 20 miles when I realised I wasn’t going to achieve my desired time and had to give myself a motivational pep talk in a porta loo! I remember clearly when my heart was still willing but my body didn’t have any fuel, my friends shouting encouragement near the end and how emotional I felt when I had claimed my medal and finally reached my family, not being able to speak. Thinking about that moment when I found my mum and my brother actually still brings tears to my eyes.
A marathon is a journey. It starts as an idea that you would like to do it one day, then you commit to the idea. It involves a lot of training, because it is a huge demand on your body and you can’t take it lightly. You’ll learn a lot about your body, but you’ll also learn a lot about yourself as you spend time putting in the miles. It isn’t just a physical journey of miles, it is also a mental and emotional journey of self-discovery.
For me, the day itself was an amplification of that journey – the nerves at the beginning when you are waiting to start and the anxious banter between the other runners. You feel exposed because you are doing such a public thing, you’ve gained sponsorship from colleagues, friends and family and deep down you might be wondering if you’ll be ok on the day and hoping you can make it to the end. I really remember setting off, breathing deeply, looking at my watch and thinking ‘yes, you’re doing this’.
There is so much stimulation along the route from thousands of supporters, colours, landmarks, and yet I remember feeling that I was in my my own bubble as this was a challenge between me and me only. I thought about so much that day.
So you wanna run the marathon?
If you think you want to run a marathon in your life, then you must do it. Here are my thoughts:
Training for a marathon is a long game
It really is, and 26 miles is a completely different proposition to a 10k or even a half marathon. You need to give yourself time. Ideally you need to give yourself at least a year of building up your fitness generally and then decide which marathon you would like to run. When I ran the marathon, I was doing classes at the local sports centre several times a week including weights based classes, aerobic classes and spinning while building up my running. But when I first started running, I couldn’t comprehend that I’d ever be able to run 10 miles never mind 26. But it is amazing how much you can achieve from when you do your first 5 or 10k and you try doing just a little more each time.
Listen to your body
It is really important to listen to your body and not plod on through little injuries or strains which could potentially get worse. Running and fitness training are addictive and it is easy to fall into the mind set of not wanting to miss a run or a training session. It is ok to rest and give your body time to heal and if you want to do something, don’t forget that cross training activities such as swimming, yoga and time in the gym will help you be a stronger runner.
Don’t just run
As above, don’t just run. You need good strength and flexibility to make sure that you limit the strain on your body and remain injury free. Look at different approaches to training, but do what suits you.
Personally I didn’t stick to a ridged training plan. Because of my work schedule and other commitments, I needed to remain flexible. I ensured that I was running short distances regularly in the week and that I gradually built up the distance I was running each weekend. But I was also teaching spinning classes in the week. You need to build your own personal plan. Do your research into different approaches to training. Websites such as Runners World are really great for this as you can read the forums and take the advice you need. It may be that you need a strict plan to stick to each week, so it is important to get to know yourself and your body to find what works because we are all different.
This is a cliché but you must take time to enjoy your journey, because you’ll have the opportunity to meet lots of different people along the way, take in miles of our amazing country and use the hours you have with yourself and your trainers to contemplate other areas of your life. You may never want to do it again, or you might get the bug and want to do another. Either way, you’ll never forget your achievement or how you felt that day.