Couch to marathon

So you fancied doing something extraordinary and entered the ballot for London Marathon….and got in! Now it sounds like you’ll have to run a real marathon. No panic! It’s actually much easier than it seems.

First of all, anyone reasonably healthy can conquer a marathon without a Kipchoge-style crazily intense training. I would lie if I said it was easy, but it certainly is achievable.

Let me tell you about my first marathon. I was a beginner runner, 6 months postpartum, not running more than 10-20km a week, and my longest previous run was a half marathon. Yet, I somehow managed to complete a marathon (walking and crying at times) just under 5 hours. And so I believe anyone can do it. Including you!

If you feel a bit stuck and are not sure where to start, here are my top areas to consider:

  • Training

Yes, training certainly helps. If you aren’t a runner, start easy. Alternating running and walking is fine. Running slow most of the time is essential (trust me on that). Increase distance gradually. Run slow. (Oh did I already mention that?) Also, run slow!

To make your training more effective, try to get one faster run or an interval session and one longer run in every week.

  • Running events

Organised running events will help. Sign up for a parkrun (it’s a free 5K run every Saturday). Run-walking or just walking is absolutely fine at parkrun so it’s suitable for every novice. Then, enter a few races and increase distance from 5K to 10K to a half marathon. You should really try to get at least one or two half marathons in before the big day. Most training plans suggest doing at least one 20-miler, which certainly helps, but, in my opinion, is not essential as long as you are happy to go slow and walk a bit during your marathon. Having said that, the more longer runs you’ll do, the better you’ll get at long distance running.

If you’re really serious, you may consider joining a local running club. You can find more about running races and running clubs in my previous blog post.

  • Nutrition

No one can run 42.2 km without fuel. But worry not, there are plenty fuelling options for runners – from gels to sweets to carbohydrate drinks. Try some of them in advance during your training to figure out how your stomach reacts to them. Think about where to carry them on a race day. Practice consuming them while running or walking.

Some races provide nutrition at drinks stations but it’s smart to test that specific brand beforehand. Also, don’t rely on it too much in case they run out.

  • Shoes

Footwear is the most crucial thing so you need to choose wisely. Will you run mainly on road and paths? Will you train and race in the same shoes? If yes, then you need to get shoes that can do both and are most importantly comfortable. My personal tip is New Balance 1080 but there is a plethora of other shoes available. Pop into your local running shop to ask for advice.

  • Gear

And then there is the rest of your gear: socks (do not underestimate socks!), shorts, top, underwear, hat if needed. Think it through and practice wearing your gear on longer runs. Also think how will you carry your nutrition and perhaps your phone and other necessary items. Belt? Hydration vest? Pockets?

Golden running advice is: nothing new on a race day! Those brand new socks may look fancy but are you sure they won’t give you blisters? Test and try everything beforehand.

  • Mindset

Nothing is more important than the right mindset. Be honest with yourself: you will suffer during training and during the race itself. However, the sense of achievement as you cross the finish line will erase all your suffering, and I promise you, you will be proud of yourself like never before.

So how to get through the tough parts? It’s rather simple – make quitting not an option. No matter the weather, the pain, the doubts other people have about you, you will succeed. Be stubborn. Be brave. Be determined. You will do it!

(Okay, enough talking, off you go and start training!)

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