My tips to prepare for running a marathon.

Sport

I’m at that age where people left, right and centre seem to be signing up to run a marathon… (I didn’t know that you’d ever done any physical activity since leaving school but waheeeey ok why not)

Running a marathon is one of those beautifully pretentious acts that allows you to feel smug forever more and to be perceived as a true hero for years to come.

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that face = eternal smugness

But before you can bask in your super fitness glory you need to prepare yourself. Big time.

Although I’ve only ran one half marathon and one full marathon (proper rookie over here.) I’m going to give my 2 cents and document my best tips for marathon preparation..

1. Don’t underestimate the distance/experience

Everyone will tell you how hard it is. Everyone will tell you how long it is. Everyone will tell you how rewarding it is when you finish. It’s all of those things; don’t believe it will be any different than that for you.

2. Know your course

Most marathons will have the course available to download with information of terrain, altitude, incline etc. Study this to prepare yourself. Practice hills if it’s a hilly course, train on the road if it’s a road race! I’ll never understand people who only run through fields and on grass before a road race. You’ll arrive on the day of the marathon and your knees will be like F you mate, you’re on your own baaaai.

Also, stalk peoples blogs to see how they’ve found the run in previous years. Their experience will be vital if it’s a smaller race with less info on their website. The better you know your course, the better you can physically and mentally prepare for it.

3. Food glorious food.

Oh the pre marathon diet. Some love the whole ‘let’s nourish my body!’ period, others loathe it and focus on everything they’re missing out on. Mate, adapting your food is honestly the most beneficial and enjoyable part of your training and you can tailor it to totally work in your favour. Carbo loading = all the pasta. You can eat pizza! You can eat chocolate! You can go out and drink. Just don’t be an idiot about it and take it too far.

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I just added more protein to my diet, totally cut out processed food and went for frequent small meals instead of fewer large ones (YES you can finally prep your meals in tupperware boxes like a top class knob). Add all the veg. Eat all the fruit and plan your meals around your training. I spent like 2 months eating non stop and still losing weight. Just lots of good food. Keep clementines in your bag, dried fruit, banana chips, whatever. Drink so much water and green tea that you spend half of your life on the loo. Happy days. A runners diet is nowhere near as bad as a bodybuilders diet.

4. track your runs

If you track your progress you can keep tabs on how you’re getting better. If you don’t keep track how do you know what’s effecting your performance? I used to have my Nike + app in my ear reeling off stats every kilometre, it’s super repetitive but I could predict my time of each run almost to the second. I then knew how new aspects threw me off or helped me along the way, e.g. a 15KM on a sunny day after a McDonalds was going to be 3 mins slower than one on an average temp day with no burger.
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5. whats your motivation?

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What’s that one thing that drags you out of bed and into your smelly trainers? What voice is telling you to turn down social plans for an evening in the gym? Why did you just casually drop £78 in NikeTown? If there’s nothing spurring you on then you’ll give up real quick, TRUSS MI DADDY. Realise your motivation early on and keep it at the forefront of your thinking. I once set a photo of a marathon medal as my phone background as a constant reminder. Very sad, I know, but bish I did not give up!

 

6. cheater cheater compulsive eater

Cheat meals and cheat weeks are the essence of life. Gurrrll (or guy) just live once in a while. Let your self slip off the bandwagon. Hell, trip over the bandwagon and break it into a million pieces. You WILL slip up. Build a bridge and quit crying. Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

7. be consistent

That being said… try and keep your training as consistent as possible. If you like yoga on a Tuesday afternoon, go every week! If you prefer early morning runs to after work ones then stick with that. If you have a routine you’re way more likely to stick with it

8. rest and recover

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Radox muscle therapy bubble bath will be heaven sent. So will bath salts. Adopt a consistent stretching method and commit a good 20 mins to cooling down from a run. I used this one and adapted it over time to include more yoga poses.

9. rewards

Rest day is a reward in itself, don’t ever skip it because you think you’re invincible. Buying yourself a new pair of shoes after a week of solid training is totally acceptable. Buy yourself all the treats. Have a bubble bath every once in a while. Watch a tacky reality show while you work out. Rewards are yours if you put in the hard work.

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10. have fun

Believe it or not, at some point this seemed like a great idea. Maybe once upon a time you actually liked running!? I found the fun parts were the classes I went to to keep up my fitness and cooking new meals at home. I wish I’d found more running buddies with similar goals. But yeah, make it fun. I’m all about making your playlist upbeat and going to classes which you’d not normally go to because why the hell not.

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11. it’s all in your head

I don’t care if you’ve heard it before – running is 10% physical and 90% mental. This is probably the most valuable thing I’ve learnt since I started taking running seriously; your mental outlook is the most important part. If you tell yourself you’re tired, broken and can’t go on, you’ll give up! It’s cheesy and cliche but you 100% need to have a positive outlook if you stand a chance of crossing the finish line. You can train and eat right and have the most snazzy sports bra but if your heads not in the right space you will fail. So, invest in some positive thinking books or apps, tell yourself you can and will do it and keep going.  

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You got this.

x

My first Marathon – Isle of Man 2015

Sport

It’s been whole week since I ran 26.2 miles on the Isle of Man for my first marathon!

And now G’s boyfriend Chad is (not really) forcing me on my first run after my mini recovery. I’ve bumped into so many people in the past week who have mentioned my blog that I thought it would be best to write a little post about I felt it all went.. Maybe when I’m preparing for my next long distance run or race I’ll look back and feel a tiny bit more ready than without it.

Where to begin; so way back when in June when deciding on a fundraising activity (to fundraise £800 for VSO) I chose to run a total of 600 miles because it’s equivalent to the width of Kenya. Where I’m going to volunteer in September FYI.  Me being me, I had to take this one step further and enter a marathon.

So I was home alone in Spain, bored and armed with Google’s help to find a decent marathon near me. I found the Isle of Man Marathon and booked it immediately, only informing mum and dad later on that they should probably come and support me.

I arrived on the island the day before feeling pretty ready for the big day; I’d spent £16 on one pair of socks (craaaaazy I know!), I had energy tablets, gels, jelly babies, belts, multiple outfit options and heaps of excitement. The day before was spent strolling on the beach with our dog Peachy and grabbing a few last minute things in town. I had a bath that evening with Radox Muscle Therapy Herbal Bath and some  salts and it was the best thing ever. I put out my clothes ready for the morning, got some last minute advice from Frankie (running buddy and experienced marathon runner lol) and got a good nights sleep.

Rewind a day or 2 and I was crying my eyes out thinking I’d have to drop out. All because I’d reached that blissful moment that most girls experience every month, only mine had come over a week early. I don’t know why my period had come early but you know, i really wasn’t loving mother natures decision to bring me a gift because it basically fucked up my plan to run a smooth 26.2 miles. I frantically googled possible solutions to running whilst feeling like crap and most people had written on blogs or forums that they inevitably had to drop out or just run half. This wasn’t an option for me as I couldn’t let anyone down after some generous donations and I couldn’t waste all that time and energy I’d spent training for it. At the same time as my stressing I read about Kiran Gandhi who ran the London marathon whilst on her period… She decided to free bleed which I’m not really sure about. I don’t think it’s a feminist movement or ‘bad-ass’ in any way, I think it’s kinda gross but whatever. Anyway, I decided to push through and run despite this not so great gift, I just used every home remedy to speed it up in the hopes that by Sunday I wouldn’t be in too much pain. I’d never ran during my period and it would just so happen that I was now running the furthest and for the longest I ever had.



Race day!

I ate some granola and a banana at around 6:30am and had a few bottles of water, I was also loading up on Ibuprofen to reduce my cramps before we drove through the foggy hills to reach the small town of Ramsey. I collected my number, time tracker to go round my ankle and put my named Lucozade bottle in the box for mile 17. We hung around for a while before going to the starting line and I had a few jelly babies. It was predominantly an old run, with loads of men in their 40s, 50s, 60s and older, a fair amount of women who looked mid 30s and up and then little old me looking like the baby of the pack. I didn’t feel too nervous at the start as I was just concentrating on running half. I knew I could easily do 21km and a lot of people had suggested just dropping out at the halfway point if I feel I couldn’t do any more. 

The gun fired at 9 am and we set off with the sea just a few metres to our right; we were told strictly no mobile phones or music devices allowed so I just put my headphones down my sports bra until I was well on my way (there was no way I could prepare myself for almost 5 hours of running without any music). I’d been told a million times to start out slow and save my energy, but theres something about being joined by so many others and having all the adrenaline building up that makes you want to rush. Partly because you don’t want to be last, partly because you want to be surrounded by the stronger runners from the start and partly because you want it to be over quickly! I stuck around with the speedy guys and gals for about an hour; chatting about our training and past marathons we’d done, obviously not me but I was talking to a guy who’d ran 150 marathons and he’d only started running at the age of 55?!

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We’d been told about the hill at mile 4 and sure enough it approached and it was hilly. Like really hilly. After what seemed like a lifetime of snail speed jogging to the top I felt a tiny sense of relief; I knew I’d have to face that hill again at mile 17 (the course was 2 laps of the same course) but I could handle it one more time. Then as I turned the corner I saw another massive hill! Basically there was about 2 miles of hills and I was not a fan. After i lost the main group I’d been sticking with I met a girl (I think she was called Alyssa..?) who was the same age as me and told me about how she’d been in hospital with severe neck problems like a week ago but had done too much training up to that point to not run the marathon. Her story made my problems (achey shins and a bit of a dodgey ankle) seem very insignificant. Plus it turned out she completed it 20 minutes faster than me, what a ledge.

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I felt confident for the whole of the first half even though I was convinced I was going a lot slower than planned and guessed I must be in last place. I was daydreaming of jelly babies and a few words of encouragement from mum and dad at the half way point. I ran downhill through the village before reaching 21 km at exactly 2 hours and could see mum, dad and dog in the distance. But there were no jelly babies in sight. I ran towards them yelling  ‘jelly babies! I need to babies!’ and they just looked at me in despair. I didn’t have time to stop so just carried on going with no more sugar and a belly so empty it screamed for something to fill it. I tackled the ridiculous hills once more at mile 17 and grabbed my huge bottle of Lucozade sport which gave me some well needed energy. Around the 19 mile mark I began feeling sick; I had nothing in my stomach, hardly any energy and the wind and rain was pushing against me. I carried on swigging water and Lucozade but just vomitted after every mouthful. It sounds gross but I couldn’t stop drinking because in my head it was giving me short bursts of energy (it probably wasn’t as it was coming straight out but your mind goes a bit squishy when you’ve been going for that long) so as I continued sipping I carried on being sick every couple of metres. 

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I’d only resorted to listening to music for about half an hour as I’d enjoyed the sound of the sheep, cows, spectators and listening to stories from other runners. The last 7 miles felt ok, I was getting cheered on by every marshall and most seemed really surprised I was still going! ‘Oh darling, well done! You’re doing so well, you look great’ – hard to believe when I was covered in salt crystals, was a weird shade of red and was limping like a lost dog but it was nice to hear. At the same time I was thinking a lot about ‘hitting the wall’ and was pleasantly surprised that that hadn’t happened.. At that point i was so close to the end and knew what to expect from the final mile, I was excited to reach the village, go down hill, see my fam and reach the finish line in the stadium and naively believed I’d be so excited to finish that the final mile would be a breeze. Oh how wrong was I. I saw the mile 25 sign and my legs buckled. I couldn’t move. It’s the weirdest feeling as your brain is screaming at you to keep going but your body just shuts down. You can’t imagine the feeling if you haven’t experienced it. It’s almost like wading through treacle; you’re going nowhere. This probably only lasted about 20 seconds but felt like forever and I couldn’t see myself  carrying on and finishing. I honestly thought that was it for me; I contemplated just sitting down, calling mum and telling a marshall that I’d just end my race there. Eventually, after using every bit of energy and enthusiasm I had left (and a voice in my head saying I’d sound like a right idiot if I told people I pulled out at 25 miles), I pulled myself back into gear and went at snails pace through the village. 

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I’d been chatting to one guy for a while who’d been at my pace for a few miles before dropping back and walking. Just after my near-giving-up experience I saw him hobbling along in the corner of my eye. ‘I’ve just remembered I need to catch the bus at half 2!’ he said as he proceeded to sprint past me. I’d missed my chance to finish in 4 hours 30 mins (my very very very optimistic aim) because of all the sick and the 20 seconds of thinking ‘THIS IS THE END’ but knew I didn’t have far to go and could probably get my medal and goody bag by 4 hours 50 mins. My phone had been tracking my run and announced ‘Congratulations, you have completed a whole marathon!’ – I’d ran 26.2 miles but wasn’t at the end yet; all that dodging, weaving and changing sides of the road means you’re actually running almost 27 miles, ouch. Anyway, I passed the village and could see my mum in the distance; I start waving to grab her attention and the people she’s standing with start to cheer for me. Then, with my eyes set on them and my music on full blast I failed to spot the curb beneath my foot and stacked it like an idiot. 

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As I turned the corner I entered the stadium and U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ came on shuffle on my phone, so cliche, so emotional. The crowd cheered and I saw the massive clock read 4 hours 36 minutes. I’d done it! I’d completed a marathon! All in under 5 hours on my 21st birthday, I’d imagined this for a while and never thought it was a tangible dream but I’d actually done it! My legs didn’t know how to stop going so I kind of stumbled over to mum and dad and dog. I went for a well deserved massage after but actually didn’t feel too achey, the guy standing in front of me was from Edgemead (according to his t shirt) which is where I briefly lived last year in Cape Town! Unluckily I didn’t get the chance to talk to him but small world eh.

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I said to mum that I felt the same as after I completed the Paris half marathon in March, which shows what a huge difference a good training plan can make, along with eating right and being in the right frame of mind. I wore my medal with pride and raided my freebie bag for a flapjack. We enjoyed the mini buffet before going back to our hotel in Douglas. I had a quick shower and chill before we went out for dinner, I kind of forgot that it was still my birthday. I finally went to the toilet too, which was so weird as that had been my main fear during the run. That I wouldn’t have a place to ‘relieve myself’ but I guess I just sweated everything out as I was fine the whole way through despite drinking litres of water and sports drinks. My legs felt stiff but no worse than after a normal run of a few kms. However the next day I had to shuffle myself around and go down the stairs sideways.

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We stopped in Liverpool on the way back and i even drove from Birmingham to home in Hertfordshire. I can’t explain the feeling of acheivement I got and how uch I actually enjoyed running most of the marathon. I know it’s been said a million times but it honsetly is the toughest but greatest thing I’ve ever done. And throughout my run I was already thinking of what marathon I could run next. 

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I’m so so so grateful for every encouraging comment, text, message, tweet etc and obviously anyone whose been generous enough to donate. Although I love running, I also put myself through all this to raise money for VSO – Voluntary Service Overseas, the charity who I’ll be volunteering for in Kenya in September. If you’d like to donate please text YAAS69 plus to the amount, either £1, £2, £5, £10 or £20 to 70070 (e.g. YAAS69 £2) or visit my JustGiving Page by clicking HERE!

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6 months ago I could never even imagine running for that length or distance and my doctor in Paris was even surprised I’d entered a half marathon, hinting that I really wasn’t fit enough. But here I am now, one marathon completed in a decent time with hopes for many more. As soppy as it sounds, anything is possible if you put your mind to it. 

Here’s to the next step!

Mary x

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