It’s funny how people think that running must be easy for me because I once won two gold medals in running events. Comments like “Do you think you could run within 30s of your personal best in an 800m or 1500m race now?’’ “Are you going out to win the 5k parkrun?” and “You must have done loads of long runs when you were a full-time athlete”. Plus, this time last year, the endless times I was asked “Do you have a time in mind for the London Marathon?” NO, NO, NO! (OK, I do like to win my age group for women at parkrun ha ha.)
As much as I would love to say that the myth of being a superhuman robot athlete – that can win everything from 100m to a marathon is true – I have to bow to reality and say this old girl is good (that’s my competitive spirit coming through) but not that good!
Before I ran the London Marathon last year I thought all marathon runners needed a big meal, their lovely slender bodies had less muscle then a robin looking for his Christmas seeds and they had an innate ability to run for hours on end either by keeping themselves amused somehow or by being able to switch off to the world. I thought they just lived, ate and breathed the willingness to run for miles and miles and loved to enter every event that’s advertised in the running magazines.
This was everything I was thinking this time last year when I gave an interview to the Telegraph about my London Marathon Exploits.
I said then – and still maintain – I am categorically NOT A MARATHON RUNNER. But, yes, I ran a marathon and, to give myself a pat on the back (as I always think we should), I did it quite well.
However, my body is no longer a ‘temple’. I found the monotony of the long runs complete head torture. I spent my runs fighting the devil on my shoulder which was telling me to either stop or speed up; that I was knackered or feeling good; that I needed a drink and had to check my watch. On and on, mile by mile, my mind controlled every step, regardless of my body’s capabilities.
Six weeks before the Marathon I had done 15 miles: I was thinking about doing a similar distance the next week. My music helped me big time, I swapped a few songs and put the faster ones in three quarters of the way through because I tended to drift off at that point. I decided to readjust my Garmin watch to add in average pace as I realised I was running completely different routes each run and it meant I would not be as fixated on just the actual pace of my last mile. I also like to monitor my heart rate to check whether I was within my capabilities and help me pitch my recovery runs right.
One of the best things about this stage of spring marathon training is the weather change: lighter mornings and kinder weather helped. Up until March training, I had felt more like a glow-in-the-dark toy in all my luminous kit! Spring runs are accompanied by birdsong, sunshine and outcrops of lovely flowers to keep your spirits up.
So with just under six weeks to go to the London Marathon, I would say it’s time to focus on your fuelling: it needs to be spot on for your longer runs. Work out if you need to take on fuel and at what stage. My advice is earlier than you think you need it – then don’t change your strategy for the big day.
You should be looking to achieve 18 miles five weeks out from your big day – whether that’s running or a run/walk strategy.
Between my long runs I could only do about 6 miles as my legs felt busted! I did enjoy doing parkrun and tried a lot of different venues to keep things fresh and fun.
My Marathon Build Up Tips:
- Make sure you have a good watch that will monitor your pace, average speed, distance, time and heart rate. I have a Garmin Forerunner 235 and Forerunner 35.
- Check your trainers – if they’re getting worn out on the soles or the cushioning is getting squashed, it’s time to change. BUT make sure you buy the same model as the ones you are used to and give yourself time to break them in. (If you haven’t read my blogs about getting the right trainers check it out here).
- Ensure you fuel appropriately (I will do another blog on that!)
- Use music to give you a boost and adjust your songs so they pick you up during your “switch off moment” and carry you through the tougher miles.
- Don’t neglect the gym. Your body needs to stay strong and cross training can boost your fitness while giving your legs a rest from the long miles.