Then the “good for age” runners – again an amazingly committed group of folk who train so hard around jobs, families and everyday life.
Finally the ballot and charity place runners. These folk look just like you and me, all ages, all shapes, and sizes. Listening to their stories is truly humbling. Stories of love and loss, overcoming hardship and heartbreak. Raising thousands of pounds for charities close to their hearts or maybe challenging their own boundaries for a multitude of reasons.
Now, I don't know about you, but for me, it is during this part that suddenly an awful lot of dust lands in both my eyes and before I know it there are tears rolling down my face. Pretty inspiring stuff!
You start thinking…"Well, if Dave from Barnsley can do it dressed as Mr Blobby, surely I can have a go?!" A week or so later, full of enthusiasm and hope you enter the ballot! You tell everyone you know, you are going to run a marathon. Mostly they raise their eyebrows and mutter something about you finally having lost the plot….
Fast forward a few months to October and you find out you have been one of the lucky few to get a place! Or perhaps one of the majority who doesn’t, but undeterred you gain a charity place or enter a different spring marathon such as Manchester or Brighton. Or maybe even like one of my crazy patients you get both a place in Brighton AND London a mere 7 days apart as race number 29 and 30 out of 30 races in one year before your 30th Birthday – you know who you are!!! Your training plan says to start training in December. You place an order for a large amount of nylon and enthusiastically go and purchase some running shoes, this in itself surely makes you a proper runner already?!
You set off for your first run with the Rocky music blasting through your headphones. Approximately 300 metres later you collapse in a bush thinking you must have undiagnosed asthma or something, surely it can't be that hard…? A mild panic starts to set in as the reality of what you have signed up to hits home. You get home deflated and not just a little terrified of what the next 6 months will be like.
Any of that sound familiar?
It certainly is to me! Whilst marathon training from scratch isn’t the easiest, it is perfectly doable if you are sensible. I always say the biggest achievement of a marathon is getting to the start line unscathed and getting your bum out the door for those long runs on miserable, wet grey
February mornings when there aren’t thousands of folk lining the streets to cheer you on.
Kudos to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU who undertakes this. I admire you all, from the sub-3-hour speedsters to those at the back. You are all amazing!
Accept it will take over your life for a while! Marathon training requires dedication and discipline if you want to avoid injury and feel as prepared as you can. You will be running on average between 3 - 5 times per week plus some other training sessions and recovery. You WILL become a running bore for a while and it is likely to impact on those around you too. Explain this to them early, get them on board as your support crew and explain why this challenge is important to you.
Unless you are an experienced runner it is worthwhile getting a training plan. Most marathons will provide you with one but there are loads online. Try to find one that fits best with your level of experience and lifestyle. Most people do their long runs at the weekend but this doesn't work for everyone. Think about times you can fit in shorter runs during the week such as lunch breaks or running to and from work for example.
A plan is important but don't feel like you have to complete every single run on it. If you are ill or injured it's better to miss a session or two than to make things worse by continuing to train.
I see this one a lot. You miss a couple of sessions due to a cold or work commitments and the following week you bolt on the extra mileage. This will often overload the tissues and could lead to injury.
If you are relatively new to running your long runs, in particular, will take much longer than faster runners. This can mean quite a lot of time on your feet. Many of the injuries I see in clinic are as a result of too much load through tissues that don't have the capacity to tolerate them. This can lead to irritation of the muscles, tendons, and bones resulting in injury. Simple exercises such as calf raises, lunges, monster walks, and glute bridges can help build tolerance in those tissues to help reduce the risk of injury. You don't need loads of kit or a gym membership. Check out resources like www.kinetic-revolution.com for ideas or see a Physiotherapist with expertise in sports injuries to advise you on a programme. www.physiosinsport.org will list Physios near you who are specialised in Sports Injuries.
To get muscles stronger, you need to overload them (but not too much). Then allow them to recover. If you do this consistently, and progressively build the load your tissues will adapt and get stronger. The recovery is when the magic happens! There are 3 basic pillars of
recovery. Nutrition, hydration, and sleep. No point faffing about with fancy potions and gadgetry unless you have those nailed. The details of these are too big to cover here but there are some great resources at ylmsportscience.com and reneemcgregor.com
You have a few months to play around with clothing and footwear. Don’t leave it until the last minute! All the manufacturers will promise you the earth. Don’t be sucked in by in it. Buy what you can afford and most importantly what is comfortable for you! You need to make sure your kit isn’t rubbing or uncomfortable on the day.
We are lucky around here with loads of running clubs including Bromsgrove and Redditch Athletics Club, Ryland Runners, Avoncroft Hurriers, Run Sanders, Redditch Stars, AV Parkrun and the Kingfisher Harriers to name just a few! There are also online communities such as Running the Distance, Sisters With Blisters and many more. Whilst you may enjoy running to get some headspace and time just for you, joining a club may help you in lots of ways. They are FULL of people with masses of experience who I promise will be more than happy to give you hints and tips and words of wisdom having been there and done it themselves! They will become your champions encouraging you with your training, supporting you on those long lonely training runs and you will probably meet friends for life.
Whilst you don't need to panic over every ache and niggle(there will be plenty!) any pain that doesn't settle after a few days or is worsening may be worth getting checked out. Often if you get the right advice early things can settle with some self-management and exercises. Trust me I learned the hard way the effects of burying your head in the sand…after running 14 miles with a sore foot this was the outcome… 2 weeks in a boot and months off running!
Here at www.acphysio.co.uk we are proud that we encourage people to manage their own conditions with many issues not requiring a long course of treatment.
Finally and most importantly of all, keep smiling! It's highly unlikely you are going to win it so just enjoy the process. If you are a first-time marathon runner, then getting to the start line unscathed and then getting over the finish line with a smile are major victories. After that, if you want to improve your time then you can build from there.