As I step out early at weekends, heading to meet fellow team mates and train for our long Isle of Wight adventure I often spot runners. Runners racking up the miles, up early to get their training done before most people are awake. Running early so they can salvage as much of their weekend as humanely possible.
When I see these runners, I cannot help but reminisce. Rewind twelve months and I was one of those runners.
Whilst I have my own challenge to contend to in 2018, I cannot help but think back to those cold, dark months putting all my energy into running and very little else.
And as such, I wanted to think back to that time to share the lessons I learned training and completing the London Marathon in 2017.
The road to the London Marathon is a lonely one. The long winter months, pounding the streets – most likely alone (as lets face it, there are not many people who will run a 20 miler with you if they don’t need to) can start to get to you. The loneliness can be just as hard as the running itself. With no one to talk to, no one to keep you going – it is just damn boring! When I voiced my feelings during the training months, many friends told me “you will not feel lonely on race day.” And at the time I struggled to believe them. I could not think that far ahead.
Race day was a completely different atmosphere from training. Being surrounded by thousands of runners, spectators and volunteers – you simply do not have the time to feel lonely. In fact, at times you sometimes long for a little quiet space of your own.
If you are feeling the loneliness of training, I promise you race day will be the total opposite. Even strangers will be screaming your name!!
Get a gait analysis! If you have not had one already, I would advise to get this checked as soon as possible. After struggling with a groin injury during training I went to get my gait checked and discovered I was wearing the wrong trainers. As a heel striker I needed more support, and the trainers I was running in did not offer the support I needed. In fact, the specialists informed me I would not complete the London Marathon without injury if I continued in the trainers I was running in. So new trainers were purchased in time to wear them in for the big day. So – GET THE GAIT ANALYSIS!
SELF DOUBT is the biggest hindrance during training. And at this point of time there will be many runners doubting their ability. Constantly asking yourself “how am I going to do this” is normal. We don’t train so it will be easy, we train to be able to tolerate the pain.
Running a Marathon is hard! It is supposed to be hard. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Take pride in knowing you are training to accomplish one of the most amazing experiences you will face.
Stop comparing yourself to other runners. This is your race, take it at your pace. Yes, everyone would love to run a little faster, a little better and it is natural to be a little competitive. However, at the end of the day whether you run at a 8 minute mile pace or a 10 minute mile pace, the distance is still the same. You have to run the same course, the medal and sense of achievement upon completion is still the same. Stop focusing on others, focus on your own journey.
Nutrition is key. By now runners taking part in a marathon will know what works. You will need to refuel during the race, you will need to have a hearty breakfast before crossing the start line – so make sure you find something that works for your body. After trial and error I found the perfect option for me. After discovering the hard way that energy gels do not sit well with me, I discovered that jelly sweets (mine were from Decathalon) offered me just what I needed to get through a long run, along with electrolytes in my water (rather than the high sugary drinks on course). That said, I always found refuelling post run difficult – more often than not, not wanting to eat.
Don’t try anything new in the last few weeks, especially kit. There is nothing worse than chafing, blisters or stomach issues in the lead up or race day itself.
Your mind and body can do amazing things. Once you dig deep and push through the pain you will begin to realise you are capable of the unimaginable. When you get to the point where your legs just keep going, no matter the speed, you will find that you are in a place where mind and body are working together to achieve something amazing.
You will NOT be last! There is a misconception some have, myself included, that you will be last over the finish line. You will not be the last one to finish! The majority of London Marathon runners are not elite runners, and will finish in over four hours. Stop worrying about being last. And if you are last, who actually cares? You have finished a marathon!!
London has a lot of love. I underestimated the power of London in the lead up. The love that surrounds the London Marathon is something else. I cannot begin to describe how powerful the crowd were en route. Friends, family and even complete strangers can carry you through. I was lucky enough to have some amazing support throughout the race. I had a group of friends chasing me throughout the day – cheering me on at Cutty Sark, the Isle of Dogs and again in the final 500 meters – I had the Willow Foundation cheering me on at Tower Bridge and again at the finish line, My sister-in-law was awaiting a sweaty hug along Victoria Embankment, then my family (including my late Uncle, who’s cheers I heard from far away) waiting by Buckingham Palace and finally the first face I saw after picking up all my belongings – my other half! Never underestimate the power of a friendly face in the crowd to keep you going.
Training and running the London Marathon was without a doubt the toughest challenge I have faced to date. When I look back to the day I cannot help but swell with pride. I have one of the most amazing medals, I have experienced one of the best races in the world and I did that! No one else. I accomplished something I never thought possible.
So when you are struggling to get through, just imagine crossing that finish line!
I promise no matter how you are feeling now, the feeling you have when a random stranger places the medal over you neck is worth the hundreds of miles, the tears, the aches and pains and the frustration to get to the finish.