When I first got a place in this year’s London marathon I had such high hopes. I was going to strength train for the first few months to lay down strong foundations (like the pros) before emerging in Jan a lean, mean running machine ready to start smashing the miles. I was going to document my every run and kelp-infused protein shake with stylised Instagram snaps and witty one-liners. I was going to write a stream of blog posts so informative they’d go viral in Japan. I was going to obtain that other-worldly marathon runner air (think Cate Blanchett in Lord of the Rings if she was talking about split laps instead of orcs). I was going to, I was going to, I was going to…
But then something happened. Life – like it does – got in the way.
In October I got made redundant from my job as a magazine features editor. I proceeded to cry on my friend in a nightclub (hi Hannah!) then disappear to California for three weeks. When I got back I threw myself head first into the world of being a freelance journalist. All of the structure and routine that had promised to support my “going tos” was gone. No gym membership for running treadmill intervals (too expensive, no salary), no routine 9-5 to fit runs around. Instead I had a big dose of spirit-dampening reality that made me realise I was never going to resemble the love child of Cate Blanchett and Mo Farah after all.
I was tired and deflated and frankly – with a hectic freelance existence – too busy to research training plans, plot routes, keep on top of washing kit, download apps, diarise runs. So I was just getting out of the house when I could – a couple of times a week at best – to run. I forced myself to stick to the longer runs on the weekend – 3 miles, 4 miles, 5, 6. But by the time I hit 9 a few weeks back it became clear: I simply wasn’t doing enough to keep up. My body was screaming that it was ill-prepared to carry me that far.
It was at that point that I got the wake up call I needed. The weeks were whizzing past while I was saying to myself, ‘Yeah I’ll get on it soon.’ I wasn’t ‘respecting the distance’ as anyone planning to run a marathon knows they should. The one tip that everyone had given me was not to slack in the early days because you cannot, will not, make it up later on. I had slacked.
I don’t write this in a bid to get pity. Instead, it’s because it’s made me realise something. Us normal folk who run marathons never morph into other-wordly running beings. We are too busy looking for work, doing work, being a friend/partner/wife/mother/boss/dogsbody. Our best laid plans go to sh** when we get flu or twist our ankles or get a call off our friend who needs us and we run to them, instead of round the park. It’s a wonder any of us ever get to the start line, let alone the finish. And so what an added achievement it is for those that do .
I’ve tried to let go of my vision of what training for a marathon would be like and I’ve started to just do it. My iPod is usually flat, my outfit mismatched, my route scrawled on a post-it note instead of logged in an app. But I’m running with regularity now. Slowly and painfully racking up the miles – which is the best most of us can hope to do. I promise to start bringing you the tricks, tips and tactics that are working for me so you can try them if you’re training for a marathon too. In the meantime, just be kind to yourself. Running 26 miles is going to be hard enough already.
Are you training for a marathon? Struggling to keep to your ‘plan a’? Share your thoughts, rants, inspiration below.