10 Idiot Lessons For Your First Marathon

The magazine informing expectant hopefuls of their 2018 London Marathon fate dropped on a few hundred thousand doormats a couple of weeks ago.

Were you one of the lucky ones? And will it be your first marathon. Well, looking back to my first, in Paris in 2008, I can give you some valuable tips as to how to get it horribly wrong. From experience……

  1. 2017-04-02 15.31.42SHOE CHOICE – particularly important this. Is the specific model you’re training in repeatedly giving you blisters on any run over half an hour? Are they banging into your toes as your feet get hotter and hotter? Do you find your feet throbbing, and the material above the little toes is actually tearing? If you can answer yes to all of these, and you’d really like to have the same experience as me…. then BUY ANOTHER PAIR THE SAME. Yup, and then race the marathon in them. Worked for me. My mate, who had travelled to Paris to support me, nearly fainted when I peeled my sock off afterwards. Nice. A fist sized blister, covering the entire arch of my foot had burst and rubbed and was a (literal) bloody mess!
  2. runner in leggingsWEAR THICK LEGGINGS – This is particularly important if it’s warm, raining, or you are (like me) a prolific perspiring machine. What you must NOT do, is heed the warnings from last time you wore these leggings. When it rained. Hard. And you were quite literally holding them up by the time you finished that 10k. So in Paris – my inner thighs looked like they’d been caressed by an industrial sander!
  3. training planTRAINING GUIDE – Again, some key points here……. I decided to pick an arbitrary time to pretend I was capable of running. I then worked out how many minutes per mile this equated to and then hardly ever ran a mile that quickly in training. Oh, and only get to 20 miles once in the build up – and be a cramped up, shuffling mess by the end of that run. BUT, don’t let that stop you still believing you can hit that goal time come race day.
  4. Sweaty runnerGO TO A HOT COUNTRY – This is optional, obviously time and budgetary constraints wouldn’t normally allow this but I found 10 days averaging 34 degrees with 100% humidity particularly crucial to depleting me about a month out.
  5. map of parisFIND SUITABLE ACCOMODATION – Paris is great for this, I reckon I walked about 8 miles to and from the Expo on Marathon Eve, and then probably 4 on the morning. Combining this with the training guide above is fabulous for that crucial pre-fatigue needed for the race.
  6. NUTRITION – I went for taking gels, you know, the thick and sickly sweet gunk in those foil tubes. I didn’t do what I did with my shoes though, I went for a different brand to any I’d tried before, with spectacular results……
  7. pace bandsFIND AN OFFICIAL PACER – he or she might be carrying a flag with your target time on. If you ignore them and decide, 30 minutes before the race, that you’ve become Mo Farah then push through the crowds to stand behind a pacer going 30 seconds per mile faster than your (already hopelessly optimistic) target.
  8. sprinterKEEP PUSHING AS HARD AS YOU CAN – Especially in those early miles, your mind, body and soul are going to really thank you for it later on……. I went through half way bang on my target pace, blowing really hard and having to dig deep already. Really deep.
  9. runner falling overSTAY ON YOUR FEET – Now, regular readers will be more than aware that I’m shuffling back from injury right now (Read all about why HERE) and probably not surprised to find a bit of a tumbling history…… Yup, went to ground TWICE in Paris. The first time I ran into one of those tall kerbs that separate the bus lanes from the road. The second time I glanced up at a stunning building, didn’t notice that everyone had slowed in front……. (I was REALLY popular amongst my fellow runners after the second one as took out about a dozen people!).
  10. runners huggingEMBRACE THE SUPPORT OF OTHERS – Or, as I did, grumpily ignore them, obsessed with having ‘failed’ at my pointless time goal (in the words of that great cannon-straddling, hair flicking goddess of ROCK… “If I could turn back time…..”) Actually, I was staggering so much in mile 25, a guy jogged alongside me and encouraged “At least you’re going to finish…….” He was right of course and being extremely kind and generous. I, unfortunately, was neither.

My life was very different back in April 2008. The Paris Marathon was an obsession with time. My personal life was in a dark and dangerous, lonely place. My lovely sister was still with us, but terribly and chronically ill and I was making too many poor choices.

I’m (the more I look back) extremely proud of all my running achievements and that first marathon taught me so much. Not JUST about running. But, yes, a LOT about running. A running coach, friend and supporter (Eddie) offered me two key pieces of advice as the marathon day neared – firstly that you can’t really train or prepare for a marathon until you’ve ran one, and secondly that the ridiculous long baggy football shorts I regularly sported were acting as a parachute!!

In later years, when I trained for a while in Eddies group, he also (famously) described me as running like “a drunk man herding cats”… I’m not sure it was a compliment……

Anyway, to anyone building up to their first marathon – seriously now – go and enjoy it, be as fast as you feel like being on the day and take pleasure in every step.

I’ve managed to reach 35 marathons (and longer) now, many of them in muddy countryside or hilly moors, mostly alongside my amazing running partner (who I’m also so so lucky to be able to call my wife) and I genuinely try and treasure every moment of them. The full list HERE.

Keep on keeping on people, let’s not let THEM grind us down…….

Long May You Run

You know the guy, gets a taxi from the front door to the taxi to the shop at the bottom of the road. I always have a ridiculous smug air about just how active I am by comparison.

ME???? oh yeah, I’m just soooooo healthy.

And then I got injured (did I mention I’d completed a 50 mile ultra, most if it on a fooked ankle??? Read the blog HERE)

Not so smug now as I limp from car to sofa! AND, quite suddenly, EVERYONE seems to be running.

Oh yes, Mr taxi (who’s dog is on the sofa in the garden) is out there now, that work colleague who says “running is bad for your knees”, the guy I used to play football with who reckoned running doesn’t get him any fitter, the streets and parks are crammed with people who HAVEN’T got a fooked ankle!!

I’m sure even Charlie was online ordering two tiny pairs of Nike Zooms.

At work today, the neighbour of the house I’m working on trots out with her drinks bottle and sparkly running kicks. “Good morning, just off for a run!”……

12 days without running and it’s starting to niggle at me….. I met a guy at the Dartmoor 3-in-1 who has been side lined since January and really didn’t know when he’d be back. So I’m just grateful that my lay off will be (hopefully) relatively short.

2017-10-07 20.03.12Progress is good with the injured ankle. When I elected to carry on (several times) during the race, I made a deal with myself that I have to accept the consequences potentially being more severe than if I’d have stayed on that rock, quietly sobbing until I was airlifted to an icepack.

But, I decided that if I possibly could I would finish, you never know if and when these opportunities might come along again.

So, days 1 to 6 I didn’t don any footwear other than flip-flops. Then, a loose trainer for short walks with the dog for a few days and after about a week I tentatively drove. Back to work on Monday (9 days in) and, I can’t pretend it hasn’t been uncomfortable and really quite throbbing by the time I’ve driven home. The swelling has pretty much gone and the tender areas are easy to locate with a gentle prod. OW!!

2017-10-18 19.29.17So, these peas have been defrosted a few times this last week!!

I put the bones of a short story together whilst I was immobilised. I spent some time with Frank (my father-in-law), wrote a couple of poems and put some more meat on the bones of the ‘map’ of my book. I read a lot and produced a couple of blog posts.

I often ask people what they would do if they could get paid to do something they loved doing. Not be a millionaire, but get paid an ordinary wage for their favourite hobby.

Truly, a writer I would be.

If you’d like to see my other writings, there’s a few short stories and poems over at my other blog HERE!

 

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