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Things I’ve learned about marathons

April 1, 2016

London Marathon is getting closer, and Phil’s training runs are coming to an end. He shares with us what he’s learned about running marathons.

When a Lazy Girl badgered me in to going for a run five years ago I never imagined I would run a marathon. That was for other – fitter, shinier and more upbeat – people. Somehow I have stumbled my way through six of them and I’m now on the verge of my final race at London Marathon this year. Here are a few observations for those thinking of doing the 26.2 for the first time.

Headphones and music. Like many beginner runners I felt I NEEDED to listen to some music or podcasts to get myself round the course. My interesting choice for my first marathon in Manchester was the audiobook of The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Sheesh, that got depressing around mile 18. I won’t be listening to anything at London Marathon as I want to take it all in and I have slowly weaned myself off headphones during races. My advice is to take your phone/device and headphones with you but start the race without them; if you feel the need they can give a boost later on.

You won’t poo yourself. My ‘friends’ main repeated advice for my first marathon was: “Don’t poo your pants”. Six marathons done and countless training runs completed this has never been, well, an issue. Although my friends did not fare so well last year’s New Year.

A Training Plan that works for you. They are hundreds of training plans in books and on the web but it’s important that you get one that is realistic and works for you. I ask Laura to create mine and they have always been different as I have had different goals and approaches to my races. Marathons are all about the training and a good plan can make the difference between having a happy or horrific time.

Eating and drinking. Like a foodie perusing the menu before visiting a new restaurant, work out what you want to eat and drink in advance. Try different gels in training – I know that I don’t get on with any caffeine-related products, for example, but you may enjoy the buzz. I make Laura’s bespoke nutballs and carry around four-five of them with three to four gels. It’s worth checking out how frequent the water stations are as they differ in races and make a plan about when you want to drink. But if you are feeling thirsty, do drink, but don’t guzzle loads for the sake of it.

Pacing. Don’t go off too fast – it’s quite a long way you know. I have always been OK at that part of the race, but I sometimes find that I feel good around half way and speed up.

Remember: you might be feeling good now, but that is unlikely to last! Choose a realistic pace in advance and stick to it (it’s worth buying a sports watch for this reason – I didn’t get one until my fourth marathon and I wish I’d had one earlier).

Be kind to yourself. Marathons are difficult and don’t always go to plan. I really wanted to run all the way round my first marathon and was very upset when I began walking at mile 19. I started running again and finished, but not without putting myself through a major internal enquiry. If it does not go how you want it, you can always do another – I did.

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