The conversation between my friend Matt and I started on Whatsapp on 25th October 2016. By 28th October we were signed up and the challenge was on. Best not to think about these big decisions for too long…
Even then various events in our lives after that meant that it wouldn’t have been so unreasonable to pull out. Matt hurt his Achilles heel and then tore his calf muscle just before Christmas. I managed to get bitten by a dog two days later. Matt had a virus during the summer which knocked him out of action for two weeks. Matt and his wife Nisha became parents for the second time in January 2017, and I was waist deep in an MBA which was taking up most of the spare time I had at weekends. We could’ve chosen a better year to do our biggest running challenge yet! However, not once did either of us suggest that we pull out. It became all the more a binding commitment when we registered to raise money for MyelomaUK. We’re chuffed to bits that with six weeks to go before the race, we have already beaten our target of £500.
Go on….you know you want to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matt-robbie
So here I am. It’s 5am on Saturday 9th September and something has compelled me to turn the computer on and write about how I’m feeling about running the Birmingham marathon in five weeks’ time.
Already it’s been a rewarding journey for so many reasons. The training runs began properly back in December as I was playing a game of see-saw of exercise and calorie-laden evenings with friends and colleagues in the run-up to Christmas. Back then, and even now, there’s been a conscious effort required to overcome that pre-run thought that maybe I’ll just leave it until tomorrow. Now the prospect of going for a long run is getting easier despite the mileage increasingly significantly – probably because I know that scale of what I’m doing; I have to do it, and putting off training runs will only make the final race even more difficult in the end.
The charts below show the increase in monthly mileage over the summer and a snapshot of my running in August. In November I declared that I was buying my marathon trainers. Little did I know that they’d be completely worn out by July, 3 months before the big run! I opted for exactly the same pair when buying my new trainers, and broke them in slowly over August.
Both Matt and I have been following a training plan on our “Run Trainer” apps. This magically maps out a training programme for you working back from your race date to whatever date it is that you register for the plan. The routine is roughly a medium-length run, then a shorter run on consecutive week-days, followed by a longer run at the weekend. The definitions of short, medium and long change as the weeks roll merrily by! We’re both now at the end of the “endurance” phase – which for me ends with a 20 mile run on Sunday. That will be my longest run ever and is something I’ve been physically and psychologically building myself up for. I’m feeling positive about it but actually think that this one will be harder than the actual race itself. On race days you have crowds, adrenalin and a sense of occasion. On a training run you have the tarmac in front of you, your own thoughts and no-one else really cares. After Sunday, the runs reduce a little and although 2 hour runs are still no walk in the park, they’ll feel a bit like that after this Sunday I’m sure.
Running, particularly these long runs, has had many spin-off benefits for me. Here are my top 4:
- I’m beginning to lose weight now. I wasn’t before, probably because I was overcompensating with my eating. Now I’m burning off more than I am consuming and have lost half a stone since July. I am aiming to lose a stone by the time race days comes, which would see me weighing in at under 12 stone for the first time since, well, records began! It was probably when I was 22 and living in Japan and a far cry from being north of 14 stone three years ago.
- It has helped me manage stressful situations at work. I take my work problems with me on runs. I talk through problems and hypothetical conversations in my head and often come up with solutions. I’ve read up on the science of it all, and still don’t fully understand it, but big problems seem to become smaller after going running and I certainly worry about stuff less than I used to.
- There is now an on-going sense of achievement. Matt and I have both done half marathon runs but now we’re in to the latter stages of the training we’re breaking our own personal bests for time and distance and pace on a weekly basis. I am extremely competitive with myself and I do enjoy analysing my runs when I get back. My running watch isn’t that fancy at all but thanks to Garmin Connect and Strava I’ve been able to check my pace and keep a decent log of my training history.
- I’ve cut down on alcohol. If I’m honest, I’m always over the government’s weekly unit guidelines and for a long time have got into the habit of having a glass or two of a weekday evening and a couple more again at the weekends. It’s been on my mind for a while that actually this can’t be good for me on a long-term basis. Habit isn’t easy to break though. However, now I’m doing two week-day evening runs, one usually straight from work, I’m not getting back in until after 7.30pm and the usual routine is broken. At the moment I’m completely off it and not missing it, no cravings at all even on Friday night. This is good validation that I’m not quite as psychologically attached to the Sunday Times Wine club as I thought I was! I’ve set myself a target of two weeks before the next social occasion I’ll be at where lots of people will be drinking, and I’ll see how I feel then. As it happens, this will be in Johannesburg, and straight after writing this I’ll be looking for running routes there that avoid lions, tigers and bears.
So here we are. 5 weeks to go.
Despite the obvious physical pain that is a given when you’re pushing your physical limits, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. On Sunday my mind is focussed on that warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction I get after completing a long run, usually followed by me dozing off in front of the football. The day is all planned out!
It’s too early for me to pass on any advice about training for and doing a marathon. However, I can certainly recommend getting into a training routine. For me I need the target of a challenge for which I’ve formally registered to make me do it – so get browsing!
My next post will be just before the big race itself, to capture the nerves and sense of anticipation, and hopefully to report that I’ve got a clean bill of health and fitness.
Thanks for reading