Can you run a marathon?

It’s that time of year when everyone is enjoying the festivities, Christmas meals, too many drinks and catching up with friends. In 2 weeks time there’s a shift in mentality and everyone suddenly seems to start thinking about summer.

DSC_4813The New Years resolutions flow in, people start looking for crazy things to do to fulfil themselves moving into 2020, and some people just want to lose the extra weight from the Christmas indulgence. 

Quite often in these times when you want to get fit or do some crazy sporting achievement, you turn to someone who knows what they’re talking about to ask whether it’s possible.

So absolutely no idea why some of you ask me…

You’d be amazed how many people ask me if I think they can run a marathon, do an ironman, or some crazy endurance event. Often people don’t even ask, they tell me they’ve signed up and ask for my help in getting them to the start line. I’m currently offering advice to around 8/9 people running different events in 2020 from 10k’s to Ironmans. 

_MG_1612While I’d never call myself a coach, nor do I want to be. From 8 years in high level sport, I’ve learned a thing or two about the things that make people stick around and the things that don’t. So I’ve compiled a few tips that I think stand you in the best stead for running your first marathon. (This is applicable to any distance). 

  1. Get your body used to moving

Now I’m aware this sounds a bit strange. You walk around all the time, you might go to the gym now and then, you often make it from the sofa to the kitchen cupboard for a snack. You can move? I mean basic exercise. Over 30 minutes, working fairly hard. There’s a really easy way to do this and set a bench mark, park run. Get yourself down to park run and jog the 5km. It happens all over the world, every Saturday and it’s free. No excuses.

DSC02440Apart from giving you a stark reminder of how unfit you currently are, you’ll notice (hopefully), a few other things about the way your body moves. If you run hard there’ll be muscles and areas that ache the next day, your heart will want to beat out of your chest and you’ll barely be able to breathe. That’s ok.
When I’m racing hard, I go through all of these emotions & feelings. My body hurts just as much as yours, trust me. The only difference is I’m going a touch faster & I know I can make it out the other side.

So you have to get your body used to movement.
It takes 3-4 weeks to build a habit. It’s much more beneficial to you early on, to do little and often. To build the base that you can later build off. If you did 20-30 minutes exercise 6 days a week, that’s infinitely better than 40-60 3 days a week. 

Which sounds crazy, but I’m not talking about the physiological benefit. You just need to get used to getting out the door, moving and your body needs to get used to taking out.

  1. Training with others & letting them see it.

DSC02441People are so scared about training with other people at first. As well as posting times and scores on Strava. They hate the thought of it. What if other people think you’re slow?! What if they see how unfit you are?! What if they think you’re stupid?!
I hate to break it to you, you are pretty unfit and it is very obvious. However, and a big however. We’ve all been there. It even happens at the top level when athletes come back from a break or an injury. They can’t just slot back into the squad & do exactly what they did before.
But because of this, everybody is incredibly accommodating. It’s a great sport and everyone is in it together. Nobody really cares what speed you’re running or what your pb’s are, or if you even have any! Everybody just wants to see you do well, and will offer endless support. Plus, it’s much harder to bail on a run if you’re meant to be meeting your friend at 7 to do it together.

  1. Structure.

A training plan is really important. All the top athletes have coaches to keep them on track, so why wouldn’t you? Having someone make a plan, or following one you get free online is really important to make sure you have the structure you need. This will let you rest guilt free when you need to and help make sure you’re ticking all the boxes in the progression. If you can be consistent with training, you’ll see results. If you can see results, you’ll want to keep going. And then everything else flows from there.

  1. Illness isn’t chance.

452A6330-2Controversial. Unfortunately, despite what you think, getting ill isn’t unlucky. Exercise boosts your immune system, but also temporarily weakens it. There’s a reason the worlds top athletes can go years and years without picking up illness. Because it’s not chance.

They do a whole host of things to make sure they’re not getting ill. Sure, some of them may seem far fetched to you, but if you’re getting ill all the time and it’s impacting your training, you’re going to struggle to run a marathon and you need to ask yourself why.

Poorly people spread germs. If you’ve got kids, you’ll be very aware of this. However, sharing cutlery/glasses with them, not using hand gel often & little things like this are a sure fire way to make sure you catch it. People often laugh when I over use hand gel in busy areas, but it’s the same people laughing when they’ve got flu & I’m knocking out training sessions having a blast.

 The others are rest. sleep and diet. If you train to late/early and compromise your sleep, this is going to get you run down. Hugely increasing your chance of illness. This happened to me in Maryland. I overtrained, didn’t rest enough, super ill for the race. It wasn’t chance. All 2/3 illnesses I’ve had in the last 3 years I can point at why on my training programme. Diet has the same effect as rest. Making sure you get good balanced food, lots of veg, lots of nutrients, lots of protein. This will help keep you recovering well and fighting fit. Don’t go vegan, but that’s a whole different blog…

  1. Don’t overtrain.

_MG_1978This is a classic for people coming into the sport. Though structure will help you avoid this. Overtraining will kill you off. The body only has so much energy, and this has to be split between all the elements of your life. Family, work, training, chores. If you’re super stressed, this will affect training. So the word overtrain is different from person to person, but making sure you’re properly recovered going into each session. 

You don’t need to run a marathon to run a marathon. You don’t need to run much more than 30km. You’ll pull it out of the bag on the day. You’re human, you have adrenaline and they have cookies… or aid stations. You’ll be fine. If you run 40km and then need to take a week off training, you’ve not helped anyone. Keep the distances down & the consistency up. Rest. Recover.. Rest…. Recover……

  1. Forget how far it is.

The quicker you get out of your head that a marathon is super far, the better. Yes, it is a bloody long way! And yes, it does need to be respected. But no, it’s not impossible. I ran my first half marathon 14kg heavier than I now race, in under 90 minutes. Why? Because I had absolutely no idea how far it was, or how much it’d hurt. If you talk yourself out of it, you’re going to make it infinitely worse. If you focus on keeping consistent in your training, you’ll make it.
Do I think you can run a marathon? Absolutely. Get used to moving. Train with other people. Get some structure into the programme. Rest up & go get it.