October 13, 2017
So there has of course been a bit of excitement over the London Marathon ballot result this month…I didn’t get a slot in case you were wondering.
Training for a spring marathon is always tricky for me, as the spring is my busiest time…and to be quite frank I just don’t need the extra stress.
But a few ladies from The Clubhouse were lucky enough to get a place including Liza who run it on a deferred place last year. She is over the moon as despite running a brilliant 5.55.59 first marathon last year, she feels she has unfinished business and wants to work towards a sub 5 which I so know she can do,
She said to me,
It’s funny, it’s like you have to run a marathon before you know how to train for a marathon
And she is right. Nothing prepares you fully for your first. No amount of preparation. But in saying that, I wish I had been around women a bit more similar to me while training for my first one…as it can be a lonely business doing it by yourself.
Since my first marathon in 2012 I have run a further two, and am preparing for my 4th…oh and there was also the 40+ mile ultra marathon I ran back in July, so you could say I know a thing or two about running marathons, especially running them in a larger than average body.
I have also helped more than 100 women achieve their dream of running a marathon since setting up this blog, and this year for the first year I am offering this as a specific 6 month training and support programme, starting on Monday.
Last night to help share the details of this programme I did a Facebook Live on my Top 10 tips for training for a running a spring marathon.
I didn’t have much time though, and I was pretty much speaking from the heart…so I thought today I would think it through more and elaborate.
So here goes…
- Know Your Why – Being clear right from the start about your reasons for undertaking this challenge will keep you in good stead throughout the arduous training. Running for charity or in someones memory is a clear example for this, but if it is to prove something to yourself or someone else keep this in mind too as that too can be a powerful motivator. Exploring what becoming a marathon runner means will help you see its value when you are waking up in the cold and dark to knock out 16 miles on a Saturday morning before a family gathering.
- Accept that your lifestyle is going to have to change – I think most people underestimate how training for a marathon impacts on your life and those around you. You will basically be unavailable and useless for anything much else for 6 months. You will have to make sacrifices and learn to be super efficient in normal areas of life…watching soaps may have to go out the window, and that leisurely Sunday morning routine you are so fond of. You need to think like an athlete across all areas of your life…diet, sleep, time management, self belief…those around you are going to have to get on board too.
- Create a Plan – It is common to start panicking about what marathon training plan to follow especially if it is your first marathon. I am a big fan of creating your own and getting someone who has run one to look over it. Having a plan will help you build strength and confidence in your ability. It needs to have 3-4 sessions each week, one of which can be cross training or yoga. It is not rocket science though. You basically need a plan where the long steady run increases each week right the way up to 6 weeks before race day, when you start to take it easy a bit.
- Building Your Support Team – You may think that marathon running is a solo sport, it is not. You can not do it alone. You will need a team of folk to support you, encourage you, lend you practical support and play a range of other roles. Your team may be made up of your friends and family, or other folks who run, you may even have a few proffesional like a massage therapist. You may find that some people are not as supportive as you might like, explain what you need from them and why this is important to you and if they still won’t play ball just ignore them and find what you need else where. People can be dicks.
- Include Races as Milestones – If you find it difficult to motivate yourself to go on big long training runs, or you feel overwhelmed thinking about the big race, why not schedule 5 or 6 smaller races in the lead up. Schedule some 10Ks, some half marathons, and if possible a 16 or 20 miler (although these are harder to find) This will break up your training plan a bit and give you practice opportunities for things like fuelling and pacing.
- Use a weekly time trial as a measure of improvement – The general consensus is not to focus on increasing speed and distance at the same time. But I have found while marathon training my 5K and 10K times have improved by default. Running a weekly time trial, something like parkrun is perfect, really helps you see how far you have come. You can run these at a steady race pace pace, or you can go full out and use it as a tempo run.
- You are what you eat – Getting your nutrition right while marathon training is tough. Because the more miles you run the hungrier you get, and the more there is a tendency to reward yourself after a tough run. My general rule is to not diet during marathon training but instead switch to as much proper unprocessed food as possible and to listen to hunger signals in terms of how much to eat. Keeping yourself hydrated is also important. Remember you are an athlete, so you need to eat like one.
- Work on your mindset – Those negative voices will plague you throughout your training if you let them. Train your positivity muscles as often as you train your leg muscles. Remind yourself of your why, and do some visualisation of how it will feel to complete the race. Having a few positive affirmations can really help too. My favourite is “I am strong, this is easy”
- Have a Race Plan – Don’t just turn up on the day and hope for the best. Give the route some consideration. think about where you will want spectators. Have a fuelling strategy and an emergency plan in case something goes wrong. Also have a number of time goals so that you have something to focus on and keep you motivated when things get tough.
- Prepare for the weird emotions after the race – Nobody really talks about this, but often women feel a bit underwhelmed once its all over. There is quite often feelings of not having done well enough or feeling lost as to what to do next. Marathon training takes over your life, you are a hero for one day and then you have to go back to picking up other peoples dirty laundry (or is that just me?) Take some time to celebrate. Show off. Get yourself in the local paper. And then have a break. No pressure to race or set new goals, just take time to process it.
So there you have it my top 10 tips.
Luckily I have a few more, in fact a whole heap more. Which is just as well really as I have a book coming out all about Marathon Training in a larger body…it would be a bit worrying if there were only 10 tips in it.
The Fat Girls Guide to Running is available as an ebook for preorder.
A paperback will also be available from the 6th November.
Ladies…there are many books about Marathon Running out there, but very few “how t ” books for back of the pack runners doing this is a larger body, with a whole heap of other life stuff to contend with too.
It is a tough old game getting your book noticed in among the hundreds of books on the topic of running. So if you have been inspired by my blogs over the last few years and would like to show your support, please preorder.
Even if you never have any intention of ever running a marathon, I promise this book is informative, inspiring and at points bloody hilarious.
And one final thing…
If you have a spring marathon planned or are considering signing up for one, how about joining 20 women on the same journey as you in my bespoke “Training for a Marathon” coaching and support programme.
I know how lonely and scary it can be doing this alone, and seriously you don’t have to.