How to run 26.2 miles and survive! - The London Marathon
The London marathon takes place in a weeks time! One of the greatest spectacles in British sport, seeing more than 30,000 people run around the streets of London in order to achieve the challenge of a life-time (completing a marathon, 26.2 miles).
I did 5 in my time (1996-2000) and consider it the best achievement of my life! Shame, that something I had such a love/hate relationship with turned out to be the greatest thing I've done, shows how much (little) I've managed to achieve in my life. Well I always say that the only things in life which have worked out for me are the things which I have had complete control over. They go fine but the moment I need to include other people, things go wrong. Mind you that's if things don't just conspire against me and put obstacles from nowhere in my way causing me to fail! Anyway what an experience, a real psychological battle and sheer hard work doing all the training but well worth it. Especially if you raise money for charity too.
I did it by taking the training very seriously, if you don't train you won't make it in any kind of worthwhile state and what's the fun in that? If you cross the line in such a state of exhaustion, that you collapse and need medical attention! So train well and hard and you will make it round without any more than remembering the psychological battle it takes to get yourself round 26.2 miles, running all the way. That was my aim but many stop and walk or walk most of the way, I wanted to run! This is the amateurs guide by the way not for those who want to be quick. My best time was 4.24! Not bad but not quick!
Start training at least a year before hand, if you're not used to running long distances. If you are used to running long distance you can start at the beginning of September for the next April. Every year now I go down to the finish at Buckingham Palace to cheer the runners as they come to the end of their gruelling race.
One thing is a must, put Vaseline on any part of your body which is going to rub constantly on clothing! Someone pointed out to me just last year or the year before the number of runners, men who come into finish the race with 2 blotches and trails of blood on their t-shirts! Where nipples have rubbed incessantly against their shirt causing them to bleed! Horrible and painful I thought and couldn't believe I hadn't noticed before. In my time I read it everywhere and St John's Ambulance guys lined the route holding out huge jars of Vaseline, for runners to dip their fingers into, in case they hadn't greased up well enough beforehand!
You need to aim to run everyday except one, do a long run followed by a shorter one and then do an extra long one at the weekend. This extra long run will eventually be close to the time you aim to do the marathon in and should be done 3 weeks before the big day. So you have time to recover before the race, if you don't give yourself time to recover, it will be like running 2 marathons in close succession. A lot of people think running one marathon is bad for the body and a totally crazy thing to do! For the last 3 weeks do the usual training but only an hour or so at the weekend and cool off for the last week. Do 40 minutes as long followed by 30 and for the last 3 days taper off and rest, maybe jog around the park once a day, do nothing the day before let your body relax in preparation for the big day!
I used to generally do a 60 minute run followed by a 30 or 40 minute run. Then a 2 hour run at the weekend, certainly by January onwards, assuming the race is in April which it always is. Up to January you can do an hour and a half on a Sunday. My 2 hours at the weekend built up to 3.5 hours 3 weeks before the day! Do some speed training as well to get as fast as possible. Fartlek training is where you run fast for a short distance (a sprint) and then slow down to recover, then sprint again then recover again and so on. Hill training is also good to increase speed, sprint up the hill and run down the hill for recovery. 30 minutes of either once or twice a week should be fine.
Eat healthy and enough for the extra work your body is doing. Whilst training for one of mine I got this strange dizzy spell, I woke up one morning and the room was spinning, I couldn't open my eyes because the whirling made me feel sick! This must be how it feels to be drunk I thought (I've never been drunk and if it's anything like that I don't want to be either). Turns out I wasn't taking on board enough calories to cope with the extra training. So eat healthy and lots of it, you need carbohydrates for energy. I wouldn't binge on desserts, sweets etc because you think you will run off the calories, I think you run better if you eat healthy.
The Saturday or Sunday 3 weeks before marathon day you should do your longest run of all the training. This should be close to the time you are aiming for, well an hour less than your estimated time of arrival at Buckingham Palace! This run should be done in the clothes you plan to run in, do not wear anything brand new on the day and make sure any new clothes especially trainers have been broken in completely. Enjoy the run if possible and watch you don't bump into a rhino or any other mad fancy dresser. I don't know how they do it, as if it's not hard enough getting yourself round the course, they have to take a rhino for a ride too! I joke but I admire them especially the rhinos who do fantastic times too!
That's it really, you're done and ready! There is information everywhere on running marathons, read and take in as much as you can. Read every one's tips, Marathon Training by Joe Henderson is a good book. With lots of training plans, suggestions and even pages to record how each training day goes
Last Minute Tips
- Eat some form of carbs the night before the race, eat maybe a little more than usual but don't eat till you feel uncomfortable (usually pasta)!
- Get a good nights rest if you can, I don't think I ever slept well the night before!
- Be organised so you don't have to rush on the morning of the race, plan how to get to the start (Greenwich).
- Do your best to keep well hydrated, not an easy task especially if it's cold because you keep needing a loo!
- Leave in plenty of time with all your kit and info from registration, this will tell you how to get your kit bag with running number on it to the big trucks which transport all your stuff to the finish etc. I am always in awe of the organisation/preparations for this great race!
- Smear loads of Vaseline on any areas which rub!
- If you are inspired start planning here for April 2011!