31 December 2015

Starting out: 2 miles to a Half Marathons

I thought it would be interesting to write about how my marathon training is going so far as it's the question I've been asked most over the Christmas holidays. In case you didn't see from my last post, I am running the London Marathon in April 2016 for Shelter. To be more precise, 24th April 2016. That's 114 days... The last two months have gone by in a flash!

I officially started my training at the beginning of November. Before then I had been playing hockey twice a week, very basic level netball once a week and going for the occasional 2 mile run. I would be quite proud of myself for going on these short runs. I never tracked the distance I just went out with my iPod and did a short lap down to Kings Cross and back. It wasn’t until the week before I started my actual training that I realised quite how short the runs were and quite how slow I had been running. Back then I wasn’t running for fitness or with a goal in mind, I was running to destress, for time to myself.

Now when I go for a run, things are very different. I have to start thinking about it the night before: what am I going to wear? Is the sports bra I want to use clean? Should I have one less glass of wine and one more glass of water? If I’m going for a long run (+8 miles), am I going to get up early and eat before? It’s a lot more serious, but then I getting some good results from the extra effort I’m putting in and I’m raising money for a really important and deserving cause so it’s definitely been worth it.

At 9am on Boxing Day (can’t believe it was only 5 days ago) I ran the distance of a half marathon. In fact, I did a small bit more but that’s because I couldn’t remember what the actual distance was. I didn’t run it very fast (probably because I was carrying around 2 plates of Christmas dinner and 2 bowls of pudding from the day before). But in two short months I went from running 2 miles to 13 miles. For people who don’t really think in distances, that’s running comfortably for about 30mins (I was slower then) to running for 2hrs.

I genuinely think I can put the majority of my success down to two things. I say success because I think most people would call that a decent achievement whilst working 9-5, playing hockey 2-3 times a week and having a social life.

The first is the fantastic support I’ve had from family and friends. Maybe I was just blind to it before but there seems to be more and more people popping-up with an interest in running. I could probably do another post with advice from a second set of experts. I’ve had so much advice and tips and support that it was almost overwhelming to begin with. Not in the sentimental teary way, in the which person do I listen to and which advice do I act on way. But everyone’s training journey is different. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Having a broad range of support has been really helpful and has given me the chance to pick and choose what I want to do.

Even those who aren’t able to give running advice have been great. Every seems to really care – even when I started to sound like a broken record “I just ran 10 miles!”. And this means a lot to me. Running for a long period of time, mainly on my own, although my brother has kindly joined me over Christmas period, can be really boring and mentally tiring at stages, and to know that my friends and family are proud of me and care if I get a personal best or run a new furthest distance really helps.

The second is attitude. Attitude has had a massive impact on my performance. As soon as I realised what a big deal running the London Marathon is, not to mention the £2000 I need to raise for my charity place and the £100 deposit you need to pay, I knew I had to take this whole thing a lot more seriously. When I first thought about doing the marathon in February earlier this year, I just wanted to be able to say, I’ve completed a marathon. Living in London, I thought it would be the best location to do it in. And that’s about it. I didn’t care if it took me 5 hours to complete or if I had to walk for a bit.

Now, the idea of walking makes me angry and I’m beginning to think seriously about the time I could get. I decided, if I’m going to do this, I might as well do it properly. I've been pushing myself to improve in every run I’ve done. I haven’t stopped once or given up, even when I fell over 3 miles into a 10 mile run (it happens…) and most importantly I’ve believed in myself.

I’m not exactly built for running. I’m short with little legs and I’m carrying about 2 stone extra weight for my height (I’d love to claim it’s all muscle but I know it’s not). But I haven’t let this get me down. I can do it. I’m not one of those people who believes that wishing for something will make it happen (I love Disney but let’s be realistic here) but I do believe that if you want something bad enough and you’re willing to work hard for it then you have as good of a chance as anyone else.

This attitude keeps me determined. It’s what sets me apart from all those people who say, “I could never run a marathon”. I’m no more capable than anyone else. I just know what I want to do and I’m doing it.

For those looking for tips to start running, my advice is to start small and build up. Be dedicated, don’t let the rain or a hangover put you off. Set weekly goals and track your progress with running apps – I use RunKeeper which reads your time, distance and pace out every 5 mins. Find a route you like and music you can relax with. After about 20 mins, I don’t even realise I’m running anymore. I think about what I’m doing for the rest of the day, what I can eat or drink later, movies I want to see at the cinema, how the money I’m raising will make a difference and the conversations I’ve had with family and friends over the last couple of days. Relaxing and daydreaming while I run helps me forget the distance and the pain.
Before you know it, you’ll be thinking about your next run as soon as you’ve finished your last.