TRAINING FOR A MARATHON: PART ONE, THE BEGINNING

Back in October, I signed up to run Edinburgh Marathon. Three months have now passed since that moment of what can only be described as lunacy, and with just under sixteen weeks to go, it’s finally time for me to start my training.

*gulps*

My mum, an eight time Ironman and marathon runner extraordinaré, hooked me up with a training programme back in November and I, being the prolific procrastinator and lover of stationery that I am, set straight out marking the dates in my diary and thinking about how fab my bod would look when I finally got into it.

Armed with a hefty dose of optimism, I worked my way backwards from May 26 and sighted February 3rd as my D-Day. I’d need to be doing between three and four runs a week, starting with 5 miles on the first week (yes, the week just gone) and working my way up to a twenty miler, before taking a few days to taper back down and begin the carb loading (literally the whole reason I am doing this) ahead of the event itself.

If you are reading this having also been MAD enough to sign up for a marathon this year, I have typed up the training programme that I’ll be using at the bottom.

So yeh, back in October I signed up to run a marathon. If you’d met me as a teenager, this announcement would see you needing to pick your jaw up off the floor, I think. I tried running, a couple of times at school, but never managed to complete a mile without stopping (and not just because our favourite smoking spot was hidden at the end of the sports’ fields).

Since leaving school I have been able to create a relationship with exercise that I love, and, to my surprise as much as anyone else’s, I’ve discovered that I’m not actually that bad at it (amazing what a bit of practise’ll do, eh?). But as for running? It still wasn’t really my thing.

Having said that, I did find myself getting into it last year after my anxiety sky rocketed and, in truth, that was the first time I found myself able to take anything positive from the experience – I did a half marathon a couple of years ago that, without meaning to be dramatic, was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done (that’s what happens when you set off on a 13 mile run without any training, by the way).

So yeh, I haven’t always LOVED running but I’m fully aware that there is a direct correlation between how often I do it, and how my mental health is.

In my idealistic and somewhat delusional state of last Autumn, when I signed up for this, I think I thought that this would guarantee me sixteen weeks of peace; the volume on my anxious thoughts would be drowned out by my new running playlist and the endorphins I’d be creating would suffocate the nerves right out of me; I’d accidentally cure my anxiety, I thought, with what were basically prescribed runs.

What I didn’t bargain for was the self-sabotaging-fuckery that my mind is so fond of, and the fact that, usually, the minute I find myself HAVING to do something, that something becomes the last possible thing on earth that I actually want to do.

Nor did I consider how I would fair under the pressure.

The thing, I realise now, that I was loving so much about my runs last summer was that they were totally spontaneous and as much of a surprise to me as they were to everyone else. I randomly went out on a nine mile run at the start of September that I absolutely didn’t think I was capable of and fed off the endorphins for the next two months.

If I can do that, I thought, then yeh, sure, I can do a marathon!! Now though, faced with the reality that I’ll have to be pulling shit like that out of the bag EVERY WEEK? Well, ironically enough, it’s left me feeling a bit bloody anxious.

So anxious in fact, that on my first ‘long run’ of the programme (a six miler last Thursday, look at me, trying to overachieve already), I found myself sobbing three miles in; the wind was being a total tosser and WOULD NOT GET OUT OF MY FACE no matter which way I turned, the ground was wet with mud and leaves so I kept thinking I was going to fall on my arse and the dog stopped for no less than six poos in as many miles.

HOW, I thought AM I POSSIBLY GOING TO RUN A MARATHON?!

Nevermind that, how the holy fuck balls am I ever going to be able to TRAIN for one???

I didn’t get off to the best start.

I have however gone on a couple of ‘little’ runs since then (a 3 mile ‘threshold’ run and a 4 miles ‘sprint) and whilst they haven’t been quite as fun or as easy as I had hoped they might have been, they weren’t horrible and I didn’t cry, so that’s a plus.

If I’m honest, by far and away the greatest disappointment I have encountered thus far arrived on the first day of my training. I was out for a three miler and decided to put on Natasha Bedingfield’s Pocket Full of Sunshine. I had secretly hoped that, much like in every romantic comedy ever, my life would suddenly become a montage of the next sixteen weeks and I’d get home, considerably fitter on May 25th, ready to run the race the next day.

Please imagine my anguish at returning home 34 minutes later, sweaty, cold and heavy with the realisation that the only person who was going to get me ready for a marathon, was me.

I’m still not sure why on earth I signed up to run 26.2 miles but I’m here now, and I might as well enjoy it, after all, life is a little bit more fun with a bit of fear in it.

Admittedly, it might have been easier just to go to Thorpe Park, but there’s not much I can do about that now.


A couple of things though, that I’ve learned already about running that help, not just to make it easier, but to make the whole affair a shit tonne more positive:

  • Podcasts are your pals
  • If you need to stop and walk, that’s okay
  • We’re all shit when we start
  • You’re lapping everyone on the couch
  • Running with other people is just BETTER -it’s easier, the time goes faster, it’s more fun, you feel wholesome, it’s just the balls
  • Doesn’t matter how fast you’re going – AT LEAST YOU’RE GOING
  • You’ll basically never regret a run
  • If it’s really fucking shit, then stop, and try again tomorrow
  • Toenails are overrated and you didn’t really need them anyway

If you’re looking for a bit of inspo just to get you off your arse, I’ve written a lotttt about running in the past….

How I Pass The Time When I’m Running: Distracting Myself
From No Miles To Five Miles In A Month
Going For A Run When You Really Don’t Want To Go For A Run
How To Actually Go For A Run
My First 10K Run


The Programme:

I’m obviously not a trainer or an expert or anything so please don’t hold me to too higher standard as you read this! Having said that, I did get this from my mum who in turn got it from a very great trainer, Calum Taylor, and I think it is more-or-less the ‘accepted’ training schedule for marathon runners!

The idea is that you do three of four runs a week, one of those runs is the LONG run (the distance in the programme), one is a SPRINT run (half the distance of the long run), one is the THRESHOLD run (also half the distance of the long run) and if you do the fourth, that’d be a STRENGTH run.

The long run you do like the tortoise you were born to be, the sprint run you do ‘over and under’ sprints which means, let’s say you’re aiming to get to 10 minute miles, you’ll do one mile at 9 min miles and the next at 11 mins. Equally you could do a mile sprint, take a minute’s break, and then repeat. For the threshold you are focussing on keeping your heart-rate about 85% for the whole thing – this is made easier if you have a heart rate monitor, I use a Polar Bluetooth! The strength one, the optional one, requires you to find a 1 mile hill (urghhh) and run up it between one and five times depending on your progress!

Week 1: 5 miles

Week 2: 5.5 miles

Week 3: 6 miles

Week 4: 6.5 miles

Week 5: 7.3 miles

Week 6: 8.1 miles

Week 7: 9 miles

Week 8: 10 miles

Week 9: 11.5 miles

Week 10: 13 miles

Week 11: 14.5 miles

Week 12: 16 miles

Week 13: 18 miles

Week 14: 20 miles or longer

Week 15: 16 miles

Week 16: taper

MARATHONNNNNNNTIIMMMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

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