Looking back through my emails now it looks like I first thought of running the marathon for MQ in June 2015. I filled out their application form and I rather bullishly indicated that I was an ‘experienced’ runner. I wrote in my application form that:
“…I want to run the marathon for MQ because I believe that we have a long way to go in learning how to deal with mental health issues. Awareness is increasing and there is less of a stigma than there was, but without good quality research and understanding behind them, even the most well-meaning can only doing so much to help…”
At the time I was deep in the throes of training for a half-ironman triathlon. How much harder could a marathon be, right? Wrong.
So I started training (and stopped drinking) after New Years’ Eve 2015. At times the training was exhilarating and rewarding and at times monotonous, draining and just plain boring.
On the day
The day itself was unforgettable. My alarm was set for 7:00am but I woke up at 4:45am and knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. It could be worse I thought – this way I’d have time for two breakfasts! I bumped into some of the MQ-team in Greenwich before the race and I was a bundle of nerves. They were very reassuring but I doubt I made a brilliant impression!
Within the first mile something terrible happened - I was overtaken by a heavily bearded man dressed as Wonder-Woman. Thankfully things improved and by mile 17 I knew I could do it. I was feeling great, the weather was perfect and the crowds were like nothing I’d ever experienced before. They were just so loud, so relentless, so full of energy. By mile 20 though, my outlook had gone full-circle. I was no longer sure that I could do it and I definitely knew I didn’t want to! I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to let all the training go to waste, so I was going to have to push on... 5 miles to go.. 4 miles to go.. I’m on to the embankment.. I can see Big Ben..!
It was surreal to finish. It clicked that I had done it when I had my photo taken with my medal. I looked down at it and saw the word ‘finisher’. I had finally done it in my target time and it felt awesome. Raising over £3,250 for MQ by running my first marathon made every single one of the 366.3 miles I have run since 1 January 2016 absolutely, totally, 110% worth it.
My top tips
Put “marathon training tips” into Google and you’ll find thousands of helpful articles, but they’re all the same. So here are some tips you won't find on the standard lists.
- On day one, write down on a piece of paper why you’re doing what you’re doing. Be brutally honest about it. No-one else ever needs to see it. Refer back to it in times of doubt and before all your major runs.
- Tell all your friends and family what your goals are. Explain why it’s important to you, that you won’t be training forever, and that you’re really grateful for their support. They will understand and it will be a lot easier to explain why you’re doing all sorts of eccentric things (running along the canals in East London at 6:30am in the pitch-black and rain three days a week in early January was mine!).
- Make a plan. Have fixed goals of where you want to get to by certain dates.
- Make sure your plan fits in with your daily life. For instance, it sounds obvious, but if you’re not a morning person don’t suddenly make plans to do all your training in the mornings!
- Stick to your plan (this is a totally different thing to having a plan!).
- Have a finite number of nights off from all healthy eating and training responsibilities. On day one, pick a number and stick to it. You can plan these – friends will be over the moon if you pick their birthday as the night you allow yourself to earn a hangover! If you’re really dedicated to your training you will need to release the pressure every month or so.
- Celebrate the ‘little victories’. If you’re training for a 10km but you’ve never run a 5km before, do allow yourself to feel pride in achieving the smaller personal milestones.
- If you hit a lull in your training or motivation then remember, a change is as good as a rest. Find a new running route, do your normal route backwards, get some new kit, try a parkrun you’ve never tried before, run with some different friends, etc.
- Learn how to rest properly. I confess this is not a skill I have mastered, but I am told that training is much more effective if you’re not knackered when you start it!
- Most importantly – believe in yourself. I bet you you’re stronger than you realise.
Knowing that I could go through this amazing personal journey and in the process help really smart people to undertake incredibly complex and well-needed research into mental health conditions that affect so many people made it that much better and helped no end with my motivation. I am immensely grateful to all my friends, family and colleagues who supported me and MQ through the encouraging words, their understanding of my need to go running and take early nights, and of course through their incredibly generous donations.
Looking back though when I wrote I was ‘experienced’ on my application form, I was kidding myself. There is no experience in the world that can prepare you for running the London Marathon, other than getting out there and doing it!
Last updated: 7 June 2016
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