Nought to Marathon: The Long Runs
We're running Paris Marathon to prove that you can go from nothing to marathon runner in less than 5 months.
As the marathon training goes on, the longer runs are becoming harder and harder to fit in. It's one thing trying to fit in a 45-minute run, it's another trying to find 2 or 3 hours. As well as trying to simply fit a run in to weekends away, or nights out, it's a struggle to find the motivation to get out. Especially when it's a Sunday, you're tired and maybe slightly hungover, and you know when you leave you're not going to be back with home comforts for at least 2 hours.
For me, it's a struggle to even get out of the door in these situations. But, I've learnt to convince myself I'll just go for ten minutes and that gets me up, dressed and out. It's getting through the first ten minutes that, for me, is the hardest part of the long run. It's too early to be able to say "you're almost there", and the Toxic Ten are notoriously the worst for helping you feel unfit and inadequate. I feel this blog sums it up perfectly:
I have never read something so accurate, and it really normalised my own struggles and made me feel better about every time I've been near tears, stressing that I'm not good enough. The article also helped to adjust my running, and it's actually helped me with the Toxic Ten.
I've started treating the first mile as a warm up. I actively try to take it as easy as possible, so even if I manage the first mile in fifteen minutes rather than my usual eight or nine, that's ok. The first mile is all about getting my body prepared for the journey ahead. Although, the blog quoted above suggests to not do this on race day itself - instead you should arrive early to the start line and actually fully warm up. This is something I'll be putting into practice for my half marathon on Saturday. I'll then try using plenty of tips from this article to help mentally get through the first mile - in particular, developing a mantra to get me through.
Being honest, I've done very little running over the last 2 weeks. I made the classic mistake of sacking off a 10K because I was hungover last week - behaviour we don't condone! It's pretty safe to say my plan is taking a hit at the moment, which is allowed, but it's something that I'm trying to keep aware of - and obviously ultimately, plans are there to be stuck to.
While up to now I've been approaching long runs quite timidly, the biggest struggle for me at this stage isn't the running itself, or the distance, it's the motivation to keep at it. It can be so easy to stay in bed rather than throwing yourself into the big wide world to pound the pavement for an hour or more - and this is something that I'm currently working on. Much like the runs themselves, when it comes to getting out to run, it's much easier to keep going when you've already got the momentum, than it is to start going once you've stopped.
Tomorrow is a big test for me: the Lee Valley Half is going to be my longest distance so far (by a fair margin) which is going to be especially taxing given that I've not been keeping on top of my plan. I'm approaching this one with an open mind and a cavalier attitude though. I'm not going to be fast or dignified, and it's going to push me further than any of my runs so far. That's scary; and it's exciting.
Here's hoping that my next update will be of a half-marathon success story, and an encouraging post about how not sticking to your plan isn't the end of the world!