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So You Want To Run A Marathon.

Let's do this! If you want to be inspired go watch runners take on a marathon. Deciding to run a marathon is a big decision. It takes a huge commitment and it's gonna hurt, a lot when you finish it. I had a 9-year running base starting with 10Km, 10 miles, half marathon distance under my belt before I attempted marathon distance. This article is not for the elite, it's for the everyday runner whose goal it is to run a marathon. For the record, the average marathon female finish time for a marathon in the UK is 5:00:39. The average male finish time in the UK was 4:23:27. With this in mind, let's start at the beginning. There are lots of marathon plans you can look up online, First-Timer Marathon - 16 weeks, 12-40 miles per week. Beginner Marathon, 16 weeks, 16-44 miles per week. Break 4:30 Marathon, 16 weeks, 23–45 miles per week. Break 4:45 Marathon,16 weeks, 23–45 miles per week. Hal Higdon The Novice 1 Marathon Program is the most popular of all marathon training programs and, arguably, the most popular training program used by first-time marathon runners. The first thing to do is pick a plan that suits your lifestyle and the next step is to join a club or find yourself a running buddy. If an athletics club is not for you then join a runners support forum or group online. Find someone that runs at the same pace or speed as yourself and partner up with them for your long slow runs (LSR's). At the end of the day, it's not the distance but the pace that'll kill ya running a marathon. Learning to pace yourself over long distances is vital to completing a marathon in good shape. The most common mistake that is made is taking off too fast at the beginning and hitting the wall around the mile 20 mark. This can be avoided by learning to pace yourself properly at the beginning and by fuelling your long runs. Think of your body as a high-performance sports car, Ferrari. For a Ferrari to perform well it needs the best fuel possible. The same is true for our body. When you start hitting those long runs, 16, 18, 20+ miles your body needs fuel to support that journey. When I'm training for a marathon fueling my body is an important part of my training program, its equally as important as putting in the miles, rest and recovery. If you have a strong running base training for a marathon can be achieved in 12 weeks. When training for Dublin City Marathon, the end of October I usually start my marathon training at the end of August. Bearing in mind I am already running 3/4 times a week and up to half marathon distance by that stage. In 2019 I set myself a challenge of running one-half marathon every month which meant by the time I got to August or September I had a strong running base that would carry me to the start line. 

By September or a month before a marathon, I start taking Berocca every day and I swear by organic green tea, sliced lemon, natural honey, and root ginger as a hot/warm drink to boost my metabolism, provide hydration, vitamin c, antioxidants, reduce inflammation and strengthen immunity. It's my magic formula the thing that saved my DCM19. The reality is you can spend 16 weeks or more training but you cannot plan for injury or sickness. Two weeks before Dublin City Marathon I had to have the nail removed on my big toe on my right foot. The Sunday before Dublin City Marathon I got a virus. I was sick, after months of hard work and training I didn't think I was going to make it to the start line. When something like this happens you need to face reality and lower your expectations on the day. The only thing you can do when you get sick before a marathon is rest (and drink my magic formula above) there is nothing more you can do. At this stage you are tapering, you are not going to get any fitter in the two weeks leading up to a marathon. The best thing you can do is rest to give your body a chance to fight the virus and heal. Keep drinking warm drinks, hydrating and pray to God it does not rain on the day. My first marathon experience was amazing, I only decided to do it 4 weeks before the actual event. I had a strong running base, I ran 3 days a week for the nine months leading up to it. I danced around the DJ stations, I high fived the kids and I punched the "press here for power signs". I was with my wing ladies, having the craic and part of the best running festival and friendliest marathon in the world. I enjoyed every minute, every step, I crossed the finish line smiling and within the average finish time for a female. It felt good, it felt amazing I was now part of the 1% of the world population who will complete a marathon in their lifetime. I'm now training for marathon number 3, how did that happen?

If I could give you one piece of advice with respect to running your first marathon this would be it; 

Put Away The Watch

You only get one chance, one opportunity to run your first marathon, enjoy it. Don't put pressure on yourself to finish with a specific time. Yes have a goal, my goal was to be an average female finisher and enjoy the journey. This allowed me to soak up the atmosphere, inhale the experience, the crowd etc. 

Print Your Name On Your Top, Vest, T-Shirt

It's amazing to hear people shouting and cheering you on, particularly at mile 22 when you need to dig deep. 

Build Endurance As Well As Miles 

A marathon is not just run in your legs it's run in your head and your heart, you need a positive mental attitude, you need to build stamina, you need to build endurance and you build this into your training program just like the fuel, rest, recovery and miles. 

Have A Positive Mental Attitude

A positive mindset is crucial for those last few miles, your gonna need to focus on something or someone positive in your life. How do you build a positive mindset? Start setting yourself goals months prior to the marathon and achieve them. When you do achieve a goal congratulate yourself, you did it, you didn't think you could but you did and at mile 22 recall that feeling of setting and achieving your goal it's all in the mind from here until the finish line. 

Break Up The Miles

Run the first third of the marathon with your head (be smart, watch the pace), run the second third with your legs (trust your plan & training) run the last third with your head & heart (recall why you are doing this, think positive). 

DCM19 is the marathon I am most proud of, as mentioned above I was injured and sick. I wasn't 100% that morning when I stood at the start line and yet I achieved a PB. I gave it my personal best. At the end of the day, that's all any of us can do because the only person we are racing is ourselves. We all get the same medal, we all get the same t-shirt and we all cover the same miles. Go out there and give it your PB (personal best). I literally finished DCM19 and went straight back to bed and I didn't resurface for 2 days. I knew I had to do a recovery run to get my legs moving again. I decided to go to my happy place, the beach and I ran 3KM's on the beach and a few step/stair reps. Yes you read correctly I opted for the stairs and it was the best thing I could have done. I was back! Feeling fit, well and recovered. I recovered much more quickly the second time around than the first despite being sick. I put that down to being fitter, in better shape and my magic drink. The half marathon a month challenge definitely stood to me recovering from my second marathon. I felt every step and I was so thankful for my wing lady, she really did get me to the finish line in one piece. The crazy thing is this.... On both our marathons we started together and we finished together but the last 2.2 miles were our fastest. Second time around I just wanted it to be over and back in my sickbed. That's the part that I ran in my head, I reminded myself why I signed up, why I am here. Because I can, because so many signed up and didn't make it to the start line, some got injured, sick and some started but for whatever reason couldn't complete. So yes I am a legend. I trained, I conquered and I overcame. I am a giant! And you are too. Be realistic, run your own race, enjoy every moment and ignore the people who are clocking 20 miles months before they need too. Conserve your energy, avoid injury, train smart, rest, recover, fuel up, hydrate, enjoy yourself and don't forget the recovery. Protein shake within an hour of finishing always helps me to recover faster and chocolate, lots of chocolate. In fact, you are going to eat all around you the week after a marathon. Nothing will be sacred, forget counting calories you have a free pass. Eat all around you and take care of the chafing, those in the know, know.

I wish I could tell you it's easy, I wish I could tell you it's not gonna hurt but I'd be lying. What I will tell you is this... Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever. Inspire your kids, colleagues, friends and run your own race at your own pace in your own time. Regardless of your ability, don't compare yourself to others. Trust in your training, trust the plan and go out there and smile, have a ball! It's not meant to be easy otherwise everyone would do it. It's meant to be hard and it's meant to hurt. But.... You are a legend for doing it!

In 2020 I've signed up for Ibiza, London, Dublin Marathons as well as a whole heap of other events. You can follow my journey at Women Who Run Ireland {facebook} and Instagram. Join the conversation, join our running community of strong, supportive fabulous women who just love to run.

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