Most people see a marathon as the ultimate test of physical endurance. If they can complete a marathon then they can accomplish anything. Others watch the London Marathon on television and think ‘yeah that looks good, I could do that’, not realising that (in my view) a half marathon or 10k can be just as tough and rewarding. Others are badly advised. Others want to raise money for a good cause.
I’ll be honest, from a performance point of view, I’ve never been a massive fan of marathons. I’m of the opinion that the human body was not built to race 26 miles and in order to complete one successfully you have to put your body through so much stress that there is a risk it may never fully recover. When people have asked me whether they should run a marathon I’ve always advised them that they should only attempt one once they feel they have given everything they have at other distances.
So why does a marathon cynic like me decide to enter the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon at the tender age of 37? Well in a nutshell I’ve decided to take my own advice. I don’t feel like I have anything more to give at the shorter distances, the younger athletes in my club, Wallsend Harriers, have caught me up and well and truly ran away from me and I know I will never run a PB over 5k, 10k or 10 miles again. I have gained as much as I can and now it’s now it’s time for a new challenge. This challenge is very different to anything I would have experienced before though…..
The bit of success I gained as an athlete was achieved when I was younger. Just to paint the picture, not to be self-indulgent, I am a former winner of the Junior Great North Run, I represented North East Counties at the Inter Counties X Country Champs 8 years in a row (from U13 to Senior), I won the North Eastern Senior 5k and 10k Championships at 20 years old, represented the North of England 4 times and have a 10k PB of 30.04 which I am very proud of. The reason I mention this is not to boast, I promise, I just wanted to highlight the fact that I very rarely raced more than 6 miles. All my training was done at a very high intensity. There were no such things as slow runs when I was younger. My weekly mileage was very rarely more than 60 miles and most of those miles were done under 6min/miles. Even my long Sunday runs were done at quite a high tempo – I usually ran 14 miles at about 6.30 miling. Looking back now it is no wonder that I done most of my Sunday runs by myself, I was just too intense!
This kind of training enabled me to be very quick over 10k as running fast for that distance was 2nd nature. It meant I was fit, healthy and constantly aggressive but it also meant that once I reached 22 years old I suffered from a lot of injuries and now, as I approach 40, my body is incredibly fragile. My point is that training for this marathon is going to be a lot different from anything I have experienced before. I will have to teach my body new things (the art of long, slow running for starters), I will have to supplement training with core work, stretching and massage and most of all I will have to be patient, something I never was in the past. Indeed, just making it through the training will be achievement in itself.
I have chosen to run the Edinburgh Marathon on 27th May 2012 mainly because there are a few other members of Wallsend Harriers who are also taking part. Wallsend Harriers has a team spirit that is second to none; a few done it this year and by all accounts had a great time. The phrase ‘the loneliness of the long distance runner’ is often bandied around. It’s true; long distance running can be lonely, but not as much when you are a member of Wallsend. It doesn’t matter who you are, how fast you run, what you look like or anything else, the Wallsend crew will always make you feel welcome and make sure everyone has a laugh along the way. Yes, it would be an adventure to go off and do a marathon elsewhere and have to fend for myself but the lure of the company of my Wallsend Harriers teammates was too hard to resist.
So here we are, my first blog post and 242 days to my marathon. I don’t have a target time in mind, I’m currently recovering from a bad injury so I’m pretty much starting from scratch but I would like to think I could knock out 7 minute miles for the duration which would give me just outside 3 hours. I will have to build up training gradually but in all honesty…I can’t wait!
At the time of writing I still consider myself to be a marathon cynic. I know that my perceptions will change over the coming months and I am very interested in seeing how my thoughts change and hope I can share that with anyone reading this…..
Anyone interested in joining Wallsend Harriers or simply seeing what we are all about then visit www.wallsendharriers.com