I completed my third Sydney City2Surf run (14km) recently and whilst it felt good to have finished, I did feel there were challenges and improvements. I achieved a personal best nonetheless and that was a reward in itself – isn’t that what all runners hope to achieve as a Goal. We want to be the best we can be by surpassing our own limits continually.
Then my thoughts drift to my upcoming Goal . To run my first marathon. City2Surf was exactly a third of the marathon distance. I wondered if I could equate this to a third of the effort, exhaustion and suffering I’d feel at a marathon. By applying logical analysis, I could say it was a fair estimation. I could do half marathons and that did not feel too much more challenging than a third of a marathon.
It’s now about shifting gears. I have adopted a mental mindset that I can achieve this goal of running 42.2 kilometres. A feat that a majority of the 7 billion people on Earth have not achieved. I think of getting to be a ‘superhuman’ when I achieve this. Many will say, ‘Meh!’, ‘Whatever!’ but how many of them have felt the exhilaration of achieving this distance running? I must push on and forge a strong mental fortitude to get me through this. I was told running a marathon is almost 100% mental, if I have been training for it. Truth be told, I have yet to run this distance. If I can run 50% of it or 33% of it, surely I can do 100% of this distance. I shall be like the little engine that could. I think I can. This will have to be my constant mental state during the marathon and push through all negative thoughts whilst envisioning that finish line.
I have followed a training plan as much as I can and ran the distances on the various days where I can. Life throws curve balls at me and I dodge them and workaround them. I have participated in weekend events that does not allow me to fit my long runs in (such as Oxfam Trailwalker, City2Surf). Still I persevere and adhere to the plan where I can. I still feel under-prepared as the marathon race date looms closer. I still beat myself up when I miss days not running – perhaps to get a consoling word or two from people that have seen me train. Don’t mind the distance, I was told, the body will rise to the occasion and carry me through as long as I have strengthened it during training runs. My body has evolved to carry me through as a runner – my legs have gotten stronger, my core has strengthened and I’m carrying less midriff weight, my lungs have expanded and my heart is conditioned. I could not ask for more or risk over training. I will need my physical being to endure up to 5 hours of running activity and it is no shame to walk part of the way. The endgame is to finish.
Prepare to Race
The marathon distance is going to punish the mind and the body. It is not an endeavour to be taken lightly by anyone, even seasoned runners with several marathons completed. A marathon is still an achievement.
How far out does one start to prepare for a marathon? Many training plans for this distance are at least 16 weeks for regular runners with a good level of fitness. One seasoned veteran, who had also competed successfully in the Master Games, advised 18 months! However this got him a sub-3-and-a-half hour time for his first marathon. He got better times since and all under 3 hours. He strongly advised to try and enjoy the event and that the last 10km will be very difficult. He also advised that a high level of fitness will help one achieve a higher level of enjoyment for the marathon.
A marathon is not an event to be sneezed at nor taken lightly. The general advice to runners is to get the mileage in and do regular runs – about 4 runs weekly and a couple of 3-hour runs or 30km+. If you’re under-trained, do not attempt to cram any more runs nor long runs into the schedule. Cramming for a running event does not work and can result in injuries.
I admit I am a little under-trained, however I aim to finish and to enjoy the marathon as much as I can. I will take the opportunity to have quick breaks at the water stations and run as much as possible, otherwise the body will shut down. It’s not that an under trained runner will not complete the marathon (although that is possible), the aim now is to have a strong mental fortitude and enjoy the day.
Another sage advice from the Masters Games runner, if you ran a half marathon and feel exhausted, the marathon will bring a lot of pain. If you ran a half marathon comfortably, that doesn’t mean the second half of the marathon will be similar. Expect pain and challenges.
I resolve to complete what I intend to do and aim to enjoy the marathon with all it will throw at me. I believe I am all ready, set, go…
“If you want to Run, run a mile. If you want to Experience a different Life, run a Marathon.”