After reading Run with Faust’s write-up of the Liverpool Marathon, I’ve been inspired to write a response. I don’t know this man, but his experience reminded me of my own first marathon experience, which scarred me so much I didn’t run for five years afterwards! I’m hardly an expert, but having run four marathons now, I’d like to share what wisdom I have gained.
1) Train with others. If you train alone you have no-one to give you any feedback. I always ran alone before joining Run Dem Crew in 2012. Consequently, I normally kept training going for three or four months tops, and then lost interest. Being part of the crew means I always have people to run with, and there’s a wealth of wisdom to draw upon from more experienced runners like Paul Bains and Charlie Dark. Running with people who are slightly faster than you will help you improve more quickly, if that’s a goal for you.
2) Don’t obssess about achieving a time. All of my miserable marathon-related moments have been linked to time; either the realisation on race-day that my goal time is not going to be possible, or the sinking feeling during a training programme that my goal time is getting further and further away. My friend Si Kemp was down recently when he didn’t get the time he wanted for the London Marathon. He signed up for the same Liverpool marathon as Run with Faust, but trained and worried less than usual. The result: he ran a PB of 3:21. Enjoying yourself isn’t a guarantee of success. Distance running is supposed to hurt. But if you’re not enjoying it in some way, what’s the point?
3) Run hills. Even if your marathon’s flat I recommend getting some hill training in at least once a fortnight. When your body tires towards the end of a marathon you may find hitherto insignificant inclines become epic like Everest. My pound-for-pound best race to date was the Berlin Half Marathon in 2014. I’d won the FlatLine 10 race the month before, and I can’t overstate how much confidence that gave me in Berlin. Having run 10 miles up and down one of the steepest hills in London, the realisation 3.1 miles in that all I had to do now was run 10 miles on pancake flat German soil gave me the wings to fly all the way home.
4) Look after yourself. Sleep well. Eat well. Don’t beat yourself up when things are not going as you planned (I’m still working on this one). It’s recommended that 60% or more of your diet is carbs when training for a marathon. That rises to 70% in the three days before a race. I used to think carb-loading meant eating a plate of pasta the night before, but increasing the glycogen stores in my body sensibly had a great impact on my Boston Qualifying time in Paris.
Run with Faust, never forget the fact that by running a marathon you have done something amazing. I hope you run your second marathon more quickly than I did, as there’s so much fun to be had in the process. Like you, I used to believe my body just wasn’t cut out for marathon running. Like you, I ran my first in around 4h 30. Hopefully, you’ll be like me and learn to love the distance.
You’ve mentioned there are lots of running groups near where you live, and I can’t recommend getting involved with one highly enough. Since joining Run Dem Crew running has taken me all over the world and changed my life in so many positive ways. But for now, put your feet up, pour yourself a beer and bask in the glory of your stellar achievement. You smashed the Liverpool Marathon while many people struggle to run for the bus. You, sir, are a hero.