Health & fitness

My worries about the marathon.

It’s only 10 weeks away for a start. And I definitely do not feel like a marathon runner at the moment. I know there’s another 10 weeks of training to go – and I do feel much fitter now than I did 10 weeks ago – but I just can’t imagine feeling marathon ready in such a short time. I think part of the problem is that I’ve been expecting to feel almost like a different person when I reach that start line – marathon runners are a different breed, right? And training turns you into that person? Apparently not. The realisation that I’ll still be the same old me, albeit with more miles in my legs, was a little disappointing, to tell you the truth. Hopefully when I look back I’ll realise that marathon training has changed me more than I thought though – hindsight and perspective are wonderful things after all.

Fuel. This is a big one. I’ve been really struggling with fuelling my long runs – although I have recently discovered that jelly babies are popular with runners for a reason – they really work! They’re still not quite enough though, and I struggle during the last quarter of most long runs. Hopefully I can find another ‘real food’ option to use alongside the jelly babies, but time is running out and I’m definitely worried about hitting the dreaded ‘wall’ through lack of fuel on the big day.

It’s really bloody long way. This is really silly. Of course 26.2 miles is a long way. It’s 26.2 miles for goodness sake. That’s a whole other town away. I’m up to 14 miles in training at the moment and the thought of adding another 12.2 (no, I won’t be letting anybody forget the .2) on top feels a little soul-destroying at times. That said, I know how much I thrive on race days (thanks for reminding me of this during our parkrun chat Adam ) and how much a race day situation with the crowds, the adrenaline and the competitive spirit makes the miles seem easier. If I compare running a half marathon in training to racing one, they’re incomparable. The race is the victory lap, and slogging my way through the miles in training means I’ll have bloody well earned it.

Crying. I’m pretty sure I’ll cry at the finish line. And quite possibly before that point too. What on earth is that going to do to my make-up? Waterproof mascara irritates my eyes, so I have some serious decisions to make here. Ditto hair. Ponytail? Plaits? And what nail colour will compliment my RSPCA blue running vest? These are my biggest concerns, if I’m honest.

What next? Marathon training is a weird sort of safety net. Something to get me out of bed in the morning. Something to aim for. A solid point in time. A goal. A bloody great big pay off at the end of all of this. I can only imagine that the usual post-race blues are going to be magnified a hundred-fold after London. I have vague ideas about working on my 5k and 10k times this summer (seriously, why haven’t I run a sub-50 10k yet? It’s getting ridiculous). There’s a summer 5k series local to me which I’ll definitely take part in, but I think perhaps I need another solid training plan to get my teeth into. Whaddya reckon coach?

As you know, I’m running the London Marathon in aid of the RSPCA. I would hugely appreciate any support you could give – it really would make all of these miles worth it. My Justgiving page is here if you do feel you can help.


6 thoughts on “My worries about the marathon.

  1. So, can I be ‘that person’ on this occasion? Can I be the person who goes on a rant that hopefully cheers you up and reminds you that you can do it, in an awkward way that makes you think ‘huh?’ halfway through? Here we go.

    You might not feel like a marathon runner, but you are one. It’s like that first time you tell someone you are a ‘runner’ and feel like a complete fraud, even though if you allowed yourself to think about it for a minute – yeah, I am a runner. And it won’t change you in a way that you become a completely different person for having achieved this – you’re right. What I found it did for me though was gave me a confidence in myself to know that when things got tough, I now don’t think I have the strength to get through it – I know I do, because I have done it before. That changes you, but more importantly and subtly than you think it will.
    On fuel – I find that pre-loading is important for long runs (porridge for me!), and then experiment with levels of intake. You will (if like me) be sick at least once and pray for a bathroom somewhere along your run route, but you have to do this to work out the optimal levels of nutrition. No shortcuts, no easy ways around this.

    It is a long way, which makes it such an achievement. And if you feed off the crowd, the competition and the adrenaline – you will be doing one of the biggest marathons in the world with crowds lining nearly every metre of the course. You’ve got this. Trust me – you are going to smash it.

    And it’s ok to cry too. I welled up during my (ahem) Ironman – not at the finish line, but rather at the moment I realised that I was going to make it. I’ve never been so happy to (nearly) cry in my life, because it was the culmination of a journey that had plenty of lows and not as many highs as I expected. And that is the part of the achievement I am probably most proud of. I climbed that mountain because it was there – and you will too. And then you can find another challenge to push yourself with after that – go faster, go longer, go triathlon – but for now, focus on the 26.2 and keep nailing those training runs like you have been. The start line in Greenwich will be an opportunity for you to enjoy the next 26.2 miles, because you are prepared and this is the fun bit. And prepared you will be, and enjoy it you hopefully will. You’ve got this Jo.


    1. Oh thank you Sean (btw if you had time to write this, you’ve got time to do all of those things you haven’t got time to do. I can be ‘that person’ too…). A lot to take in here, but I shall re-read and digest it. I also think the tears wil come from joy and relief!


  2. Feeling like a runner – I’m still shocked when I’m at 10 miles plus – I don’t quite know who this person is! And agree, never let folks forget that .2 miles at the end! If you’ve put in the miles, you’ll be fine. Relax and enjoy!

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  3. A marathon is two races, the first 20 miles and the last 10K. If you can run a 20 mile training run then what you are left with is what you are more familiar with. Run the 20 miles with your legs and the 10K with your heart. Keep up the training. Your legs achieve what you mind believes.


  4. Your feelings are totally normal! It took me until the end my longest run of my training cycle before my first marathon before I felt like I had ‘got’ this whole marathoning thing. And I can’t even explain how it happened, but all of a sudden everything just clicked. Stick to your training, keep going and eventually it’ll all fall into place.

    For fuelling, I would try and see how you go using gels (I like SIS and GU varieties) or blocks (eg. Clif Shot Bloks). However, if you want something more natural, check out Tribe bars for natural energy, or just make your own mix. A friend swears by dates stuffed with peanut butter, for instance! It might take a while to try everything out, but that’s also what the training long runs are for.

    Last tip: don’t think about what comes after the marathon. Just focus on that as your major goal, and let yourself savour the training and celebrate the result. Otherwise you risk it becoming a checkbox on a list of things to do, as opposed to the massive achievement that it is. If you feel you need a second goal, schedule in a race before the marathon (eg. a half) and work first towards that performing well in that race before then tackling the big one.

    Have fun!


  5. I genuinely promise that you will not care what you look like after 23 miles! It’s good to have a goal for after to get you back out there, but not too soon after in case you finish broken. 50 minute 10k by the end of the summer is a great option.


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