In November, Alison Chisnell asked me to join her in running a marathon. (The story is explained in my last blog post). We’re already well into our training and have another 3 months to go until the big day in Brighton on April 6th. So far, I’ve learnt several lessons, which I’ll relate, just in case any of it is of use to others taking up a challenge such as a run or bike ride.
1. The major lesson I’ve learnt, and really it is one that first struck me on my long walk, is to focus on the present and the immediate future, not the ultimate goal. The time that Alison and I spend running the Brighton Marathon will only constitute about 2% of the total time that we will have spent training during our 16 week build up. Just 2%. It isn’t much. So what I’ve learnt is that running a marathon is actually about the training, rather than the marathon. The marathon IS the training.
The real travelling is all the stuff in between. The destination merely added to the direction of the journey, acting as a frame upon which I could weave the colourful fabric of my experiences. Slowly the journey had come to be the reward.
(Alistair Humphreys, writing about his round the world cycle ride).
2. The second thing I’ve learnt follows on from the first. Lesson two: embrace and love the training. If I’m going to spend all that time training, I need to enjoy it. So I do. How can training for a marathon be enjoyable? In all sorts of ways:
I am so lucky and grateful that I am physically able to run and cycle. So, why would I not enjoy the training? It would be churlish and wrong to dislike it.
My training is varied, so it isn’t like I am running every single day. In any given week, I cycle twice, I run twice, I do a weights session and I do a core strength/flexibility workout. The pace and length of runs and cycle rides varies too. The general rule I’m following is a long run/ride is slow, a short one is speedy.
The places I run are varied. For example I drove down to Reading before Christmas, and stopped on the way at Stowe in Warwickshire, and ran there. It meant I got to see a part of the country I’d not seen before, so it was interesting. Ok, so I looked a little weird getting changed in the car after, but hopefully no one spotted me!
I’ve run with other people a few times – for example with my inspiring friend Alison, down in Kent. Which was a VERY muddy and wet run. Great fun. We’ve both discovered off road running, and are loving that. I also plucked up the courage to go on a trail running training camp in the North Yorkshire Moors last weekend. It turned out to be an amazing experience, and I discovered that I love running in the hills. I even did a 6.7mile night race! This latter discovery leads me onto the next thing I’ve learnt.
3. The training is an adventure. Trying out new types of running and other exercise has been brilliant, and I’ve made new friends as a result. Who knows what else I will discover or where it might lead. As I wrote in my last post, deciding to do a marathon was quite accidental, and life is about improvising as we go along.
4. On the friend front, it’s been really great tackling this endeavour with Alison. We live at opposite ends of the country, but somehow we are making it work. We text each other a lot (a lot!) with updates on our training, ideas, how hungry we are, good recipes, books we’ve read. We’ve planned in to run together twice more before the big day. That’ll give us a chance to prepare and get used to each others’ pace. So if you are thinking of doing a challenge of some sort, try enlisting a co-conspirator. It doesn’t matter if you live far apart.
5. I’ve found it helpful to put the marathon into perspective. There are loads of people who run much further and in really gruelling circumstances. I just read an incredibly moving book about an awesome woman who ran round the world, wild camping pretty much all the way, including at temperatures of -50 in Siberia. Twentysix miles in Brighton seems trivial in comparison. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to set off round the world).
It [the run] made me see that everything in life is an adventure and a miracle, whether it’s running across a glacier or boiling water to make a cup of tea. Life is the greatest, happiest and often toughest adventure of all and I’ve fallen in love with it all over again”
(Rosie’s book is amazing! Do put it on your list).
Alison and I are hoping to raise money via our run. If you would like to sponsor either of us, we’d be ever so grateful. When I open up my email to see a donation has been made, I feel so encouraged. It feels like running past a big crowd of people cheering me on. Thank you so much to Grant, Anthony, Meg, Mary, Lucy, Dawn and Shona who have all sponsored me.
I’m doing the run for the MS Society, and Alison is doing it to raise money for Mind. Whilst both are major charities, they benefit hugely from the accumulation of donations from lots of small endeavours like ours.