How to run 26.2 miles (when you’re not an elite athlete)

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Ok, so I don’t actually have an answer to this yet. But I know one thing for sure: signing up to enter a marathon is really the first step to running one.

All the advice says: “start small”. Entering an email address and a credit card? That’s pretty tiny given the enormous amount of training coming my way over the next nine months. So the first step to convincing yourself that you’re going to do it is to part with hard-earned cash. Then tell some people. Tell some more people. Then shut up about it and run (because no one likes a marathon bore… You’re still reading this? Then you might be one too…)

I’ve never run anything like this in my life, and quite frankly I’m terrified. Exercise and me have not always been friends. I was the bespectacled geek, picked last for teams, with no hand-eye coordination and a scraping of cardiovascular fitness. I might have read books at marathon speed, but my body remained unmoved. But then mid-way through university, something changed. I started to enjoy running. I ran longer distances than I had ever dreamed I could manage. And a month after graduating, I ran my first half marathon: the Royal Parks Half Marathon in London.

A year later I entered Windsor Half on my birthday, and struggled round this hillier-than-average course wishing I’d tied balloons to my bum so that I would benefit from all the cheers. And a year after that, I ran the Bath Half, firmly of the belief that spring races are far better than autumn ones, because all the training happens in the cold. (I know some runners prefer warmth, but I’m much more excited about jogging through snow than sun. Anyone else?)

But crossing those finish lines? Well after the elation, I felt knackered, my legs searing with lactic acid, my lungs erupting into an enormous coughing fit as I limped towards the massage tent or nearest hot food source. If there’s one thing you know when you’ve just finished running thirteen miles, it is that you do NOT want to run another thirteen. And as I write these words… it’s just beginning to sink in. That small, first step of entering my credit card number was exactly that: just the beginning.


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