I don't know whether it's a result of all of last year's Olympic excitement, but this year, all my local friends (who are seriously into their sport) seem to be committing to huge physical challenges. There are 100 mile cycle races being booked, Iron Mans and half Iron Mans, and as for me... finally (and not without some trepidation!), I have a place in the London Marathon!
It would seem rather obvious to point out that running 26.2 miles is a huge physical challenge for an old bird like myself…! But what I don’t think I really took on board, until I started the training, was what an emotional and psychological challenge it is.
And so, this January, having recovered from Christmas and New Year, I started on my training schedule. As it stands, I have four days a week when I run; one day when I swim; another day I go to the gym and work on my abdominals and core strength and finally, a day of rest.
I can imagine many people wonder where I get the time, because it does take a considerable amount of time. And I have to answer that despite being the world’s worst morning person, I have had to learn to get up early. And I mean early, when it’s still cold and dark. I have also had to work out a way to combine it with other commitments. For example, taking my kids to school by public transport and running home, instead of driving the car. And the worst I’ve experienced so far is running in the half dark when it’s -2C and snowing, arriving back at the car with frozen hair and eyebrows. Did I enjoy it? Hell, no! But the sense of achievement was incredible.
I am not a young person any more. Young in spirit maybe, but not in body! I admit that I sometimes worry that I will get up one day and my legs will just fall off! But I am now committed to doing it and I don’t want to let myself or my children down.
I know I have a long way to go. The longest run I’ve done so far is 14.5 miles – and I’ve only done it twice. But I am discovering so much about myself.
I realise that I have the capacity to do far more than I give myself credit for. I have no doubt that many of us, who are not over-burdened with self-confidence, are the same as me. But I also know that I have to be prepared psychologically. On a weekly basis, I am having to run ever increasing distances. But I can’t do it if I’m not mentally prepared. I have to set my mind to the distance, or number of laps of the park, and just focus on doing it.
Whilst I am very lucky to have a group of people I can train with, some of whom are experienced marathon runners, I have had to learn to zone out if they are either faster than me, or wanting to do a greater distance. I have to rein in my competitiveness, forget about what everyone else is up to, and just concentrate on improving my own fitness level. And that’s not always easy.
I don’t have vast amounts of emotional flexibility. If I’m running with someone who decides, during the last quarter of the run, that they want to up the speed, or just do a couple of extra miles, I find it demoralising. Part of me wants to excuse my lesser ability by attributing it to others being younger, or male! The other part of me thinks it’s no excuse! Maybe this is something I need to work on in the next couple of months. To focus on my ability to deal with the ‘extras’ when I’m feeling like I’m already pushing myself.
When I first told people I was doing the marathon they asked what time I wanted to achieve. To begin with, I said I would be happy to just finish the race. Now, I want to do it in under four hours. I know I will be really disappointed with myself if I don’t. In the next few months, I will be keeping a training diary – which I hope I don’t bore you with! And I also want to mention I am doing this for charity.
My next post will be about the charity I’m running for. And I will post a link to my Just Giving page. If anyone feels inspired by what I’m doing, or just likes what the charity does, I would, of course, be really grateful for any sponsorship you feel able to give.
All of a sudden, running 26.2 miles is seeming less of a tall order. Raising the money for charity is scaring me more!