IT’S 10 years since I last ran a marathon. In those years, I’ve set personal bests at all distances from 3000m to half marathon, but I never returned to the marathon distance.
‘Are you going to run a marathon?’ running friends would ask.
I’d shake my head. ‘No. Definitely not. I’m not a marathon runner.’
I’ve run two marathons, the London Marathon in 2006 and the Berlin Marathon in 2009. The aim of both was to survive. I’m pleased to say, I did. But it was messy, and it hurt.
In 2006, I’d only been running a few years, I didn’t have any training knowledge, didn’t do much training but felt that the marathon was something I should do.
It’s a mistake a lot of new runners make. I got carried away in the excitement of running, without thinking about what training for a marathon entailed. I got injured. I didn’t have a training plan or a race strategy or consider nutrition. As a result, I had a very painful race day experience, drank far too much water and spent 40-minutes in toilet queues. I crawled my way around London in six hours.
In 2009, the training had gone better, but it was still a bit slap dash. My younger self was busy with other commitments. I lacked training structure and dedication.
I crossed the finish line of the Berlin Marathon in five hours and 19 minutes. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I celebrated my achievement. But there was always that feeling that I could probably run better.
Having survived two marathons, I respected the distance so knew exactly what was involved in the training and on race day. I knew that when the time was right, I would return to the distance.
During the 10 years that followed, that ‘right time’ never came. I was busy with work, writing, studying, planning a wedding, looking after my horses. I trained hard and consistently but I didn’t have the time or energy to run the long distances required for a marathon. I thought about it. A few years ago, I entered the Florence Marathon but never made it to the start line. I had a few injury niggles and my heart wasn’t really in it.
The years flew by. I smashed my personal bests. I was happy with the running I was doing. Until now, that is. My circumstances have changed. I’m no longer racing as much but I do want a challenge, something more difficult than a 10k or a half marathon.
Now seems like the right time to return to marathon running. I feel ready to begin training for the distance. I may not have seen myself as a marathon runner in the past, but I know that I can be one. I know that I can work hard, put in the miles, keep motivated, and give it everything. Now is the right time.
Finding the right marathon for me
With my mind made up, I had to find a suitable race. Winter training is difficult for me because I also have horses (they take up a lot of my time in winter), so an autumn marathon was a much better option. I looked at various races abroad, but then decided that for my third marathon I would stay in my home county, Yorkshire.
The Yorkshire Marathon is a popular marathon. It’s flat, there’s a great atmosphere and a lot of support, and it takes place in the beautiful city of York. It seemed the perfect race for me to run my third marathon. I entered in October, which means I have a year to get into marathon shape.
Why now? Ten years since my last attempt and things have changed. I’ve changed. I’m a better runner than I was. I’m a qualified UK Athletics coach in running fitness. I have much more of an understanding of what is required to train for a marathon. I feel ready for it and want to run a time that reflects my ability.
A challenge for turning 40
I celebrated my fortieth birthday this year and wanted a new challenge.
A chance to better my younger self
I know that I can run faster than I did in Berlin. I’d like to try to run the good for age qualifying time of three hours 50 minutes. I will definitely have this in mind but will also listen to my body, train sensibly and build up the miles gradually.
If nothing else I want to be able to say, I trained hard and this is what I am capable of.
Are you running a marathon in 2020? As always, I’d love to hear from you.