It all started at the pub… I got a text from the Virgin London Marathon telling me that the ballot results had been released. I shrugged, assumed that I wasn’t “lucky” enough to be one of the 30,000 who got a place and started my third (fourth, fifth?) glass of wine.
Later, when I stumbled through my door, probably with a takeaway in tow, I slipped on a plastic-encased magazine that was sitting on my doormat. I picked it up and stared at the two smiling, green lycra clad runners who were on the front cover. It took me a few seconds to notice the “CONGRATULATIONS! You’re running the Virgin London Marathon” note at the bottom.
It took a while to sink in. The shock was soon replaced with determination. The next day I began researching training plans but unfortunately I got injured soon after. Shin splints are my nemesis. However, I resolved to complete the 26.2 mile course eventually so I deferred to 2012.
It came around quickly! Trust me.
I’m not a natural runner. In fact, I’m not a natural athlete. Anything that involves exercise or even general movement of my body is not natural for me. The whole training process wasn’t easy. I remember the first time I ran 2 miles and it was awful. No other word for it!
I stuck with it though; my training plan consisted of 3 smaller runs during the week starting with 2 or 3 miles and then a longer run at the weekend. My first “long” run was six miles. It was the furthest I had ever run and, you guessed it, it was hard. When I finally reached my front door I felt like I was going to throw up. I had to lie on my bed for the rest of the day I felt so sick!
My point? Anyone can start running.
I’ve completed 3 10km runs, 2 half marathons (almost! I’ve got the second at the end of October) and one marathon. I’m also hoping to get a charity place for the London Marathon in 2013.
Look at me go! This was taken at Virgin Active Triathlon where I completed the 10km run as part of a team. My swimming is worse than my running so I couldn’t have completed a triathlon by myself… my doggy paddle just wouldn’t cut it!
Running isn’t a chore anymore, it’s fun and a massive stress reliever. I do get the bad run, don’t get me wrong, but I’m pretty sure everyone who runs has a poor training session every now and then. And, to be honest, hard runs are different now because I can push through them. I rarely feel like I want to throw up any more!
Since starting running, I’ve lost 2 stone in weight and have toned up… I almost have abs! I’m still not at my ideal weight but I’m getting there. My runs have also got faster. I previously averaged at around 11 minutes per mile. During yesterday’s run my miles were under 9 minutes. Boom!
I’m currently in training for a half marathon and this week my training plan looks like:
Monday – rest
Tuesday – 3 easy miles and core workout
Wednesday – 4 miles
Thursday – 1 mile jog warm up, 2 x 5 minute fast followed 5 minute recovery jog and core workout
Friday – 4 miles
Saturday – rest
Sunday – 10 miles slow
Generally, I try to mix up the pace of my runs. Slow runs are important for recovery and my long run will always be a lot slower than my usual pace. I always throw in some fast sessions during the week as this helps increase my overall fitness and makes me run faster (obviously!).
I couldn’t recommend taking up running enough. It’s improved my confidence, happiness and energy levels. Losing weight, increasing fitness and feeling fab is a bonus. If I can do it, you can! Here are my top ten tips for beginner runners:
- Start sensibly. Don't go too fast, speed will come. Don't go too far, you can build up distances. Start with 30 minutes sessions and walk if you need too but make sure you're moving for half an hour.
- Make a note of your times and distances. Watching yourself improve is brilliant for confidence and determination.
- Once you improve, book yourself into a race so you have something additional to train for. Start off with a 5km or 10km. I book in races so I don't feel tempted to ease up on training.
- Good shoes! Go to a good running shop and get your gait tested. A good sports bra is also essential for ladies! I got my trainers from the London Marathon store and I always get my sports bras from Nike.
- Don't stop. It's easier to keep training than to stop and then start again from scratch. I always tell myself that when I feel like giving up or having a break.
- Make time for running. I block out evenings during the week for runs. Most of the time I stick to them but sometimes going out with some friends takes priority. Adapt your life to fit running in but don’t stop your life from happening!
- Rest days are important. Sometimes you just need to rest. In marathon training I overdid it a few times and got injured. Your body strengthens and improves during rest days, not during training. Listen to your body, not your mind.
- Try some core strengthening exercises as you improve. It'll make you a better runner. You can see my core workout here.
- Fuel right! If I haven't fuelled properly, my longer runs are difficult. It will take you a few attempts to work out what fuel is best for you.
- Don't give up! Sometimes I have difficult runs, sometimes I have to take a walking break and sometimes I don't hit the time or speed I was hoping for. Sometimes I do. It will be difficult every now and again but it's worth it.
Completing the London Marathon was the best experience because of all the training hours, knowing how far I had progressed and the day itself. The buzz you get from complete strangers cheering you on is something I’ve never experienced before and probably will only experience if I complete the course again! It was emotional and exhilarating experience which I’m now completely addicted to – I can’t stop booking in races!
Please ignore the silly face, I had a mouthful of sweets at the time!
I hope this post was reasonably useful for any potential beginner runners. Feel free to drop me a line with any questions or come and say hello on my blog.