Note: I wrote all of these thoughts before falling and spraining my ankle… I’m alright, but not sure if I can go ahead with my initial plan! But I had already written this whole post so I might as well share it haha. Please light a candle and cast a healing spell for me!
I can’t really believe I’m turning 30 in November… As I type this, I catch a glimpse of our baby’s pushchair and reminisce about the many alcohol-infused nights of the first half of my twenties. Even though there is no way I could drink that much without feeling very ill now + kissing all the boys would probably be frowned upon, there is still a lingering feeling of being “past it”. I’m aware that there are many more serious problems in the world, but birthdays do make me a bit melancholic.
Anyway, enough of the reminiscing and back to the present! The big thing I’m planning on doing before turning 30 is… drumroll please…
Running a marathon!
I have signed up for the Wendover Woods trail marathon on the 24th of October. It’s a trail marathon, which is quite different from road marathons (for example the iconic London Marathon). For one, there’ll only be 500 people taking part, as opposed to the huge crowds of most road marathons. The other obvious difference is the terrain: trail races are as the name indicates run on trails, which in this case won’t be very technical (some trail races are up and down mountains…). In the words of the organisers:
This race uses a challenging route taking in most of Wendover Woods. This race is classed as undulating and has several significant hills. Runners will be rewarded with amazing views over the Chiltern Hills and take in some of the forest’s most beautiful trails. En route to the finish, you will pass the Iron Age Boddington Hillfort and ancient monument along the way. The terrain is a mainly hard packed trail with some areas through the woods which may be muddy depending on recent weather. We recommend trail shoes but road shoes will be fine in dry weather. This is a multiple lapped course, with runners completing 3 laps.
I had entered the lottery for this year’s New York Marathon in early November, but I didn’t get in. I’m really fond of New York (even though I’ve only been once) and I liked the idea of having the opportunity to head back there. However it was not to be and actually the idea of being closer to home will help everything to flow smoothly on race day. Now you might be wondering…
Why run a marathon?
The first reason is that I wanted to do something big to celebrate my birthday. If we didn’t have our beautiful baby (and a house to renovate!), I might have chosen a big holiday to mark my new decade, maybe somewhere like Australia or Japan. In comparison, running a race is very cheap and less of a logistics headache. A marathon – as opposed to a distance I’ve covered before (i.e. 5K, 10K and half-marathon) – also seems like a big enough challenge to be memorable.
And the challenge bit is one of the attractions. (Am I weird? Probably.) I’ve been thinking about running a marathon for years now, but never really committed to it. I was very close to signing up to the Rio marathon last year, then I discovered I was pregnant. I’m not a doctor, but running a marathon in a hot climate while pregnant is probably only a good idea if you really know what you doing. Anyway, I’ve had these “what ifs” for years. So what if… I just did and blew my own mind? If I hate it, at least I’ll know, rather than sitting around wondering about it!
Another reason is that it gives me something to focus on regarding my fitness. Our wedding was supposed to be this past weekend (!) but with the coronavirus restrictions, we have postponed it to May 2021. I was using the wedding, as well as rebuilding my body after having a baby, as motivation to stick to my strength training plan. I also finished a 5K running plan last week. But now with the wedding a year away and no parkruns any time soon, I was feeling a bit “goalless”. A marathon is far enough that I would be forced to train, or crash and burn on the day.
My plan is that it also spills over positively into other aspects of my life. I haven’t changed my “impossible goal” of making £50,000 in my online business this year. But I have been slacking a bit on the early bedtimes and the morning routine that make it likely for me to put the work in to succeed. Having a race to train for means that I need to get up early and be back from my run so that my partner can go to work. That means that I need to go to bed at a reasonable time so that a) I don’t sleep in and skip my workout, or b) I don’t get up early and feel crap all day.
The marathon isn’t therefore “taking over” from my impossible goal for the year. A marathon definitely doesn’t seem easy, but I’ve consistently followed a training plan before, for the Oxford half marathon and then a 10K in Abingdon. So I don’t doubt my ability to follow through with a plan. The idea is that exercising my self-discipline in the morning will lead to a energised and productive day after that.
How I’ll train
Speaking of mornings, that is how I’m planning of fitting the training in. I have a five month old baby, I’m working on this blog, my online store and courses and I’ll be starting my PhD again after maternity leave soon. So kind of a full plate, but lots of people are this crazy haha. So the way I’m making it work is getting up at 5:00, having a little while to drink a coffee and journal, then heading out on my runs. This might sound a bit crazy to some, but in this season of life, I’m definitely more of a morning person. I prefer the quiet and the world coming alive of the morning, to me getting tired and cranky in the evening!
I will be following a training plan I bought from No Meat Athlete a while ago. It comes with quite a lot of information beyond what running workouts to do each day. I’m still reading through the material, but as you may know if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, I’m a big fan of No Meat Athlete (the book is currently my mousepad haha) and I have faith that if I follow their plan – barring any unexpected injury – all should go well in the coming 24 weeks and on race day.
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I will be finishing my current SWEAT strength training program soon, but I’m currently doing those workouts on my running “rest days”. What I will keep doing throughout the marathon training is yoga. I truly believe that yoga can be transformative for people from all walks of life (or should I say runs of life? … ) and that it is the form of exercise which is the most likely to reduce the risk of injury, pain and niggles. So I’ll be doing that on some of my rest days. I might even rediscover an old friend! I think Rebecca Pacheco’s yoga for runners is how I “discovered” yoga a few years ago, I’m a bit annoyed that her Runner’s World videos are no longer available online. Anyhoo, yoga recommendations are welcome, please share them in the comments!
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I recently ran quite a silly 5K… I went out too fast, my ego caught up in running a certain pace, and ended up in pain and a bit burnt out. Also nowhere near the time I was trying to run! So now I’m a lot more aware of my pace and namely of keeping it slow and easy for most of my runs. The plan I’m following has easy, long, tempo, interval and hill runs. For the first two, I will try to honour the intention of the program (and reduce my risk of injury) by keeping my heart rate slow. I monitor it on my Garmin Vivosport and aim for under 70% of my max heart rate on easy runs. (If you’re a runner, please weigh in on this!)
On my slower / longer runs, I listen to podcasts or to the nature around me. On faster runs or more challenging workouts, I plan to use music to help me keep going. Please recommend your favourite upbeat songs in the comments!
Back to you
First of all, thank you for reading this far! Second, have a think: what’s your marathon? Is it a fitness goal or something completely different, like writing a book or starting a business? Please share in the comments below and grab your free guide to making time for what’s important so you can make it happen!