A Google search for ‘first time marathon’ brings up a staggering 35,600,000 results.
Everything from what to eat and drink before, during and after running, the best training plan to follow, the benefits of gels, carb loading and tapering; the list goes on and on.
I will be running the Edinburgh Marathon at the end of May, and for a first-timer like me, all this information can be very confusing.
In an attempt to educate myself, I attended a couple of marathon training events at the running shop Run and Become in Edinburgh, where I tried to take on board advice offered by various professionals from physiotherapists and podiatrists to nutritionists and holistic therapists.
I then started to read blogs, articles and even books written by marathon runners, including my favourite Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s memoir ‘What I talk about when I talk about Running’.
Apparently, Murakami wants his epitaph to be: “Writer (and Runner) – At least he never walked.”
Not a good start – at that point I was struggling to complete six miles without walking.
In retrospect, signing up for the Edinburgh Marathon without having run further than 10k before probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had, but I was determined to achieve this before a milestone birthday.
At the same time, having been touched by stories of people affected by cancer and inspired by the fundraising achievements of others, I wanted to do my bit for Macmillan.
And I did have a year to prepare for this event, although in reality the serious training only started six months before, when I signed up for my first ever half-marathon and started to follow a beginner to half-marathon training schedule.
Having completed the half – a very scenic event in Anglesey (and sorry Murakami, but I did walk up the hills), I was spurred on to tackle more hills in training, including taking part in Edinburgh’s Great Edinburgh 10-mile run.
Each new challenge has brought new lessons, but the best piece of advice I have been given is ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself and listen to your body’.
While consistency is important (don’t run four times one week, and not at all the following week) given the amount of time required to train for a marathon, some flexibility is needed.
A full-time job and family commitments mean it is impossible for me to run four times a week as suggested by my training schedule, so I aim for two shorter runs during the week and a longer run at weekends.
Holidays tend to get in the way of training too, so I have had to take them into account and add a couple of extra weeks into the training.
Injuries and illnesses can also come along unexpectedly, so getting into the habit of stretching properly both before and after running, eating well and getting lots of sleep all become more important.
So why does anyone think running 26.2 miles is a good idea?
Hopefully after a year of on/off preparation for this event, I will have the answer to that question soon.
And even better, I will have raised some money to help fund the valuable work of Macmillan Cancer Support.