Whilst sat on the couch pre-exam period searching for procrastination to deter myself from revision, I subscribed to run in the Paris Marathon 2015. I’ve always played sport throughout my childhood therefore, sport has always been a way of socializing as well as a hobby rather than a chore or a way to lose weight. Nevertheless, after receiving an e-mail confirming my place on the Paris Marathon course, panic struck me.
Firstly, I’d never committed myself to long distance running. I knew, just like trying different types of sport from netball to athletics, different muscles are required and each need specific training strategies. Secondly, I didn’t know if I’d successfully juggle between university work and training.
However, doing the marathon during my ultimate year of studying for my degree helped to manage my stress levels. Although the majority of the time I didn’t initially feel like running, afterwards I felt refreshed, positive and ready to work. Preparing for a marathon is a lot more strategic than what I first thought and requires some planning. Here are some top tips that I wish I’d read before I began training for the marathon.
Think positively – Training for the marathon is 60% fitness and 40% psychological. It’s easy to give up, so stay determined. On the day of the marathon, there were a range of people of all ages and physiques who were representing countries from all over the world. Conquering a marathon is possible. If I can do it, you can! Pin up some motivational quotes or fitness pictures to help you reach your goals.
Create a playlist – If you haven’t already got an iPod or a devise to play music on, I’d advice investing in an Ipod Shuffle. I used my Iphone however, the Ipod shuffle is light, clips onto your top or shorts and holds plenty of storage for all your motivational songs which may help you get out of bed for those early morning runs or spur you on during the last kilometre of the run.
Give yourself weekly or daily objectives – I found short term objectives kept me motivated and were a better approximation of my ability. Be realistic. Don’t set yourself a half marathon training session within the first month. If you’re not particularly a sporty person, build your distance up gradually. You don’t want injuries, so be sensible when it comes to what you’re capable of.
Time Management – Many sites recommend training 16 weeks in advance which I also believe is an achievable target. For those who juggle between working, studying or family commitments, set aside 60-90 minutes in the morning or in the evening during your training days to dedicate towards your run. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it!
Join a club – Being part of a club not only improved my French but also motivated me to train due to the social and friendly environment. I trained twice a week with my club, leaving only two more runs in the week to go on independently. Knowing that training would take place in rain or in shine motivated me to go. If joining a club is not your cup of tea, find a running partner. Running with someone twice a week makes the independent runs a much more bearable and less daunting activity. So find a technique that will motivate you to do those longer runs and make your training as fun as possible.
Get the gear – As a poor student in Paris, I can assure you that the marathon is affordable however, you definitely need to be prepared when it comes to equipping yourself with appropriate sportswear. I lacked motivation because I didn’t have clothes that kept me warm during the winter morning runs. Find a brand that you feel comfortable in and that offers waterproof material (especially if you’re training in the UK!) Most brands cater for all different shapes and sizes and are designed so you feel agile. For those on a cheaper budget, Karrimor is an affordable and smart brand that is available at the low-cost store, Sports Direct. Personally, I do love Nike and was treated to a few of their t-shirts for Christmas. If wearing the latest products motivates you to do the training then why not!
Find the right trainers – 6 weeks into my training, I began to experience pain in my knee. Little did I know it was because I was wearing trainers that were too small. My coaches then told me that it was necessary to buy trainers that are one size or two sizes bigger than what you would normally buy. Straight away the pain in my knee stopped. I’d also recommend to replace your trainers every three months to prevent injury. I bought New Balance trainers in Sports Direct that sells them at a discount price.
Watches – For a gift, my mum bought me a Garmin Forerunner watch. This has probably been the most helpful gift I could have ever been given for the marathon. It enables me to measure the distance I have ran and track the route online at Garmin Connect. I found seeing the route visually online so helpful, particularly since I have no sense of direction and was living in Paris – a big city that has so many different routes. It also connects to your computer which allows you to compare your past times and view your achievements on a graph. I was never inclined to change the Garmin Forerunner to a more expensive watch – it’s simple, practical, efficient and easy to use.
Find training routes – Find routes that appeal to you, whether that be quiet or busy areas. I actually prefer jogging in a city since there are so many distractions that prevent you from thinking about how tired you’re feeling. My favourite place in Paris to jog is Bois de Boulogne – a park set on the edge of the city. The route around the lake is usually reserved to pedestrians, therefore free of traffic lights so you are free of obstacles and can run without having to stop every few minutes.
Sponsorship – This is certainly an optional and a personal choice. I chose to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society as it is a charity close to my family’s heart. It’s a great way to raise money and awareness for a charity and provides a meaningful purpose to your training.
Finally, this goes without saying but look after your body! Eat well, keep hydrated and if you’re feeling stiff, treat yourself to a sports massage (they work a treat!)
If anyone wants to add any more advice for marathon trainees, feel free to comment below, it’d be great to share experiences!