So, it seems that my prospects of doing a marathon have gone from wishful-but-apprehensive thinking to actual reality. Thanks to a tremendously thoughtful (but somewhat risky) Christmas present from my other half, a place in the 2017 London Marathon is mine. Which means I’ve had to get serious about training.
No more of this “run as much as I can and hope for the best”-type approach. I’ve actually hunted out a 16-week plan (thanks, Runners World), drawn up a tailored Google Doc and started fitting runs, strength sessions and yoga around my life. Or rather, started fitting my life around runs, strength sessions and yoga. A half marathon can be trained for with minimum effort, but a full marathon means some changes. Farewell to drunken Friday and Saturday nights. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this properly.
And I won’t be alone. In a little under three months, I’m going to be jostling alongside over 35,000 other fools on the starting line for the London Marathon, ready to run 26 miles for fun, personal glory or a good cause (or all three).
This year over a quarter of a million people entered the marathon, with 55% of those applicants having never run a marathon before. Sure, that would have included swathes of drunken “Oh, I might as well”s, and plenty of impulse buys, but still. That’s a hell of a lot of people willing to put themselves through the pain not only of running 26 miles in one stretch, but of the four solid months of training.
The lonely morning runs. The long Sunday miles. The painful hills. The disappointment in your friends’ eyes when you turn down a third drink and head home for an early night because actually, you’re too old to run on a hangover these days.
But what is it about the marathon that is so popular these days? You’d have to be wilfully blind not to notice the explosion in running events over the last few years – from Tough Mudders to Colour Runs, from ultras to all-day relays, more and more people are pulling on their trainers and chasing the runner’s high. But even with all the exciting new twists on running from Point A to Point B, the marathon remains a classic.
Personally, I think it’s because – technically – almost anyone can do it (I saw a man on two crutches hobble across the finish line at the 2016 London Marathon). But it’s hard. Really hard. No matter how fit you are, pushing yourself over 26 miles is going to hurt. So, it’s a challenge, yet a doable one. For people who have never thought of themselves as runners, it’s a huge achievement. For runners, it’s a classic milestone, and the chance to impress comes with shaving down that PB.
Next up, how about an ultra?
By the way, if you’d like to sponsor me for the London Marathon (what, you didn’t see this coming?), I’m running for MS-UK, a charity which supports those who suffer from the degenerative disease multiple sclerosis. You can find my Just Giving page right here.