Everybody says that training for a marathon is harder than the marathon itself, and they tend to say it as though it were a revelation. Whilst I’m yet to run the marathon, I’m inclined to not only agree but even point out that this is stating the obvious! In the last four months I’ve experienced and learned so many things – some that I expected, others I should have expected but didn’t, and things that I never would have thought of but are now a very real part of my day to day life.
1. Injuries are now known as niggles – and they happen all the time
I have been injured so much throughout this process that it feels like there has not been a week where I’ve not had a ‘niggle’. I would never have previously described a pain in my knee/glute/shin/ankle as a niggle. Yet for some reason I’ve started to call them this – and they definitely exist frequently enough to merit their own name – but what’s more, everybody else calls them niggles too – it’s like an unspoken pact that to reduce the threat they might pose we’ve all agreed to call them a stupid name.
2. I’m hungry all the time
Whilst I’ve always been somebody who enjoyed their food I can now go from Christmas Day full and ‘I can never eat again’, to ready for another meal in about three hours. Not a snack or a little something sweet, but another gut-busting meal. This is more so in the day (s) after a long run, but it is pretty much all of the time now.
3. Compeed blister plasters need to be kept on until they fall off
The result of not doing this is a flesh wound which stops you running for a week. Whilst we’re on blisters…
4. You can get blisters from sports bra
And yes. They are very very uncomfortable
5. My mind wipes the memories of bad runs
I’m not joking, every time I have a bad run and I’m convinced this was a stupid idea and why am I doing this, it always feel like this is the first time I’ve felt this way. Even if I’m aware that I’ve felt this way before I can’t recall the feeling of it – my mind has protected me from it so I can keep running. I can recall the elation of a great run but not the disappointment of a bad one. Clever old thing the human body.
6. New kit is the most exciting part of your life
New clothes tend to be exciting in any circumstance, but not much beats the excitement of new leggings. Except for new trainer day. It seems to be a universally accepted fact that for any runner of any distance, New Trainer Day (it deserves capitals) is the shit.
7. Running a marathon unlocks a secret world of conversation
Any time I mention what I’m doing it always provokes an interesting response, but I’ve been stunned by the number of people who have gone from half paying attention to me (doctor’s office and job interviews included) to being totally engaged and giving me tips on what to do. Equally, if people see me in kit at the bus stop or coffee shop I am frequently asked how far I’ve run and am I training for anything. I have found that saying I’m training for the London Marathon is like a password for those who have already done it, and an icebreaker for those who have not.
8. Your perception of normal changes drastically
After the long Easter weekend I was asked what I had done with the weekend. It wasn’t until my colleague’s face dropped at my response of “I went for a three hour run” that I realised how accepting I had become of that being a normal way to spend a weekend. The downside of this is that you stop appreciating what you’re doing as something special – if you’re training for a marathon don’t forget to feel proud of what you do on a run by run basis.
9. Running changes your physique in unexpected ways…
I don’t know how or if I expected running to change the way I looked, but I didn’t expect the one significant change, and that is the change to my right arm. Carrying a 750 ml sports bottle for however many miles a week has left me with a far stronger right arm than left, and as a result it feels too heavy in my left hand to correct the imbalance. I am like pop-eye but only on the right.
10. Running changes your mind in unexpected ways…
I feel more confident than I used to in a way that has nothing to do with how I previously understood self-confidence, which was pretty much entirely based on how I looked I’m ashamed to say. I feel more confident now because I feel capable of taking on a challenge. I have more faith in myself as someone who can.