(A few light-hearted lessons learned training for a half marathon)
When you tell people you’re going to train for a half marathon they divide into two groups: the Are-you-mad-you’ll-do-yourself-an-injury Group and the Wow-that’s- great-I’ve-done-twelve-marathons-in-my-time Group. It’s therefore very important to build up your training slowly so that you don’t injure yourself and prove the first group right, yet at the same time make sure you get fit enough to impress the second group, even if only a little. A warning though: just like memorizing a piece or learning an instrument, this long distance running lark can’t be done quickly; it’s a bit of a marathon. And below are some points of advice based on my observations over the four months it took me to train:
-It’s important to wear proper running gear
- So that you look as if you know what you’re doing, which hopefully will stop passersby shouting out helpful comments such as “it’s bad for you all that runnin’ darlin’.”
- So that you don’t hurt your feet, or get blisters, or chafed nipples, or blackened toe nails.
-Don’t worry about blackened toenails. They look fine under bright nail varnish.
-If the weather is bad you may not feel like training, but running in the rain is actually really fun, like being in the shower with your clothes on.
-On the other hand, if the weather is good you may feel like training but running in the hot sun is not fun and is actually rather dangerous, like being cooked alive in a vast oven.
-Memorize your route to minimise the chance of collisions and angry altercations with fellow pedestrians as you consult your map. If in doubt keep going round in loops.
-If a random dog starts to run with you, gets over excited and runs off into the distance, it’s not your fault and when the owners can’t find said canine, you shouldn’t be expected to help search for it.
-Some way into a long run, you will inevitably get a dialogue going on inside your head along these lines:
“Can’t we stop now? I feel terrible”
“No we can’t stop now.”
“But I think I’m going to die..”
“No you’re not going to die.”
“I’m gonna die…”
“You’re not going to die. It’s only a bit further than we did last week and you were fine then, remember?”
“It feels like someone else’s legs are running and not mine.”
“Well, so what’s the problem then?”
“Well maybe I’ll never have feeling in my legs again..”
“Just be quiet and think about something else will you? I’ll give you a hot chocolate/piece of cake/(insert other favourite treat) when we get back…”
-It may seem that every other jogger out there overtakes you but don’t let that put you off. Concentrate on your own race pace and don’t be tempted to try to keep up with the smart arse in front. Just as long as you are going FASTER than people who are WALKING, you are doing OK, you are officially RUNNING (and that’s according to the Oxford Dictionary definition of running).
-Thank God for the odd busy road crossing and the excuse to rest. Sometimes helpful motorists slow down to let you cross. It’s very nice of them but please don’t bother!
-Just as in life, every downhill easy path becomes an uphill and difficult slope on the way back. Or vice versa. There’s always a payback.
-Don’t arrange to meet someone immediately after your run; the arctic explorer style, crystallized salt on your eyelashes, the ripe tomato redness of your complexion and the general whiff of your sweat drenched body will not necessarily be attractive to others.
-Practice drinking some water whilst you run. It takes a while to perfect your technique and snorting water out of your nose is not a good look when you are trying to be one of those cool marathon dudes.
-It’s amazing the power of music to keep you going. Trad jazz can put a spring in your step, the grim irony of Shostakovich symphonies can fire you up, and just about any rhythmic music is helpful. Avoid anything soft, slow or sad. That’s the last thing you need in your quest for the runners’ high.
Because once you’ve got the running bug, with the wind in your hair, safely outside your daily routine for a while, there’s nothing quite like it! Plus for any wind players out there, it really improves your lung capacity no end.