Six tips for running your first marathon

You too could do this… Photograph: Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon
4 Aug 2013 @ 4.36 pm
| Sport

You too could do this… Photograph: Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon
You too could do this… Photograph: Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon

Local author Helen Stothard took part in her first marathon earlier this year, and having crossed the finish line at London Marathon shares her tips for success

mix-six-logo-rightIf you were involved in the York 10K this weekend, and have been inspired by it to take on your first marathon, where do you start?

I was new to marathon running until quite recently. This is what I’ve learned from successfully completing my first 26-miler.

Follow these tips and you could be ready for York’s first marathon this October

Tip one

Train, train and train again. I chose a run/walk training plan from Runners World that covered the 16 weeks prior to the marathon. In hindsight this wasn’t long enough. I’d not run for most of the previous year due to an injury and didn’t have any base fitness to start with. Find a plan that fits in with your schedule and start training as soon as possible, the earlier the better.

Tip two

Listen to your body! Having started training in January I became injured in February. I ignored the signs and carried on training and caused some real damage that stopped me running right up to the marathon itself in April. What I should have done is seen a sports therapist at the first niggle, and rested. I ended up damaging the peroneal that runs from my knee, down the side of my leg, round my ankle and under my foot. Even with sports therapy I spent most of my training period either walking or on an exercise bike.

Tip three

Set up an online sponsor page as soon as you can. Knowing that people are sponsoring you and that you are raising money for charity makes it easier to get up and train on cold, wet or snowy mornings or to keep going on your long runs. You’ve made people aware of what you are doing and you’re less likely to quit when you know what you’re doing is going to benefit others. When I was at my lowest point with my injury in training I just looked at my sponsor page and it gave me a real boost.

"I did it!" Helen celebrates finishing the London Marathon
“I did it!” Helen celebrates finishing the London Marathon

Tip four

If you’re not a member of a running club then do look at running with others. It can be incredibly lonely trying to do marathon training on your own. Sweatshop run Sweatequity training groups that will help you train to marathon distance, and if you’ve never run as part of a group there’s the free 5k parkrun most Saturday mornings at York Racecourse – it’s an excellent way of meeting other runners and also experiencing what it’s like to run with a lot of other runners.

Tip five

Don’t set yourself unrealistic targets. I read a lot of books and articles over the last few years about marathon running, and remembering that this was my first marathon decided not to have a time goal. If I had a time goal and fell behind then psychologically I had already failed. My only goal when I started training was to cross the finish line, and once I became injured and realised I could only walk the marathon this was even more important.

Competing in a marathon is nothing like any other race I’ve ever taken part in. The furthest I’d run previously was a half marathon. I honestly believe that at least 50 per cent of completing the marathon was psychological rather than physical.

Having your head in the right place is as important as having your legs and body in great condition. If this means avoiding negative people around you then so be it. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, it makes a huge difference.

Tip six

Remember to enjoy the experience! London was the most amazing adventure that I have ever had running, The support was incredible. There was a lot of temptation to go off and try and run, despite the injury, or to try and keep up with others. Stick to the pace you are comfortable with, don’t be pressured into doing more.

Take photos before and after if you can, and if possible write it all down when you get home. I was surprised how quickly it started to fade. I look at the photos and medal now and in a way still can’t quite believe I accomplished it!



four-times-round-the-village-coverHelen has written a book about her five year journey from non runner to taking part in her first marathon It’s Just Four Times Round The Village which is available on Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Waterstones Online.