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Are yer doing it for charity?


Runner 118

Given that I’m usually incapable of taking a shopping list to the shops and returning home with all the items on the said list (Cheese. Tick. Butter. Tick. Bread? Where’s the bloody bread?), it’s something of a minor triumph that I’ve made it to the end of week two of my London marathon training plan successfully. All miles logged, all runs done. Just fourteen weeks to go now. If this was Facebook there’d probably be some smiley-winky-thumbs-up thingy that I could insert here.

The training plan is from Runners’ World magazine and sets daily running targets for a period of sixteen weeks up to the big day on 13th April. As the London marathon is a week earlier than usual this year, due to the late Easter, the first week of training cut a swathe through the festive period and saw me pounding the near deserted streets of London on Christmas Day for a cobweb dispensing four miler. It was ace. The few people around smiled and exchanged seasonal greetings. Only one person shouted the always hilarious “run, Forrest, run” at me.

But it’s not all roses and chocolates this training malarkey. By New Year’s Day morning I was dodging pools of vomit, broken glass and murky puddles on the Embankment on the sort of day when it wasn’t fit to take your cocker spaniel out. And today I was back out in the wind and rain for this week’s long run of nine miles. Fellow London marathoner Mo Farah tweeted earlier that he was heading out for a twelve mile run. I was tempted to reply and say “hey Mo, don’t overdo it lad, there’s still fourteen weeks left, don’t peak too soon”. I’m sure he probably knows what he’s doing though.

Runner 3

The training plan builds mileage steadily so that by week thirteen you’re doing a long run of twenty two miles and a weekly total of about fifty miles before tapering off as the actual marathon approaches. I’m looking forward to getting out there in the coldest weather of the year. Not necessarily the first twenty minutes or so when my fingers turn purple and then white and feel like they’re about to drop off. Wear gloves? Nah, that would be far too sensible. But once I’ve warmed up a bit it feels great to be outdoors, especially on cold, crisp winter days.

It’s easy to develop an obsession with running against the clock but running is often most enjoyable when you leave the watch at home and simply soak up the sensation of being in motion outdoors; feeling  the breeze against your face, the sights and sounds around you and the sensation of your feet hitting the ground. Keep it simple. I read an article recently that explored the meaning of running and whether we, as human beings, are programmed to run from hunter-gatherer times. Is it in our DNA to run? To me it’s simply a great way of keeping fit and of pushing myself and testing my limits.

The first question many people ask me when they find out that I’m training for a marathon is “are you doing it for charity?” The first couple of times I ran London I did the charity thing but this time I’m running just for the hell of it and hoping to bust out a personal best time. My target is for a “good for age” time, which for a young forty summat whipper snapper like me means getting round in less than three hours and ten minutes. Two  years ago I ran the London marathon eight minutes slower than that. I’ve got work to do but I know that I can improve.


Last year was a strangely disjointed running year for me. I began training for the London marathon but then started to pick up some niggling injuries and lost my enthusiasm sometime in February. Possibly it was a result of running a couple of marathons the year before (including Florence in November) and I felt like I was permanently training for a marathon. Put simply I wasn’t enjoying it.

I got a letter from my mum that read; “Dear London marathon organisers, please excuse Jonathan from this year’s race as he is suffering from persistent tendonitis, tight hamstrings, sore calves and a possible recurrence of the tibial stress fracture he had a few years ago. Oh and he’s temporarily misplaced his running mojo. Thank you”. Anyway it did the trick and they wrote back and said that I could defer my entry to this year as long as I paid the entry fee again. The cheeky monkeys.

So that was that and I spent the rest of the year largely as a weekend runner, barely clocking any mid-week mileage. But oddly I still managed to run personal best times for 5km and half marathon. If the World Anti-Doping Agency had been present at the Sheffield half marathon in May when I knocked a minute off my half marathon best after a day on the ale and a pie and chip tea they may well have been interested in the erythropoiesis levels of runner number 5101.

Runner 2

I’m under no illusions, this latest marathon training schedule is going to be tough. The interval sessions later in the schedule, running flat out for shorter distances, will leave me gasping and wheezing like a forty a day chain smoker and questioning why on earth I’m putting myself through it all again. But it’ll be worth it in the end. You get out what you put in, there’s no bluffing your way through a marathon.

Having said that, the boot camp world of marathon training is nothing compared to the pain of living with someone who’s training for a marathon.  When those three hour weekend long runs kick in, usually the best I can manage as I return home is a cheery “I’m absolutely bollocksed” before sprawling on the sofa for the rest of the day dribbling, yawning and farting (running does strange things to your insides). And there’s the tedious conversations about weekly mileage and fretting about whether there are enough protein shakes in the fridge and how many grams of pasta I’ve eaten this week and I’m not sure whether to try these new trainers out before or after the marathon. And don’t call it “jogging”, it’s not jogging, it’s running, there is a difference.

And then your loved ones will turn up on the day to watch you and spend a couple of hours scanning the faces of thirty thousand sweaty, grimacing runners for one that they recognise. Their only release from the mind-numbing tedium will be seeing what’s-his-name from the The Only Way Is Essex. And then when they finally spot you and shout “keep going” or a blatantly untrue “looking good” you’ll be “in the zone” like a pre-match Roy Keane and completely miss them.

So, for any non-runners reading this; if your partner even vaguely hints at the possibility of running a marathon, give them a long hard “it may be time to pack your bags” look and tell them to forget it. If that fails, chuck a bucket of cold water over them. It’s for the best.


From → London, Sport

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