An old git’s guide to running a marathon
Ian Cunningham ran his first marathon at 47. Here’s how – with five key tips to help you do the same.
At the ripe old age of 47 I’ve surprised myself, my family, friends and work colleagues and completed a marathon, the Brighton marathon 2010
Like many blokes I sailed through my 20s and 30s not worrying about my fitness and long term health. If I had to run for a bus I just did, I never had weight problems… I’m one of the lucky one who took being fit for granted.
But, there comes a point for all of us when the going suddenly isn’t so easy. For me it was on a trip to Scotland for a mate's wedding. I went for a walk up a hill with my wife. After 10 minutes I was struggling to keep up and then spent the next couple of hours miserably trudging up and down. I’d just turned 40 and reality had bitten. Having spent years mocking gym-goers I bit the bullet and joined a gym to do something about my lack of fitness.
After a few years of pottering round the gym a couple of times a week I needed something to stave off the boredom and find a way to challenge myself. Fortunately we have a local 5 mile ‘fun run’ every July which gave me something to aim for. I completed the run but then the male competitive spirit kicked in and I wanted to do better.
One thing led to another, I ran a variety of races and then tried a half marathon last autumn. Once my wife completed the London Marathon in 2009 there was a challenge I just couldn’t turn away from. (Malehealth editor's blog: Trying to run faster than the missus)
Last November I got a place in the Brighton Marathon for 2010 and from that moment onwards all was focused on April 18th in Brighton. From the Runner’s World web-site, I downloaded a 16 week training schedule that would take me from Xmas through to the Marathon.
First tip – let your inner techie run free
Invest in a Garmin Forerunner 305 or similar – they’re a great piece of kit to measure heart rate, pace and distance. They help you set targets and you can spend happy hours after your run analysing your data.
My schedule steadily built up from 25 miles a week in early January to 40 miles a week during March. January and February were tough with the snow and cold this year which at least gave me an excuse to go out and buy some new kit.
Second tip – ditch those smelly old trainers
Do as the experts say and invest in properly fitted shoes, it really does make a difference and the trail shoes I bought made running on snow safer.
As the mileage increased in March I started getting twinges in my knee, my runner’s knee recurring at a bad time.
Third tip – listen to your body
Get to know a physio you trust before you start training and need one in a hurry. I visited my physio and he reassured me my approach was right – strengthen the quad muscles and stretch out the iliotibial band (a major cause of knee pain, the ITB helps stabilise the knee when running) and hamstrings.
Fourth tip: listen to ALL of your body
All the running meant I had been neglecting my gym work! Don’t. (The older and/or heavier you are, the more important this advice is.)
While March dragged by with 20 mile runs each weekend, April shot by and all too soon I was at the start line in Brighton. Having followed the schedule I was confident I’d done the necessary preparation but fearful of the dreaded wall. Fortunately, the weather was perfect: clear blue sky, no wind, not too hot. Having got going I settled into the steady regular pace required and kept going. And kept going.
Fifth tip – run for a charity
As well as doing the run for a worthwhile cause you also get a charity top with your name on it. The boost from strangers shouting your name for four hours gave me a real lift. (For once in my life I was the one being shouted on rather than doing the shouting at football matches).
Just 3 hours and 49 minutes later I crossed the finish line – delighted to have beaten the 4 hour barrier, and I didn’t even the notice the wall (actually I did – the organizers kindly put a fake wall over the road at 20 miles in case any of us had forgotten!).
Beforehand I’d read so many times that after a marathon you feel you can do anything, and it’s true. The knowledge that I can apply myself to something for 4 months and achieve a substantial goal is a significant achievement and I find myself approaching others tasks in a more positive frame of mind – if I put my mind to it I will get it done.
I’d been nervous about the post marathon blues (compared by some – mainly blokes admittedly - to post natal depression) but instead of that I’m enthused to do it all again for some reason.
All that training means that running over shorter distances suddenly seems a whole lot easier and I’ve already vastly improved my time for 5km. I’ve already entered the ballot for next year’s London Marathon so look out for the old git pounding the streets of London next year – I’ll be the one in a charity shirt with IAN on the front!
Good luck, Ian.
Page created on June 2nd, 2010
Page updated on June 2nd, 2010