Training Tips for (*New) Runners, Part Two...

Upon reading my previous running tips in Part One, I realised there wasn't much in there a relatively-sound-of-mind human being could use, save for the part on motivating music... So... I'm hoping this concluding section proves a little more useful to you, if you've thought of running - but you've not known how or where to start...

My last point, in Part One, was about 'playing A Character In Jeopardy' for getting speed and energy for running ... Let's face it, I'm not going to get a column in Runners World any time soon. So. Moving on. I can't press the importance enough of...

Running Outdoors 

Rod's my running buddy on 'short' runs...

I don’t mean pounding the pavement, I mean connecting with beautiful outdoor spaces; if you're lucky enough to live near some. My favourite places to run are river ways, canal paths, parks, woods, heaths; these places are wonderful to explore on foot… and there’s something that makes you feel childlike again; running through open spaces with the wind, the occasional smell of cut grass/horse manure, wafting past. What’s not to love? Unless you suffer from hay fever, in which case I apologise. And a fear of horses. Or cows. OK, I admit, it’s not for everyone – but as I said earlier, this is what works for me. And my joints..! (running on grass/soil/cow pats is much easier on your joints, than paving/tarmac. *Fact. In fact, likely the only fact in here). 

Run The Event, Before The Event

Me in a chicken outfit. Just because.
By this I do NOT mean running in the middle of the road, tracing every step of the London Marathon, a week ahead of the barriers being put up... I mean training your muscles, and brain, for the feat ahead by running in similar conditions before the actual day. I found this point, in particular, really helped my muscles prepare... 
It could mean training on the flat, if that's how it's actually going to be on the day (Silverstone’s Half Marathon’s great for that), or if hills are more likely, then maybe a trip to Brighton to prep..? Or for warmth, maybe take on an event overseas; for me, that meant combining a visit to see my family in Spain with a 12K event, in Malaga in the month of February.

See, that’s the cruel thing about the London Marathon event; as it's in April you have very little time to train in the warmth – most of the training (for a beginner) takes place through the winter – which means a sunny day can be a nasty surprise for even the most well-prepared entrant. I recognise we don’t all have the ability to run abroad in preparation - but I believe it really helped me… Maybe running in cling film is the answer. Or a fluffy chicken outfit... 

Look The Part, Feel The Part

Running gear is very important. I don’t mean buying the latest range, I mean feeling comfortable and ready for anything (*see roundhouse kick scenario in 1st running blog post!)

– and that means investing in the right equipment, early on. This may also involve having your gait analysed (to avoid complications later); it’s free – and readily available in specialist shoe shops. And no, it doesn't hurt - it just means walking (normally on a treadmill) so that the specialist can understand your weight distribution, and foot strike, so that your running shoes work better for you. Don’t be shy. 

And... expect long-distance running to hurt, after the event. Weird, eh? But muscle pain a day or two after a run, isn't a bad thing - it's a sign your body's healing, and getting stronger... I don't think there's any way of avoiding pain after running the marathon (unless you're a professional athlete); here's a funny video to prove the point...

The Day After The Marathon...

To make life easier for yourself, run every 'real' event you run (marathon, 5K, whatever it is) in the gear you 'practice' train in. It sounds obvious, doesn't it? But if you’re planning to run as a peanut M&M for 26.2 miles, that’s not going to be easy to pull off, on each of your long Sunday runs around Richmond Park, surrounded by self-righteous cyclists and yummy mummies.

Cows don't wear trainers, they're hard.

Actually, scratch that – they’ll love it. But you likely won’t… Honestly, I don’t know how those ‘character runners’ build up their training hours in their impressive outfits; if a tiny bit of elastic under my bra strap can make my shoulder bleed; I can only imagine what injuries a badly-fitted pantomime cow outfit can inflict!

I think you get my point…

And Finally... Make It Inevitable...

I found the best way to kick my arse out of bed, and into action, for those long Sunday runs, was to tell myself 'There is NO WAY you're getting out of this - so you might as well be the best you can be. It's HAPPENING. DEAL WITH IT!'. Another way to remind yourself of this point is to a) catch up with the charity you're running for (irrelevant of whether or not you got a place in the ballot, it's a golden opportunity to raise funds for worthy causes. Do it.), and b) remember your sponsors - and family & friends - who are behind you, willing you on.

The Virgin London Marathon 2011 was one of the most amazing things I have ever done with my life; and I've not done anything, before or since, that's left me feeling so conflicted over whether or not I'd do it again. Here's the reason why...


There are water stations at regular intervals throughout the marathon; runners at these events have an ugly habit of grabbing a bottle from a stand, taking a couple of swigs, then throwing the bottle to the floor. What irritates me about this behaviour is the fact that they ONLY do it at this event. You're not telling me that, on their gruelling training runs, they had their Nan standing at mile 3 with an energy drink; Uncle Brian waiting patiently at mile 10 with vaseline, and Aunty Betty who works at the local florist offering water at mile 15..?! NO!! You learn to run for long periods, with the fuel you need on your person (on a bum belt, or arm band, or wherever). It's actually dangerous to view every stand as a pit-stop;  it's not an All You Can Eat event - and your stomach will NOT thank-you for taking every snack and drink anyone offers you. Drinking too much water is more dangerous than drinking too little. Fact!! I got another fact in! OK... calm down...

Probably the main reason why I sound so upset about the 'discarded bottle' issue, is because it severely affected my performance. Around mile fifteen I ran on a bottle, and my foot slipped sideways. It grew steadily to the size of a small balloon, and as I limped to the side of the course, a paramedic asked me if I was OK. I assured him I was (as the LAST thing I was going to do was stop running - after ALL THAT TRAINING?! NO WAY!). So I carried on, running, then walking, then running, all the way to the end. I was so upset that I didn't reach my desired time of 4hrs 10mins... it's always the first question people ask when they know you've done it, "Oh yeah? The marathon? How long did it take you?". It's the question non-runners, and seasoned runners, will ask without hesitation. In fact, I used to. But knowing what I know now - I don't; I just ask "How did you find it?". I, for one, found it to be life-changing.

I dare say I will, one day, run another marathon. But in the meantime I'll be watching, willing runners on, knowing how much effort has gone in to taking part in that one event. All those early nights, antisocial running schedules, wise diet choices (!), and sweaty blisters... all of that, for just one day. One of the most amazing days in your life.

 It's a really incredible event to behold.


  1. Again, another great post! There's something about your writing technique that's very 'catching' and really enjoyable to read :)

    You live among some lovely scenery! I wish I was so lucky. I do have a nice woodland pathway which I like to take walking home from sixth form, but it'd be nice to have a little river :)
    Also, in regards to your rant about water bottles, you shouldn't feel disappointed that you didn't get your desired time, you should just feel proud because you could have stopped due to injury, but you didn't! You tried and you did amazingly well, I know I couldn't have done it. You're a brilliant role model.

    1. I've lived all over the place, over the years, and some are much better suited for running than others... Don't ever take chances (with your safety); I know, boring comment to make! But please take care of yourself, and don't put music in both ears. (I might write a post about running safety, it's something I'm very hot on!!)

      And I believe anyone can do it - it's honestly just a case of saying you will, then you will... (don't want that to sound like a dare!) :)

      And thank-you for your lovely comment, as always, Sarah!

  2. Another inspiring blog for budding long distance runners with some very good fitness advice.

    What would be good if the water stations had troughs for the water bottles to go into or maybe even designing a wristband or belt that has water in them (provided by the event organisers so no cheating) which the runner will be able to use at the runners convenience.

    Congrats for running in the 2011 Virgin London Marathon by the by. Preparing for a marathon is like being in winter and waiting for summer to come around (a good one that is lol). You wait and wait and when summer gets here, it goes very quickly but it was brilliant while it lasts.

    I'll wrap it up with a single sentence. I'm honoured to know such a positive, brilliant, down to earth person like you :)

    1. With regards to your water station suggestion, too right - I mean, funny none of the organisers have thought the system needs changing, don't you think? Maybe we should pass your comment on?!

      Thanks Carl, for being so complimentary, as ever! :)

  3. When I've ran in the past and get to the water station I tend to pick up a bottle but then keep it for a good while (I'm not a two sips and chuck); and only picking up when I actually feel I need it. (When it does come to "the chuck" I tend to aim for spaces out of the way of runners (next to trees that runners would usually try and avoid as an example) - or where there's already a pile of bottles congregating).

    Great tips (and I know I'm a bit of a slowpoke at commenting); additionally, this is a little test of your "comment difficulty" FB post yesterday to see what happens when I try and comment anonymously...


    1. It makes me very happy to read your green & healthy water bottle habits!! ;)

      And thank-you for helping out on the commenting front; this Blogging malarky's a little more complex than it first appears..!


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