As a part of being an #extramile media ambassador for the Virgin Money London Marathon, I want to highlight some of the 40,000 other runners lacing up their trainers for the big race.
I’ve been friends with Lorna for a long time, mostly online, but also lucky enough to see her at races & events here and there. I think she is one of those super inspiring runners who balances the difficult effort of training for a marathon with the fun of running. Her honest blog posts are always a good read, and this year she’s running her third London marathon for Shelter. I asked her if she could share some of her thoughts about training this time around.
I’m heading into my third London Marathon in as many years, and still I’m often asked WHY I do it. This question swirls around my head day in day out so no one ever really gets the same answer.
I ran marathon number one to settle bet. I was challenged by my boss to run one before I hit 30, so I laced up for the first time EVER and won the bet within 9 months of it being set. Boom. So I ran that marathon because I was determined to not let the boss win.
Running that first marathon was one of the best days of my life for so many reasons. Jokes aside about proving the boss wrong, that drunken challenge changed my life for good. Knowing I had to run those miles meant I had to train. Needing to train resulted in a massive lifestyle change that I’m still living three years later. Training introduced (and still introduces) me to new people that I’m proud to call friends. So my first answer would be that I run marathons because they are awesome for the soul.
Now there’s no denying that marathon training, and marathon race day is HARD. It breaks you. inside and out. You develop mood swings that a room packed full of teenagers couldn’t match. You’re always hungry and if you don’t find food within 20mins of identifying hunger you may hurt people. I find myself crying because I can’t get out of my kit after training sometimes (really) and other times I’m so sky high from a sense of achievement I didn’t know existed that I could hug everyone in sight. On race day you escalate from feeling amazing to hating every muscle in your body. Getting through the mental barriers and dealing with the highs and the lows brings a massive feeling of clarity that has completely changed the kind of person I am on the road/in the office/with my friends and so on. So my second answer would be that I run marathons because they make me a better person.
I’ve also made myself stronger because of marathon running. Actually strong. I have muscles. I would never have found them and developed them if it wasn’t for marathon running. I stumbled into the gym by accident three years ago by chance – there was no other way I was going to be marathon ready unless I had HELP. I’d never been in the free weights area before, I’d never even seen a squat let alone attempted one and yet there I was. Three years later I’m still there and I’m out lifting my 36 year old (physically fit) brother. I have an awesome personal trainer and at least twice a week we put the world to rights by lifting the hell out of it. The sense of achievement is phenomenal. I’ve trained with my current personal trainer for just over a year now and I can honestly say I’d be lost without him and strength training. Whenever I feel rough or annoyed, or lonely I focus on our sessions. It’s impossible to let bad feelings in when you lift something heavy. It’s impossible not to smile when you hit a personal best. It’s crazy not to feel proud when the two of you have blasted through goals set.
Marathon running also gives me a sense of belonging. Being a runner introduced me to an amazing network of people that everyone should be aware of. There’s a huge amount of support in the running community. Social networking introduced me to people like Laura who has watched me develop as a runner, helped me through tough times, run along side me when I needed the boost, celebrated when the race was won. Some people you’re lucky enough to meet, others you simply support electronically – it doesn’t make it any less real. Then there’s strangers. Whether its the runner coming towards you that nods or smiles on a long training run who makes you feel great for a couple of seconds, or the crowds of people on race day clapping and cheering people just seem to rally around for runners. There is no better feeling than running a race and feeling supported. Marathons (especially London) bring out the best in community spirit, and the memories I have from support from strangers are ones I never want to give up.
Marathon running / training also gives me a reason to shop. I don’t care how this makes me sound, I LOVE SHOPPING. I’d do it all day every day for as long as I could if I wouldn’t end up bankrupt in minutes. Running introduced me to a whole new level of wardrobe – LYCRA. There’s running attire, yoga attire, gym kit, swim kit, apres gym kit and so on. AND I HAVE IT ALL. There’s a pair of leggings for (at least) every week of the year, and a top to match. I believe that every day you should dress like the world outside is your own red carpet – a concept I’ve totally adapted to my gym life.
As I head into marathon number three I’m looking forward to developing everything I’ve mentioned thus far, but most importantly for me this time around I’m looking forward to learning something new about myself. Each time I lace up I find out something that I either didn’t know, or forgot was part of me. I never thought I could be “offline” for hours at a time, however long training runs have made me look forward to that. I never thought I’d be the kind of person to turn down a slice of cake or a bottle of wine in favour of a lie in and a 6am run, but I am now. I crave the aches and pains of training and I look forward to the unknown that the control freak in me would previously have been afraid of.
So why do I run marathons? Mostly its just because I can. and if I can anyone can.