5 Tips For Runners Tackling Their First Marathon

This is a guest post by Shaun Dixon, who is an elite runner and head coach at Let’s Get Running. A self diagnosed ‘run-addict’, he uses his experience of training and competing over a range of distances to coach runners of all ability levels. Shaun is training me for the 2017 London Marathon.

Thinking of tackling your first Marathon? Here are 5 tips to read before you kick off your training.

1. Be patient.

Don’t take on too much too soon-you’ll find quickly find yourself injured, ill or both. Give yourself some time, and slowly build up to it- you need to be fit at the end of the training period not the beginning.

There is a fantastic stat about Marathon running. 95% of those who line up on Marathon day will complete the race but only 72% of those with a place actually make it to the start line. Your number 1 goal should be to get to the Marathon fit and healthy.

So be patient, both in terms of volume increases and the pace of your runs too. The key to improvement, rather boringly, is consistency. Establishing a good routine of steady or easy pace running is an absolute priority- preparing a base level of fitness on which you can build. You can’t build anything on shoddy foundations. So take it easy- always run with your next run in mind, so finish feeling there’s more in the tank. You want to get out and want to run, not sit and wallow in a hole of fatigue!

2. Set yourself a target

All runners struggle with motivation but it’s easier to deal with dark periods if you have a clear goal for the run.

I like people to have a race goal. It could be anything from, simply getting round to running sub 3hours, but it needs to be firm and measureable. If you want to work to a time but don’t know where to start, I suggest running  a 10k race or time trial. An online race time predictor or calculator will then give you an estimated marathon time based on this performance (Runners World is a good place to start). It’s no guarantee but it’s better than a blind stab in the dark!

3. Lock in your routine

If you look at the routines of the majority of top athletes they are fairly regimented. They know when they will run and roughly what each run will look like. We don’t have the luxury of structuring our lives around our running but we can make sure sure our run time is sacred. Set an hour aside, arrange to meet a friend, or join a group to make sure your run plans don’t get shelved.

If you’re wondering how many runs you should commit to each week then it all depends on your goal. The beauty of running is, for the most part, you get out what you put in. If you’re aiming for a time beginning with 3 you need to commit to 4 ‘sessions’ a week ( though this can include a cross training session). 3-4 sessions should be a good target for all runners aiming for a Marathon. Beginners should start with 3 and progress to 4 or 5 if the body reacts well to the training.

4. Think about your body- don’t just tick boxes.

It’s very easy to get very bogged down in numbers when Marathon training. You must follow a 16 week plan, include a 20mile run as your longest run 3-4 weeks from race day, and run all your miles at such and such a pace to run this or that time on race day. Focus on getting your body into the best possible shape to run, not fitting in with a generic structure.

Once you have established a good base of steady running it’s worth having a think about the attributes you need to improve as a runner and thinking about how your training works to support that. Tempo runs, intervals, strides and fartleks can all be a little intimidating at first but understanding their benefits and importance should make them less daunting.

If we were to build a Marathon Runner from scratch here’s what we would need.

Strong Running Body. Built by a consistent routine of steady aerobic running and your long stamina building runs.

Big Heart. Improved by sustained, reasonably challenging runs (tempo, threshold, some fartleks and Marathon pace runs for faster runners. Running at a controlled challenging intensity trains your heart to pump rich, oxygenated blood to the muscles!

Big lungs. This involves interval training- spending some time running at your maximum comfortable range of breathing, in order to improve your ability to take on, and use large volumes of oxygen. Our focus should be on giving the lungs a workout- not flat out running but running where your aerobic system is challenged but not over extended. Breathing should be deep and rhythmic and you should be maintain for the pace for 15mins without stopping.

As a basic guide you should be aiming for a series of intervals of between 2-5mins each, with a rest between each half or ¾ as long as each interval, and a total volume of c.20mins hard running.

Efficient Movement Patterns…brain training!

Efficiency of movement can be improved in two ways; Strength and Conditioning to improve strength and mobility, and through regular faster running!

Running fast is really important. In being more dynamic and explosive you make use of a larger range of muscle groups; improving their capabilities and the efficiency of the communication from brain to muscle. Essentially you’re building your arsenal and figuring out ways to activate those weapons! There are lots of different ways to approach this- from hill sprints to ‘strides’, (relaxed technique sprints).

The key to working on speed is to always consider the purpose of the session. You should always aim to run fast but relaxed- gurning faces and shoulders around your ears are a big no-no!

5. Practise positivity

Very few endeavours require as much mental fortitude as long distance running, and your enjoyment of the training and race itself will hinge on the nature of your mindset.

Charlie Spedding, the last British man to medal in the Marathon at an Olympic games, had a simple yet highly effective method to mentally prepare himself for big events. Everyday in the lead up to the 1984 games he told himself that the Olympic final would be the best day of his life.Over and over again, for the next 3 months. He started to believe it and on race day he felt relaxed, confident and eager to run. He produced an incredible performance to take an unexpected bronze medal. You can do the same thing. Be really positive. The marathon will be fantastic experience- so remind yourself how great it will be.

Shaun Dixon of Lets Get Running

Guest Blog – Cillian Tierney, Triathlete

I’d like to welcome one of Ireland’s most exciting young triathletes, Cillian Tierney. Cillian is a fellow member of Tralee Triathlon Club, and he has decided to start a blog of his own. When he told me this, I invited him to kick it off with a post here – welcome to the blogging world Cillian! I’ll post a link to Cillian’s blog as soon as it’s up and running.

So this is my first (of many hopefully) blog posts that I am writing. I am lucky that Randall  has let me use his very successful blog RandRuns as a platform to get mine out of the starting blocks.

For those who don’t me I’m an elite triathlete competing on both the national and international triathlon stage. My plan for this blog is to talk about the day to day elements of triathlon training at this level and attempt to give a somewhat clear insight into my thoughts (the sane ones anyway).

The topic of this post is something I have been playing around with for the last few days and I have decided that it would be a good idea to start at the start and try figure out what got me to where I am.

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The whole triathlon malarchy kicked off in 2011 when I competed  in Seven Frogs Triathlon in Castlegregory organised by Nuala Moore. I was very young at the time (16 according to the entry form but not quite….thanks Nuala). But I was old enough to have figured out that football, rugby or soccer were not my calling (when I say not my calling I mean I was stone cold useless). At this point I was swimming and running with clubs and a small bit of cycling under my belt. My goal was to beat my dad. Which I did. But it was tough.

I remember really suffering for most of the run. Despite this I was eagerly awaiting my next one. This came in the form of Sive triathlon in this time a little bit faster and little bit further ahead of my Dad. Which made me happy. But I also made the podium in the Seven Frogs that year which made me feel like the dogs bollocks.

The next year 2013 was when things started heating up a small bit. I managed to do some different events this time on the Triathlon Ireland calendar which complicated matters somewhat, because age requirements are more strict. I was keeping under the radar by doing small triathlons in the back arse of nowhere. These were mainly in Cork region where nobody knew me. There were some sticky moments where officials grilled me on my date of birth but I always managed to get in. One of the defining moments of not only this year but in general was the Dingle triathlon. It was to be my first Olympic distance race. My parents weren’t too keen on it and the officials on the day were even less so, but my enthusiasm made up for both. So I found myself floating in the water in Dingle harbour awaiting the start, on what was the foggiest Saturday morning ever. We set off into the sea mist and disappeared out into the bay. This was surreal I remember looking around to get my bearings at one stage and there was nothing only the small group of swimmers I was with. No buoys, No kayakers, No harbour. It may seem like an exaggeration but anyone there that year will remember. Anyway after a while of swimming in the rough direction of where the buoys should be reached one and then the other and then headed in to complete the 1500m swim. Then the bike started and the fog continued. It was virtually impossible to see where you were going but I got around. Feeling good I pushed on at the start of the run and was catching guys I knew. It felt good. It was soon after the half way point it hit me. I just blew the lights and hit empty. I slowed and even went to a walk for a bit. One by one runners came past as I barely kept moving. The fog was worse than ever, and it felt like I was going nowhere.  Then I finally made it back to Dingle and crossed the line. I was shattered. I remember eating a few bars and getting back to the car and going straight to sleep. It was after I realised I should have eaten something during the race.

A year on in 2014 I met some of the other young guns. Guys who I train with today like Chris Mintern and Darren Dunne. These were the buckos that put me back in my box. They were a little bit older but they were also faster. I met Chris in Valentia where he won it outright and was in a very different league to me. I admired him a lot. At the time I was thinking this is the  fastest guy ever. This was who I aspired to be. Later in the season I came across Darren who beat me to the Junior prize in Kilrush triathlon. This was when I figured out that things can’t always go my own way. Since then I have been racing and training a lot with these guys, and a few others picking up Aichlinn O Reilly and Kieran Jackson at different points. These guys are excellent, they have a state of mind and an ability that make them the best be with for getting better and training hard.  It’s with the help of these guys and top class coaches like Stephan Teeling Lynch and Lynne Algar and sponsors like Verge that have stayed with me from the start that have got me to where I am. I have had a good season with third in Hell Of The West, third in Sligo and coming second in the Super Series overall.

I decided to start a blog now because I have been asked a few times and I think now is a good time to start. I plan on doing it in monthly instalments after getting a website set up. I’ll try keep it as interesting as possible. I hope this post gave a different perspective on sport. Realistically it’s probably not as hardcore as Randall’s ultra running but what can you do. Thanks again to Randall for giving me the opportunity to use his website for my first post and Ibike, Verge, Landers, and Surf and Sail for the continued support.

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Guest Post: SlowRunnerGirl Blogoversary

I’d like to introduce you all to SlowRunnerGirl, who writes a very entertaining blog. I’ve invited her to share her story here on RandRuns – Happy Blogoversary SlowRunnerGirl!


When Randall asked me to write a guest post, I felt honored. I’ve read his blog posts, race reports and info about ultra running a lot and he keeps providing helpful tips to newer runners like myself.

I thought “Yes. How cool is that?!”. Then I realized, I have no clue what to say. What interesting thing could I possibly write about, his readers didn’t already know? I know I can sit down, after a run and just blah on and on and obsess about running on my blog … writing for someone else’s blog is different though! As I sat down and thought about it, it reminded me of writing my first blog post. I realized I had felt the same way – not knowing what I to write. Then it looked at me. The date of the first post. It was one year ago … and an idea came to my mind. How cool would it be to write a post on my first year of run-blogging and then celebrate my blogoversary with everybody here – right on Randall’s blog! I mean that’s what you do if you plan a wild party right? Go to someone else, have everybody bring their own booze links and make a mess out of the place, by sharing the dirtiest craziest running stories!

So let me get this party started with my story, which goes something like this:

Once upon a time there was a fat, unfit, lazy girl with a dream. The dream to become a runner one day …

… this girl was me.

I’ve had the dream to become a runner for a long time. I tried many times to make it real. I never succeeded. Until I decided it was time last year – time to become a runner.

The Beginning

In the beginning, I was out there, all alone, following a sad Android computer voice telling me “run for 2 minutes” and “walk for 3” … I couldn’t do it. I tried and I tried again. I persisted and kept reading more and more blogs of runners that had been at the same spot than I was at.

For months I kept on going, forcing myself out the door and putting one step in front of the other. Music was my life-line. I created playlists to match my walk/run intervals, where I knew how long a song will take and I knew exactly when I could finally walk again. It was so hard!

I ran in the very early mornings. At a time where nobody cares what you are doing out there. Hoping no one would see my red face and me carrying my wobbly bits around. I did everything to avoid meeting people out walking. Most of them I couldn’t pass due to my slowness. I was embarrassed having to walk after just 3 minutes …

At some point I started to take photos and notice the beautiful world around me more and more. I added them to my running app and started to look back at them, when I didn’t feel like going out for a run. I looked at my improving stats and I decided I want to start recording my journey.


The Start of my Blog

When I wrote my first blog post on the 7th August 2015, I was running 3 times per week, trying to achieve the feast of running for one full hour! … and I was still oh so slow! Everybody else in the blogosphere and all the running books, was so much faster. Surely something was wrong with me.

There came a point when I decided I didn’t care. I had come to enjoy the early morning sunrise and being out at the beach. I got used to feeling good and having more energy that usual. I kept it up and I started to post my photos and write about my runs. It was a relief! Finally a place where I could obsess about my running and health, without annoying everyone around me!

Through blogging, I got to think about my runs. Through running I began to think about the food I was eating. I had started to log what I ate from the start and began to notice a pattern emerge. I slowly began replacing foods I didn’t fancy anymore and my thinking switched from ‘food’ to ‘fuel’. When I decided to eat only what I fancied, I started to love cooking again. I am plant-based ever since.

I also kept writing about my experiences. When I hit a rough patch, I came back to my blog and looked at all the photos of beautiful moments captured on my runs. I had started walking for 20 minutes, 3 times per day in late April 2015 – I couldn’t run I was so unfit. Seeing my progress on my blog, gave me a huge boost and I kept it up – the running and the writing. When something was wrong, I figured it out and documented it. Resting heart rate to high? I learned about over reaching and over training. I slowed down more … I learned to include recovery weeks. I learned to embrace slow. I learned to love running.


Through having my blog and sharing stats like above, I started to connect with others. Before I had my blog, I’d just be lurking and reading, now I was getting more passionate and much more opinionated! I was curious and dared to ask more experienced runners questions. And guess what? They replied and I’ve learned so much from everyone I couldn’t be more thankful! In the beginning, I thought I better hide and let no one know about my crazy plan of slowness – to run only at or below my aerobic heart rate – but it turns out, going slow, is the best thing ever! By now, I not only know it’s working for me, after months of slogging I see my paces improve and I am still running injury free. My blog also helped me to connect with others on a similar path or with similar experiences. Without everyone’s encouragement and motivating words, I doubt I would have persisted.


The Changes

Now I run 6 times per week, my long run is 2 hours. I learned to love running and I am plotting future running adventures. I don’t fit in any of my old clothes and still need some time to adjust to my new self. When I bought my first pair of new jeans, I had to try 3 different sizes and couldn’t believe I would fit into the one that I finally got … I also have much more energy than ever before!

Here is some data showing my change from fat, lazy, unfit girl with a dream, to SlowRunnerGirl:

  April 2015 August 2016
Resting Heart Rate 74 50
Weight kg 88.3 69
BMI 28.8 22.5
Fat % 34.4 27.5
Muscle % 32.2 34.1


I still have a long way to go – as I plan to become quite old I might add – I am sure however, that with the support and encouragement as well as unbelievably helpful tips and advice from everyone here, I will figure it out.

… and with this my beginner run blogger story ends and I’m hopeful to run and blog slowly and happily ever after …



Thanks guys for all your help, motivation and support!

Now let’s get this party started!

Grab a piece of blogoversary cake and get cracking and link or write up your own story!


Welcome to Laura Mullins

I came across Laura recently through her blog, Presently Running. I discovered that she was about to move to Ireland with her family, and I asked if she’d do a series of guest posts on her transition to a new culture and a new running community, her build up to the Dublin Marathon, as well as some insights into her running life. Below is an introduction to Laura – if there is anything specific you’d like to ask her, or you’d like to welcome her, let us know in the comments – take it away Laura!

My name is Laura and I love to run. I began running as a way to keep active after my collegiate tennis career ended in 1998. Although I played many sports throughout my childhood, I was never a “runner”. But after college, I needed something to fill the void I felt in my life without the structure of competitive tennis training. I tried to find something that I could do on my own while I was finishing up school and running seemed like a good option. So, I signed up for the 1999 Chicago Marathon. Not only was this my first marathon, it was also my first running race of any kind! Since then, I have completed more than a dozen marathons and countless half marathons. Running is now an integral part of my daily life.

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My husband is a native of Co. Dublin, but moved the United States to pursue tennis in 1997. We both competed for the same college, which is how we met. For the last 13 years, he was a collegiate tennis coach and I was a primary school teacher. We lived in Chicago for a few years before moving to Norman, Oklahoma where we have lived for the last 8 years. We have two amazing boys, 7 and 10, who are absolutely obsessed with soccer (er…football…). My sports loving family of four began living a vegan lifestyle in May 2015. We are passionate about constantly challenging ourselves in all areas of life and living life to its fullest potential.

I am not perfect and have certainly faced many personal challenges over the last several years, the greatest being my divorce and eventual reconciliation with my husband. But immense growth is often a result of immense pain. While I don’t dwell on the past, I believe it is essential to remember the lessons we learned from it so we don’t repeat those mistakes in the future. Instead of living in fear of past mistakes or future “what ifs”, I live my life with great intentionality in the present, as best as I can.

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With that mindset, my husband and I decided it was time for a big change. We worked extremely hard to rebuild our life to a comfortable place with well-paying jobs, a beautiful home, two cars and a pretty delightful lifestyle. We were not unhappy in Norman by any means. In fact, we were living what many would call “The American Dream.” But for us, we realized that it is not exactly what we want for ourselves, our marriage or our boys. You can read more about that decision here.

So we are moving to Ireland to start a new life. For my husband, this is moving home after 19 years. For me and my boys, we are moving to a new country with a new culture and a new way of life. To be fair, we have tremendous support from my husband’s family, which will help us greatly with this transition. But in leaving Oklahoma, we have condensed our belongings into less than 2 cubic meters and my boys are leaving the only home they have ever known.

Over the next several months, I will share my progress as I adjust to living and running in a new country. I am registered to run the Dublin Marathon where I hope to beat my PB. I will be living in Roundwood, Co. Wicklow, but commuting my boys to school in south Co. Dublin. I will also be attending UCD where I will pursue my Level 4 Personal Trainer Certification. All the while, my husband and I intend to keep our marriage strong, healthy and fun!

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For 3 years, I served as the Director of the Norman Runhers, where worked to inspire women in all seasons of life to pursue their own version of health and happiness. I am also a Bibrave Pro who loves to run races, test out new running gear and stay connected to runners all around the world. In addition, I serve as an ambassador for EnergyBITS and am a member of the Oiselle Volee.

What do you think is important for me to know about the Irish running community?


Read more about me at presentlyrunning.com.

A Canadian Family’s First Experience of parkrun

This week’s guest post is from Kyra Paterson. Kyra is a 41 year old triathlete, runner, backcountry camper, canoeist, and blogger of racing and camping adventures. She lives in south-western Ontario, Canada, where she’s dreaming of her next outdoor adventure, and days away from her next race! You can find her blog, “Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete”, at http://kyraonthego.wordpress.com, or find her on Twitter: @kyrapaterson.

If you had told me at age 12 that one day I would do a 5k run with my English penpal Sally, our husbands (!) and kids (!!), I would have told you that you were crazy! I wasn’t a runner then, we had never met (I was in Canada), and a family was so far into the future as to be fantasy! Fast forward 28 years and that’s exactly what we did.

On Saturday July 5th, 2014, we laced up our shoes and participated in the Shrewsbury parkrun at The Quarry, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England! Before making plans with Sally for the 3 full days we would spend with her and her family during our trip to England, Scotland and Wales, we had never even heard of a parkrun. No such thing exists in south-western Ontario, Canada, where we live (about 1 hour south-west of Toronto). I know now that parkrun, started in 2004, is “based on the simple, basic principles formed from the start: weekly, free, 5km, for everyone, forever”.

What a clever idea! A volunteer organized and led run that encourages everyone to participate, from children to accomplished athletes to parents pushing babies in strollers (these parents may also be accomplished athletes!). While it’s not a race – it’s a run – and there are no “winners”, you’ll see plenty of runners pushing themselves to run faster than they did the week before, and to earn a new personal best (PB)!

Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the founder of parkrun, believes that “no-one should ever have to pay to go running in their community regularly, safely and for fun”. I agree.

If you’ve done a parkrun before, you’ll know that you have to register the first time, which we did online at home in Canada, and you have to bring a barcode with you or you don’t get a recorded time. I printed off barcodes for myself, my husband Alasdair, my son Keaghan (then 11), and daughter Ailish (then 9). No one told me what not to do with my barcode…

Sally & Kyra pre-race!


Since it’s been more than 1 ½ years since our parkrun experience, the details are a little fuzzy! Whether a horn or a whistle or a shout started us off, I’m not sure, but the 8 of us, including Sally, her husband and 2 kids, and 216 other runners took off! We ran on tarmac paths along the River Severn, which was quite pretty. We split up right away, each running our own pace, though the 2 girls ran the whole 5k together. This was my daughter’s first time running that far.

I had never done a timed 5k before, so I decided to push myself to see what I could do. Alasdair intended to go easy, but then went hard! The course was relatively flat, with two fairly short inclines. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 27:05 according to my watch. When I reached into my water belt to get the barcode that I had carefully folded small enough so that it could fit into the zippered pocket, I found a soaking wet piece of paper that was impossible to unfold (apparently my water bottle was leaking – unbeknownst to be!)! It just ripped into a million bits. One of the helpful volunteers wrote my name down, along with the time on my watch, and that time became my official time, which was posted on the results page.

Heading for the finish line: Ailish in green and Harriet in pink on the right.

We were impressed with the organization of the parkrun, and as visitors from afar, we were even mentioned in the post race email.

I would highly recommend that if you haven’t been to a parkrun and there’s one near you, try it out! I think you’ll get hooked. And if you do, consider volunteering, since a run like this can’t function without volunteers. Check out my recent post, 10 Reasons to volunteer at a race (a running race, bike race, or a triathlon)!

Keep it up parkrun! This Canadian family enjoyed our first (and only!) parkrun experience!

Post race: Back row: Keaghan, Kyra, Alasdair, Stu; Middle row: Ailish, Sally; Front row: Finnen, Harriet.








Milla Austin: How I Qualified for The Boston Marathon

This week’s Guest Post is by Milla Austin, from California. Milla went from a 5:27 marathon, to being a Boston Marathon qualifier, and she gives some great insight into how she did it. I came across Milla through her brilliant “Why You Should Hire A Marathoner” post on LinkedIn.

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Some people are born with the ability to run fast. I am not one of those people; I’m a slow runner. I’m the back of the pack, the one at the end, and I’m OK with that. I wasn’t born with speed. When “real” runners would talk about going to Boston, I would look with admiring eyes, but knew that would never and could never be me. I never even considered myself a “real” runner.   It took me 5 hours and 27 minutes to finish my first marathon. I am proud of that finish, but it was not close to a Boston qualifier. So how eight years after my first marathon was I able to qualify for Boston with a finish time of 3:34?

  • I had to get in my mind that I was a “REAL Runner”

It took years for me to realize that a “real” runner is not only someone who is extremely fast or wins races. A runner is someone who goes out there and pounds the pavement. I had long believed I wasn’t a “real” runner because of my speed. When my son wrote on a school paper that his Mom was a “runner” my heart sunk. How my son, my family, and friends could believe in me and yet I didn’t believe in myself. If you run, damn it, you are a runner. You are an athlete. As an athlete you decide how you want to run or what goals you want to have. Just believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to!

  • To Run Fast, you have to Run Fast

The bottom line is, you can’t just wish to be fast, you have to work at it. Yes, I tried the wishing thing many times, but it didn’t work. You have to train and do speed work.   Was I out of my comfort zone? Absolutely, and it was painful. My first “speed sessions” consisted of 60 seconds sprints followed by 4 minutes slow/recovery. I still to this day remember my first 9:00-minute mile. It didn’t come fast, it took months. Start slow – push yourself a little each run, and keep on adding. But don’t give up; you will have bad days and good days. Celebrate the small accomplishments on your training, and if you missed your mark celebrate that you showed up! The road to Boston will be hard, but it’s no fun if you don’t enjoy the journey.

  • Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

My husband never trained for long distance, yet every time he ran a race he would beat me. Not only by a few minutes, but sometimes close to an hour. During races I noticed that runners would pick up speed at the end of a race while I was struggling to catch my breath. In my mind, I hated them. Why was it so much easier for everyone else? One day I was telling my sob story to my friend. She gave me the best advice. She said: “Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.” I don’t know why, but that quote stuck. It was so true. I was focusing on the negative, and what I couldn’t do instead of what I was accomplishing. There is always someone faster… Who cares? Focus on your goal and celebrate when others reach theirs.

  • Get a Coach

Hiring a running coach was totally worth it. It was a huge help in reaching my dream, and helped my running tremendously. I had someone telling me exactly how I needed to train, and I had someone pushing me just a bit more than I would do alone. Depending on your budget, coaches can be hired on-line or in person. Coaches programs may vary, but a running training plan will include structured training runs, warm up drills, cool down and recovery, nutrition and fueling tips, strength training, injury prevention, and race-day preparation. Having a structured program tailored to my goals made all the difference.

If you have a goal to get to Boston, or even to just get faster you can do it. It is a choice you have to make every single day to commit to the training. It is tough, it is uncomfortable, but the reward of doing something you never thought possible is worth it. As I look back, I still enjoy my slow long runs with friends. However, with the right commitment and training this slow runner can make it to Boston again!

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10 Things I’m Afraid of as a New Marathon Runner

This week Fiona and I swapped blogs. On her blog you can find a post I wrote all about what you should be afraid of as a newbie marathoner. On my blog below, you can find her view, as a first time marathoner, on what she is afraid of.  You can find Fiona, aka Scallywag, at her blog Scallywag Sprints on her twitter account, or on her facebook page.

10 Things I’m Afraid of as a New Marathon Runner


Hey, I’m Fiona, also known as Scallywag. I’ve never raced a marathon before, and am signed up for my first in 2016. The marathon distance is a fearsome opponent, and whilst I intend for us to go head to head on May 29th, there are some things I’m very afraid of. This list starts with my tongue-in-cheek concerns and quickly veers off into dark and deep territory…


I’m afraid of:


Learning to run without music: I likely will take music to Liverpool, but I really think I should learn run without it. Firstly because for paced runs it’s good to focus on your footfall, breathing, and pace. Secondly because I feel I could really use it in the later stages of the race to provide a proper boost. That will only work if I don’t use it all the time. But I have almost never run without music. The few times I have it’s because I forgot to charge my iPod, or some eejit ‘borrowed’ it. I’m not sure who I am as a runner without Tay Tay Swiftie…


Eating the amount of food meant for a small city: I didn’t sign up to a marathon to lose any weight. I’m aware long, long distance running is hardly the technique for Biggest Loser-style transformations, and it definitely isn’t my focus. However I’m already heavy for a runner and I’d rather not be a stone heavier by race day. Additionally, for climbing I’d like to stay solid, or even go further towards the leaner side. I know after long runs, my brain will basically be speaking with the voice of the cookie monster. I need smart food choices that can be prepared fast after those runs. I fear trying to carry around the equivalent of a mini fridge on the day. That shit is for charitable people.


Losing my social life: This will happen. I mean, I’m a PhD student, it already has. But it will get worse. I’m quite nervous about the damage that this will do to my relationship. And all my friendships. And to even my work colleagues. There is only so many times that people can bear hearing the smug reply, “Sorry, I’m going a run at lunchtime”. All the early mornings to wake up the SO. All of the sneaking away from drinks early. To everyone- I am so sorry. I do love you really. I just really want to do this. 


The chafing, oh god the chafing: I’ve seen some pretty bad chafing after 3 mile runs. Unless I keep the Vaseline close at hand, I don’t dare think of what that could be like after 15 or 26. I fully expect many sports bras and shorts that I have trusted for years to start failing me entirely. I once wept in the shower after doing a two day canoe trip. The chafing around my neck from the lifejacket was on fire. I hope it isn’t like that. 


That I will go out too fast: Isn’t this the eternal worry? That despite my best intentions I will get caught up in the moment and fly through the crowds like wing-footed Hermes at the start, only to be kicked in the teeth by the mile 12 hill. I can’t afford to do this and I know I have a tendency to think I’m making up time I can slow on later. Much research and experience shows this is a shit plan. I’m going to be really tough with myself and force a plod for at least the first 5 miles. 


I’ll get the fuelling all wrong: At least going out too fast is entirely my fault, but fuelling is scarily unpredictable. I mean, yesterday I vomited for no fecking reason. On marathon day you have your dinner the night before, your breakfast, your gels/food, and your sports drink to worry about. I have been very sick in a race before from incorrect fuelling (Edinburgh half, it was very hot and I overdid it with the food and drinks). I didn’t enjoy the reverse-smoothie vomiting effect produced by the mix of tropical gels, lemon and lime nuun, and porridge. And it didn’t exactly do wonders for my time either. 


What if my training program is all wrong for me?: Aha, now we are onto the real fears of the trembling inner me… what if I have made the wrong choices? Choices that only trial and error will teach me are incorrect? I have chosen to follow a rough program that emphasises quality over vast mile quantity, in the hope that it will leave me uninjured. What if that is just too much hard running? Or if it is not enough miles and I will hit the wall hard at mile 22? I don’t actually know much about hitting the wall, but it’s hardly a friendly-sounding metaphor.


Injury: That right there is the scariest word of all. Every single twinge or tweak leaves me sweating and paranoid. I worry about sleeping on a leg funny, about having my legs crossed under my desk, about jumping off of the pavement. I stare at my scar and ponder my injury-strewn history, and it makes me cringe internally. What have I been doing wrong in the past? Am I sure I’m doing it correctly this time?  Will marathon training leave me not only unable to do a marathon, but unable to run anything?


And what if running stops being fun?: I can almost guarantee this will happen. Make yourself do something enough and you’ll end up hating it at times. I’m scared that somewhere deep in week 15 or so I will stop thinking that the training is worth it. I’m really enjoying loving running again, and I really want to keep focused on that feeling of pushing it, and of flying. 


Most of all, I’m scared that I wont be enough: As this great article by RedWineRunner says, “You WILL find out what you are made of… and you might not like it”. I’m worried I will not like who I am. I can be a whiner, a perfectionist, avoidant to the max. I can be very mentally weak in places, and am prone to sudden emotional collapse. I can be lax on stretching, and lazy on weekends, and procrastinate for things I don’t want to do by doing something else ‘essential’. And these are only the personality weaknesses that I’m AWARE of. Essentially I won’t find out until I am deep in training whether I am the kind of person who can do this, who can dedicate to this at all. 


So yes I’m scared, very scared. But I guess in 4 months 13 days 19 hours 17 minutes (at time of writing, not that I’m counting or anything…) we find out what I am made of. 


Want to follow along? You can find my blog here; my twitter @ScallywagSprint, or if you only want to look at pretty pictures my Instagram is also @ScallywagSprint.


Post written by Scallywag and published on RandRuns on 18/01/16