Virgin London Marathon Blog 6 - Tim Lawler
13 Apr 2012
Marathon: ‘a long-lasting or difficult task’ No kidding!
With just over a week to go until ‘M-Day’, as I’m calling it, I thought I’d share my thoughts on training and the final preparations for the big day.
Bottom line is, I’m simply not built for running long distances and I much prefer a sport with a bit more whiz-bang. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. My main chosen sport was rugby and I played scrum-half, so the legs are short and my centre of gravity is somewhere just behind my knees – not conducive to smooth distance running.
So, I’m as surprised as you may be that the 2012 Virgin London Marathon will be my sixth marathon. If I’m not really built for it and I don’t really like long runs, why am I doing it? Again. Well, it’s down to SportsAid really.
Every day at SportsAid, we have the privilege of meeting, or hearing about, some truly inspirational young people. Typically these are young people aged 18 or under, normal teenagers I suppose, but doing extraordinary things in sport. They train for 15-20 hours a week whilst still balancing education and sport; they travel nearly 700 miles every month; they need to find more than £6,400 each year to fund their sporting journey and the competitive challenges they face day-to-day, and the achievements they deliver, are simply the best kept secret in British sport.
In some ways I suppose my efforts with the marathon are trying to bring some of this to life, for me personally – if I can take on a really tough sporting challenge then I might get a glimpse of their world. Maybe.
Anyway, I’ve managed a couple of longer runs to date, an 18-miler and a 19.6 miler (that’s what the Garmin said), and I plan to do one more before tapering towards ‘M-Day’. It’s these longer runs that remind me why I’m not into long-distance running. Not for the obvious reason: fatigue; but more because of the boredom. I love the idea of getting fitter by running and I don’t really mind the hard work, but I’ve found my brain simply turns to mush when I’m out there running. I find myself either thinking of the most ludicrous and random things or my mind wanders to some very unhelpful thoughts.
An example: last Friday, with the weather set fair, I went out for a long run. I was full of energy and enthusiasm and determined to stay focussed. Within four or five miles I was telling myself jokes, clearly that I’d already heard, in an attempt to avoid the boredom setting in. I tried to imagine accidentally finding myself on stage at the Apollo and having to wing-it as the warm-up act for Michael Macintyre. Bonkers! If I don’t this, I revert to the awful habit of what I call ‘personal systems checking’. In other words, I start harbouring very unhelpful thoughts such as ‘is that a tweak I can feel in my hamstring?’, ‘my right knee feels quite stiff today’, ‘the old hips are creaking’, ‘should I be breathing this hard so soon?’ and so on – thoughts completely counter-productive to the task in hand.
In looking for some tips to avoid this negative habit, I stumbled across an article on marathon runner, Mara Yamauchi. Even Mara, a dedicated and very successful marathon runner, clearly wrestles with her thought processes in a race. The way she articulated this was to outline what thoughts are in her head at various points in the marathon; here’s a flavour of her thinking (with mine in brackets): mile #1 – give it 110%, no excuses (oh boy, here we go); mile #4 – it’s not that far, I’ve done this many times before (what was I thinking?); mile #12 – save my energy for the second half (I’m knackered); mile #15 – how is everyone else’s breathing (I can’t breathe); mile #17 – I’ve earned a big piece of chocolate cake after this (I shouldn’t have eaten that chocolate cake before this); mile #20 – now the racing starts (even my eyebrows are aching); mile #26 – there’s no way that woman is going to beat me (I think that Scooby Doo is going to beat me); finish line – ahhhhh! (ahhhhh!).
The marathon remains a major physical and mental challenge. It requires you to commit and put the miles in, regardless of any random thought processes you may be experiencing. So, to everyone running for SportsAid this year, a huge thank you from the team here in the office and on behalf of the next generation of sporting talent you are helping us to help – it will make a difference.
Good luck on ‘M-Day’.
Photo: Tim running with SportsAid athlete Gemma Kersey, who is supported by Comet.
As SportsAid’s patron, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge is helping to shine a light on the achievements and potential of young athletes throughout the UK – an inspiring generation who one day hope to represent the nation at the Olympic or Paralympic Games. SportsAid alumnus Sir Chris Hoy welcomed the patronage by saying, “SportsAid played an important role when I was starting out so I know what a huge boost this will be to the young sportsmen and women the charity helps today. As patron Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge will give them the profile they deserve.”