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Top 10: Marathon tips for novices….

Hi –  sorry we’ve missed a couple of top 10s, but here’s one following Arnie’s successful completion of this year’s London Marathon.  Arnie is not a runner – to quote him “I couldn’t run a bath..” but decided to have a go for this year’s Marathon.  He started training in October, running twice a week on average, and slowly building distance and stamina.  Arnie is 62.  Here’s his top 10 tips for novices like himself:

1: put the legwork in: there is no substitute for hard graft.  I ran alone, because I didn’t want to let anyone else down, and the ipod and its music saw me through…

2: have a support team on the day: the London Marathon is a fantastic experience – absolutely brilliant, with crowds cheering you on every step of the 26.2 miles.  But the icing on the cake is seeing your own family and friends several times (5 times for me) as you work your way around London.  Fabulous!!

3: Stay hydrated – but don’t overdo it: there’s a water station every mile, which is plenty.  Grab a bottle, take 5 or 6 sips, then throw it away (to be recycled).  That strategy worked for me – but you need to find out what you need in your training by running some longer distances to see what works best for you

4: Have your A to Z contact list: the course is 26 miles: there are 26 letters in the alphabet.  So, at each mile, I recalled the first names of everyone I know, starting with A at mile 1, then B at mile 2 and so on.  It helped keep me focused and concentrating, when I needed it

5: Superimpose your local running map: by the time I got to the marathon, my training circuit at home was firmly embedded in my brain.  So when I reached 20 miles, I knew for certain I could do the final 6, because that was my typical weekly run.  I could picture the route back home, and ‘superimposed’ it on the actual final 6 miles.

6: Have songs will travel: most of the time I was just carried along by the crowds – they were fantastic, not to mention the discos, live bands, etc.  That was enough to keep me going… To me, on reflection, the run was like a 6 hour visit to a theme park: with so much to see and hear, I forgot I was actually running most of the time!  However, when the going got tougher (for me, miles 13 to 17) and the crowds thinned out a bit, around the Isle of Dogs, that was the time to put on my favourite tracks. I had enough songs for a 6 hour run – but in reality, the entertainment on the streets is so fantastic, that I probably listened to my music for less than half an hour… (and of course your favourites are probably playable in your head, anyway!)

7: Take the positives with you: I asked everyone who sponsored me to send me a motivational quote, to take with me on the run.  I typed them onto luggage labels, which I tied to my belt with colourful ribbons.  In the waiting pen before the race, I just read through them all – wonderful!!

8: Do nothing new on the day: this was really good advice I’d been given – don’t change your running shoes, don’t try new gels or drink mixes – all these should have been tried and agreed during training.  So, to keep down costs, find out who the sponsors are of your marathon and test out their products first.  If they work for you, then you can expect to have access to these for free during the race

9: listen to your body: the furthest I ran in training was 17 miles (you ought to do at least 2 twenties).  I was shattered afterwards, and my legs wouldn’t function at all for a week.  Eventually I took three weeks off from training, until I was FULLY recovered.  I was worried that this would set me back, and of course when I reached 17 miles on the day I was anxious that history would repeat itself.  It didn’t – and that of course gave me a boost.  So all the advice is: listen to your body.  If it shuts down, it’s for a reason: rest!  It will do you a power of good in the long run.  Many of the runners who drop out do so because they have pushed too hard in training, and/or are carrying niggles….

10: choose your running strategy: to me, there seem to be two types of runner: one set are running against the clock, aiming to improve their PB.  They have trained really hard, and will finish fit but exhausted, having pushed themselves against the clock all the way.  These runners will be in the 3 hour to 4 30 hour area, and deserve great credit for all their fitness and speed – and the bonus is, they get to finish quicker!!  The other type of runner is a fun runner – and that includes me.  I had no time in mind, just to finish (especially before they reopened the course to traffic!!).  As a result, my motive on the day was just keep going at a steady pace, and take it all in, to truly enjoy it.  Within this second group, there seem to be two sub-groups.  Those (like me) determined to run all the way, and so do a lot of slow running/jogging, without much variety; the second sub-group have a walk/run strategy: quite a lot of walking (especially towards the end) with bursts of quite quick running.  Each strategy obviously works well – again, you need to decide on this well before the day, and train accordingly.

And that’s it.  I took 6 hours 25 minutes, and was 32,809th out of 45,000 who started.  I have a medal, and a stack of memories to last a lifetime.  And….if I can do it, pretty much anyone can.  If you decide to have a go, good luck – and let me know how you get on!

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