There's something pretty magical about the London Marathon. When you stand on the sidelines, absorbing the incredible atmosphere, it's easy to think: "I'd love to do that". But what you don't see when we stand there cheering is the gruelling training runs, missed nights out and painful niggles. We asked Neat friend Izzie Hargreaves to share the highs and lows of training for last year's race, and why she'd do it all over again...
"The alarm goes off at 5.00am, I hear the wind rattling against the window panes as I get up for another day of training. It’s the middle of November, it’s dark outside, it’s cold and I am about to go on my second 10k run of the week. No matter how early I got to bed, how good my sleep was or whether I label myself as a ‘morning person’, it still never got any easier.
I giddily signed up for the marathon after watching the race on telly back in April. All I was seeing and taking in was the pure joy of runners as they crossed the finished line, hugging and congratulating each other. It didn’t occur to me that those runners had just spent the last half of a year going through a gruelling training regime and their life had been pretty much consumed by this one day. Ah - isn’t hindsight such a beautiful thing!
So, when October rolled around the corner and sprung on me in the blink of an eye, I wasn’t mentally (and I definitely wasn’t physically) prepared to receive a ballot place for the London Marathon 2018. “Ah you will be fine,” they said - “you’ll smash it!” they exclaimed as I nervously told friends and family and my chosen charity the news. What no one really said to me was how much the training actually consumes so much of your life and how much of a huge commitment it is.
I didn’t necessarily follow a training programme as such - I had spoken with a few people who had completed a marathon and to be honest, they had all said completely different and opposing things, so I tried to stick with 3 x 4 shorter runs in the week and one long run at the weekend. I found getting the miles in during the week was the easy part, I kept my socialising to a minimum mid-week and would make sure I was getting early nights and eating properly.
But then, the weekends hit. I would normally get the fear on Friday night... the soul destroying FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Whilst my friends would go shopping, having a laugh whilst bottomless brunching or drinking copious amounts of artisan coffee on Saturday morning - I would instead get up at dawn dressed in some unflattering high-vis get together ready to embark on a trek around London.
Not only have you just ran or tried to run the width of London in a few hours but you don’t think about how you’re going to feel afterwards. I had this on-going battle with myself constantly - I would manage to go for a long run in the morning on Saturday but then I would be completely wiped out for the rest of the day, and even the day after that! My legs would ache, my body would feel fatigued and I would be slumped after eating a mound of pasta or something carby to refuel after the run. That being said, the buzz you get from completing a long run is an overwhelmingly amazing feeling - the natural high buzzes through your body for the rest of the day.
Another hurdle throughout my marathon progress was the unrealistic thought that I was never ever going to endure an injury - I mean, why would I? I had been to a running shop to test my running technique, I had a solid training schedule, I was eating the right food and I was feeling fitter than ever. What could possibly go wrong...
It was around a month until the big day, I had woken up one morning and took myself out for a run, but suddenly It felt like someone was stabbing me in my back and my chest felt tight, I could barely run a mile. I knew something was seriously wrong, I was churning out 10k’s like no tomorrow so why am I walking after a mile. A second attempt at the same run was again met with failure and the panic started to creep into my mind that I may have to pull out of the run. I decided to take myself to see a physiotherapist and she told me that I had caused a lot of stress on my back due to the intense amount of training I had done. She gave me a stretching routine and gave me the confidence to take time to rest and not worry about the race. I decided to keep my fitness levels up by taking to other gentler sport such as swimming and yoga.
When race day actually arrives it’s pretty surreal to think that you have just spent around half a year training for one day. But not only is this day one of the best days of your life, but it will be an ongoing reminder that you are capable of pushing your body to limits you may not have ever thought you would be able to achieve. All the pain you feel as you make your way around the sights of London are numbed by the chants and cheers of encouragement from the crowd and you have an unforgettable sense of joy/ relief/ happiness/ excitement as you take your last few steps across the finish line. I am so incredibly jealous of everyone running in this year’s race, I would do anything to do it all over again!"
My tips for training and the race:
The earlier the better: as soon as you get your entry, make sure you start training as soon as possible, this will put you in good stead coming into the colder months.
Follow a training schedule online: there are so many out there online which are easily accessible and they really help! Especially when you start to taper towards the end.
Eat all the amazing foods!: When you go to collect your number from ExCEL there are so many amazing food stalls and goodies to collect - treat yourself! Make sure you properly eat whilst you train to reduce the risk of injury and getting ill!
Don't go out in a new outfit on race day: Train in it at least once before you the run.
Get your name printed on your top!: This was probably one of the best things I could have done - hearing your name being shouted through the crowds was such a motivator and really helps you when you start to struggle around the 18-mile mark.
Stay confident: I was so nervous in the week’s coming up to the race, but on the day itself it was a really amazing experience