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Are you ready for your first marathon?

It is the time of year when many of us reflect on the twelve months past and look forward to the ones coming. Personally, I don’t like a New Year’s Resolution, but I do like to take stock of what I’ve achieved and think about what I hope I might achieve in the year to come.

It may be that for you ‘run a marathon’ is lurking in the nebulous corner of your brain where the things reside that you barely dare to hope you can do. Completing a marathon rightly sits in the running hall of fame – it’s a complex, difficult process which carries the risk of pain and failure. It is undertaken by so many because the rewards almost always outweigh these difficulties, and the pride in accomplishing something so challenging is justifiably earned. If the marathon is starting to loom larger inside your head – how do you know if you’re ready? Don’t worry if taking on this distance seems an impossible challenge – it should be like that, as it’s not to be undertaken lightly. But equally, if you’ve started to think about it, there’s every chance that you are ready.

Firstly, some numbers. These are not exhaustive, or necessarily precise – because we’re all different. Some people have the (enviable!) ability to run high mileage seemingly effortlessly, and without getting injured. Most of us aren’t blessed in this way, and so if we try to take on the extra load of training for a marathon without enough running background, we are at higher risk of injury. So, do you meet the following criteria? You’ve been running for around two years, or longer. You’ve run at least two or three half marathons. You’ve occasionally begun to run further than 13 miles on a training run. Your weekly mileage is in the region of 25-30 miles or more. You’ve been consistently injury free through your last few blocks of training. You include some strength and conditioning in your training, or at the very least are committed to the idea of beginning some. If your answer to all of these is yes, then you’re probably physically ready for a marathon. If it isn’t, it doesn’t absolutely mean you’re not, but I think that you need to ask yourself where the motivation for the marathon is coming from if you’re not already running regularly simply from the enjoyment of it.

Of course, just because you meet all those criteria, it doesn’t mean you ought to go out and sign up for the first marathon you stumble across. It is beginning to be recognised that we may have too much of a focus in the running world on going further and further (witness the proliferation of ultra races in the past few years!), and it is entirely ok to choose to focus on shorter distances. Marathon training requires an extra dedication in the form of long hours spent away from family, sometimes sacrificing aspects of social life, a focus on nutrition, sleep and wellbeing – and you may not want to do any of these things! For me, the biggest sign that you are mentally ready for the marathon is that you become excited by the idea of the process, rather than the outcome. I imagine most people watching a big city marathon think how great it must be to be able to say they’ve run a marathon (in my first marathon training period, I almost literally couldn’t stop talking about it). And if the idea of finishing a marathon is the only part that excites you – you’re almost certainly not ready. Even if you think you’re physically capable, the training may be a mental challenge, and ultimately unenjoyable. But, if you have been searching for ‘marathon training plan’ on Google and looking at the sessions, the mileage, and the frequency of the runs with excitement, curiosity and anticipation – I think you’re ready.

Ultimately, once you’ve crossed the physical hurdles, marathon training comes down to mindset. Are you ready to make some sacrifices, to train longer and harder than you have before? Are you ready for a race day like none you’ve experienced so far - to go into it knowing that success is by no means guaranteed, and that even if you do succeed, the experience may be hard in ways that you currently have no conception of? Are you ready for an amazing feeling of pride and achievement when you cross your first 26.2 mile finishing line?

Congratulations – you’re marathon ready!

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