What nobody told me about running a marathon

In 2014 I was involved with the back pain association BackCare UK. One day a colleague and I were in a meeting. “I need a volunteer” he said.

“A volunteer for what?” I asked, expecting to be pulled into some admin task or other.

“I need someone to run the London Marathon.” He replied.

It was January. The Marathon was in April. I had never run so much as a mile, let alone 26 of them. I kept myself fit – back then I was teaching Pilates in addition to my Resolving Chronic work, and I also loved swimming and going for long walks. But I had never tried running. Of course I couldn’t run the London Marathon.

“I’ll do it” I said.

What had I got myself into? The answer was, of course, a lot of running. I trained consistently for the three months until the marathon, exploring local trails and venturing further and further afield. I treated myself to some new running shoes, decided I preferred my old faithfuls, and soothed my aching muscles by taking baths sprinkled with Epsom salts.

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April came around very quickly, and with it the London Marathon. To my great surprise (and that of my close friends and family), I managed to make it through the race. I no longer remember my time – it wasn’t something I was prepared to show off! I was never going win any awards for speed, but I finished the race after just a few months of training, and that was enough for me.

Training for a marathon in three months is a dramatic step, and if I hadn’t already had the fitness from my career as a Pilates teacher it would have been extremely foolish to put such pressure on my body. If you’re thinking about running a long distance make sure you consider what is right for you and your body, and don’t put yourself at risk!

In my case I was glad to have done the race. I noticed the effect it had on my body, and most of all, on my mind. My husband had recently changed jobs and was dealing with an increased workload and the stress of a new routine. We were also considering moving house, and my daughter was preparing for her school exams, the Leaving Certificate, with a lot of pressure on her to get the results needed for her university choice. ttha It was a stressful time for those around me, and as I was doing my best to support them it was a stressful time for me too.

Running helped me cope with that stress. The rhythm of my feet pounding the trail, the hours in which my body was so concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other that my mind could wander elsewhere… or go blank.

That exercise is good for the body is by now a well-established fact. There are few who would dispute it and even though millions of people don’t get enough exercise, they are in the most part aware of this fact. But fewer people recognise that exercise is also fundamental for the health of the mind. Try it if you can, I promise it’ll be worth it!