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How to train for a marathon
How to train for a marathon
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How to train for a marathon

With the London marathon approaching on 28th April, Alyssa tells us her story of how she got started and how you can too. Answer: Get started! Grab a pair of trainers and stick your headphones in!

By Alyssa Gunn

Have you ever considered getting into running but haven’t made the first step yet? If so, these points may well help to sway you….

How do I get started?

Put simply: just get your trainers on and go! Even if you only make it to the end of your street, you will have taken the massive first step. As a total novice, I decided to download the free Couch To 5K app as I knew that I would really benefit from having guidance and some kind of structure to keep me on track. I really recommend this to help you get started - https://itunes.apple.com/gb/ap... but of course, it’s not essential!

Another fantastic way to get into running is to take part in your local parkrun! This has become an international movement, in most cities where a 5K running event is held every Saturday morning at 9am. The beauty of parkrun is that it is completely inclusive. There are genuinely people of all ages and abilities taking part, some people walking their dogs, others running with buggies! And even better? It’s absolutely free! To find your local parkrun and for more information, check out the website: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/

What will I need?

The beauty of running is that you really don’t need anything other than a pair of trainers! There are all kinds of fancy shoes, clothes and gadgets on the market, but you really don’t need any of them. As I started to run more frequently and for longer distances, I decided to invest in some running shoes. If you feel that investing in a pair of running shoes is something you would like to do, I strongly suggest that you go to a specialist running shop such as https://www.runnersneed.com/ to get your gait measured by staff. This is free to do, but really important, as the wrong shoes can lead to injury. After a few months of running, I decided to invest in a fitness watch to help me keep track of how far I was running and what pace I was running at. There are many on the market but I started with a Garmin Forerunner 30. If you shop around, you can get these for around the £100 mark. But you can download free apps on your phone that do a good enough job. There are other handy accessories that I would recommend such as, an arm band to hold your phone, and a belt to keep your fob in (although many running shorts and leggings have little pouches for these). But again, these are absolutely not a necessity which is key when you are on a budget! No membership fees, no specialist equipment needed… what more can you ask for?!

I’m not sure that running is for me. Why should I give it a try?

In short: what have you got to lose? We’ve already touched on the fact that it does not need to cost you anything financially. It also doesn’t have to cost you much in time either. You won’t be limited by specific times and sessions, which you would be as a member of a gym. You can fit a run in around your own personal schedule and go out for as long or as little as you like. The health benefits of running are widely known. We all know that exercise is good for our bodies and physical health and of course, this is incredible. But for me, the biggest benefit of running, is undoubtedly the improvement and maintenance of your mental health. Science tells us that exercise releases chemical endorphins that improve our mental health and wellbeing. I can honestly say that running has become a necessary stress reliever and has helped me to cope emotionally when challenging things have arisen in my life. What could be better when preparing for your exams?

Sometimes I run alone and listen to music and podcasts which can be an amazing escape from the outside world. I created my own running playlist on Spotify but there are many pre-made playlists available at https://open.spotify.com/searc... . I love podcasts, particularly Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, Bryony Gordon’s Mad World and Marathon Talk.

Other times, I run with friends and take the time to talk and enjoy the world around us as we run. It is a great opportunity to get out and really see the city you live in.

For me, the London Marathon had always been an event that I would watch every year, either in person or on TV, in complete awe of the tens and thousands of people, or should I say superheroes, who would take on the magnitude of the 26.2-mile beast.

Two years ago, whilst watching the London Marathon, I had the overwhelming realisation that I had become stagnant. I did no real form of exercise, I felt stressed from the daily trials of balancing all the pressures in life and I felt, quite frankly, horribly bad about myself. In that moment I made the terrifying decision to lace up my trainers and attempt to go for a run.

I can remember so clearly how I felt during and after that very first run. Initially, I felt scared, self-conscious and like I was going to embarrass myself. But once I got going, those crippling feelings began to dissipate and they were replaced with a sense of achievement and elation. I realised that I had talked myself into the idea that going for a run was going to be horrendous, when in fact, it gave me a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in a really long time.

It still amazes me to say this, but fast forward a year, and I found myself on the start line of the 2018 London Marathon. I had decided to enter the ballot, feeling confident that I would never win a place. But the universe had other ideas! So, a year from going for my first ever run, I managed to complete a marathon. And trust me when I say, if I can do it… so can you.

Running has changed my life. Fact. It has opened up my life in so many ways, that I never dreamed possible when I took the step to go for my first run two years ago. Running a marathon is a great metaphor for life in general. The strategies you need can be applied to many situations in life. You need knowledge, courage, dedication, patience, perseverance, resilience, a good support system and the ability to be kind to yourself.

So. Give it a shot. It may well change your life.


Alyssa Gunn is running the 2019 London Marathon in aid of Dementia Revolution - Student Roost has sponsored her in return for this fantastic blog.