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London Marathon

Training for the London marathon without killing yourself Part One: The bit where you give up near the start.

February 12th, 2011 by Phil Brown

So, you’ve been training for the London marathon. You decided a few months ago that this was going to be your mission. Actually getting into the race was a sign: your calling to make something of yourself and raise some wonga for your favourite charity in the process. You felt good. You felt energised and excited about training schedules, new trainers and losing that stubborn spare tyre.

That was four months ago and things have definitely changed. You can run 8 miles without feeling that your lungs are going to collapse. You are able to get into those jeans that had been lying hidden in the bottom drawer. You’ve chalked up some serious mileage using a training schedule you found in a running magazine. You’re feeling satisfied you’ve come this far, but there is a new feeling too: one of being completely KNACKERED. You are plateauing, which means you are not making the progress that you were in your training. You have aches and pains that won’t go away. You are not enjoying your mission as much as you thought and the sense of purpose you had on each running day is not as keen……

What is happening? You should be getting better, faster, stronger…..you’re doing loads of running, surely you should be getting fitter. You try upping your mileage on your weekend long run and increasing your times on the faster short runs, but that just makes things worse. Then one day, you find that you can’t complete  the 12 miler you have been aiming for because the pain in the side of your knee simply stops you in your tracks. You are suddenly way off your targets and feeling like you aren’t going to make this race after all………

What on earth has happened? You were doing so well. You were warming up and stretching afterwards. You had a decent pair of brand new running shoes you had fitted at a shop where they made you run on one of those treadmill thingies. You aren’t doing too badly at eating, but are probably not eating enough…. You’ve been training dammit and now you can’t even run half a mile without pain!

You made a basic mistake. You thought – quite understandably – that getting better at running meant running lots and lots. You did that, but you didn’t realise one thing:

running lots and lots is bad for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I run a sports and remedial massage clinic. I treat runners and other people who love their sports and their training. I like sport. I believe in keeping fit and in healthy competition. But any extreme form of physical exercise has a negative, destructive effect on the body. That’s the truth. In fact, the process of a  well-planned training programme is to cause adaptation in the body by subjecting it to  cycles of stress and recovery; damage and repair. Each time the body is damaged, it repairs itself and strengthens itself to cope more efficiently with the next challenge. At least, that is the theory. Indeed, when you started out on your mission, you probably found yourself making great progress, adding distance each week and increasing your times quite swiftly. After a while,your body stopped adapting to the stresses you were placing on it and started getting worn down by them.  When this happened, progress was hampered and even stopped, motivation took a plunge and without understanding what was happening, you made the mistake of trying to force more progress by increasing the stress on your body – basically, you tried to train harder. The results were pain and a complete cessation of progress. Argh. Pants. What do you do now?

Firstly, you need to understand what has happened and to ACCEPT your present situation. Your body is tired. YOU are tired. You feel like you never want to run another yard. Start here; being honest. From here, there is a way to recover and restart and even excel in your training, but you HAVE to acknowledge your fatigue and your pain and – for a short time – stop.

In the next instalment of my marathon training series we shall look at how overtraining and injury in the novice runner happens.

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