From a perspective of somebody who’s run a marathon for the first time, I can say that now I understand why people do it. If you’ve prepared yourself well, long distance running among thousands of like-minded people is huge fun that releases endorphins. Easily said – it’s a nice workout with a lot of pleasure. It also gives you a feeling of satisfaction, which makes you consider to… want to do it again!
I always enjoyed running, but never did it regularly for longer than two months in spring or summer. And since I’m a very curious person, I kept on wondering how it feels like to run a marathon or rather, whether it really is possible for normal mortals like myself, if you know what I mean. I then lost my job (or rather the job lost me!), had all of a sudden more time and decided to use it well. That time I had been running approx. 25 – 30 min 2 times / week for a while already and decided to challenge myself by training during winter months too. In order to stay motivated I signed up for the Berlin Half Marathon.
Before the start. It was the most beautiful of the year so far – blue sky, sunshine, 17 degrees!
Getting ready for the kick off
It’s often said that it needs about six months of training in order to get prepared well. Funnily enough, I signed up for the marathon on 30.09.2013 and run on 30.03.2014, which is exactly after six months. In theory it all looked very well – I had planned it thoroughly, had enough time and best intentions. But let’s be honest – you can’t plan your life! Making plans is one thing, and letting your life happen naturally is another. That said the more open and flexible you’ll stay while following your plan, the more inner peace and satisfaction you will experience in the end. And it was just like this in my case.
I got some quite serious and very annoying stomach problems right after Christmas. Additionally, it was also a very busy and a quite stressful time for me due to some family and work matters. Cutting the long story short, I had to take an antibiotic, be on a diet and resign from running for two months. I was disappointed and angry first as this really spoiled my plans of my preparation for the half marathon. But I accepted it and stayed flexible. I even considered giving it all up in case I wouldn’t have been okay in March, but at the same time I decided to get back to training as soon as I would have felt better. And I did at the end of February, just over a month before the big run on 30th March. Returning to jogging after two months break wasn’t as bad as I had feared. My body clearly remembered the previous moths of training as I increased the distance from my usual 6 – 11 km before getting sick to 12 – 15 km afterwards without any problem. This way I took part in the 34th Berlin Half Marathon and I did it for fun and my personal victory. Running with an average speed of 8 min / km, I finished the 21,0975 km race in 2 h 25 min 17 sec easily and with a big smile on my face :)
Sport is health, but sport can in fact be injury or death too. Although statistically running marathons is not dangerous, it happens quite often that one or even a few participants collapse and die. But don’t let that to scare you and put off running. Instead of trusting blindly in what, the often dramatic, mass media yell, inform yourself by reading quality studies. There’s a great article titled “Special Report: Are Marathons Dangerous?” written on runnersworld.com by an expert and a frequent marathon runner, Amby Burfoot.
According to many studies conducted on marathon runners and victims over the course of the years, evidence show that most of the people who die in marathons have had either a pre-existing medical condition like heart defect, artery disease caused by bad cholesterol or high blood pressure. It hasn’t always been the case and there’s always some risk associated with doing any sport, but fortunately, the benefits of exercising by far outnumber the risks. Those studies also point out why it makes a lot of sense to conduct a proper health-check prior to getting into running seriously. A so called stress test done on a treadmill by a doctor who specialises in sport medicine will check your health from a cardiovascular and an orthopaedic point of view. Generally, experts agree that you don’t have to be a super athlete being able to run a triathlon in order to do distance running. By exercising moderately and in a way that suits your body and mind, you will benefit from it both physically and mentally. If you don’t have cardiovascular or other major health issues, running on a regular basis even 25 – 40 km a week at an average pace of 6.5 min / km where you burn approx. 1000 calories, is considered beneficial to your health and protective to your heart.
My 8 steps – how I ran my first half marathon wisely:
- Cycling to work 5 times a week about 20 km per day between April and July.
- Running regularly, starting with 25 – 45 min 2 – 3 times / week for two months and increasing the time to 60 – 90 min in the following months. In the final months before the marathon, I was running distances between 7 – 15 km per run (21 – 45 km / week)
- Undergoing a health-check for runners in a sports centre in Berlin, which assured me that I’m fit and able to run a half marathon. I even received training and nutritional tips from my doctor. To all Berliners and expats living in Berlin – I can truly recommend you Dr. med. Robert Margerie from Zentrum für Sportmedizin.
- Meditating every day, which helped me to overcome stressful time as I got sick and and believe in myself. It also kept me disciplined during my preparation, which is going for a run every second day regardless the weather conditions. Meditation helped me to stay focused on my well-being during the marathon itself. In fact I was so focused and present during running the marathon that I could control my breathing well, drink enough water and assure that it felt great to be out there. I trust that listening to one’s body signals is still more important than losing oneself in the endorphins, getting completely exhausted and collapsing on finish.
- I was surrounded by people who believed that I could do it and who encouraged me.
- I ate my favourite power porridge and drunk a cup of green tea for breakfast (It’s not the first time I mentioned my favourite porridge on the blog, so probably it’s high time to share my recipe with you soon! ;) )
- I did some stretching just before the start.
- I consumed two nutritional bars for athletes during the marathon and yes, I burn calories fairly quickly so they did save my life ;-)
Train properly and enjoy your run!