I have only ever run one marathon in my life, which certainly doesn’t make me an expert, but it does make me a member of a rather exclusive club. Before I started training for my previous marathon, I naively believed that if you trained harder, the whole thing was easier. Now I’d revise that basic formula to a simple recipe: one-third good solid training, one-third mind over matter and one-third teamwork.
The training, in theory at least, is the easiest part. There’s a ton of relevant and readily available information from authoritative websites, personal blogs, fitness forums and the like. My programme starts three months before from the marathon and then I do my best to stick to it at least 70 percent of the time: two to three short runs during the week; some cross-training, such as walking, swimming, biking or floor exercises on the non-running days; one long run (with progressively increasing distances) at the weekend; and one day of nothing at all (except the usual washing, shopping, cleaning, fetching and carrying, of course!).
The hardest thing is initiating your daily exercise: once you’ve made the decision to actually do it, the rest is easy. I try to squish an hour in between the morning school run and starting work, or otherwise at lunchtime. Evenings are a big no-no for me, both mentally and physically.
The mind-over-matter thing is an unbelievably large issue, however. Only once have I ever stopped running through severe pain. (The cause was iliotibial band syndrome due to running too much on the same side of the road—the things you learn!). But on every other occasion I know that if I’ve failed to achieve the distance I set myself as a goal, it’s because I decided to stop (with a hundred justifications in my head to make me feel better).
The fight that goes on between the angel and devil inside your head over long distances is almost more exhausting than running itself. When things get really bad I simply ask myself the question, ‘Can you run another 100m?’ and the answer is always ‘yes’. I might have to ask myself that question several hundreds of times, but if I can keep answering yes, then I can keep on running.
Which brings me to the last point: teamwork. I train alone. I really prefer it. I can go at my own times and keep to my own pace. Sometimes, I listen to some thumpy ‘80s inspirational music, sometimes I check into an audio book (currently Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which seems appropriate for the inner battle going on in my head), and just occasionally I might listen to a work-oriented podcast, which is always dangerous as I often get the overpowering need to take notes. At other times, I just run with no ‘noise’ at all.
But having run that one marathon I know that, even if I run the course alone, I’m not alone. I couldn’t make it to the end without people along the course shouting encouragement, without the time and effort other people have put into making my run possible, without the thought of those supporting my chosen charity, without the thought of those who will benefit from funds raised if I can just manage to get through those 42km and 195m.
Support Suzi on November 29 as she tackles the Firenze Marathon. Her chosen charity—and The Florentine’s—is Meyer, Florence’s children’s hospital. To donate (or to run the marathon yourself and become a personal fundraiser), see the #RunforMeyer website. T-shirts are available for a minimum donation of 15 euro from the Paperback Exchange, via delle Oche 4R. The Florentine will be organizing cheering points around the city. Check The Florentine’s Facebook page for updates.
On November 11, join us for an hour of family fun at Palazzo Belfiore’s annual community event, #LiveItLocal. Meyer will be providing the kids’ entertainment from 4.30 to 5.30pm at via dei Velluti 8. Space is limited; email us at [email protected] to book your spot.