From survival skill to marathon enthusiast

The challenge is in the name. So how do you even go about attempting to run a marathon if you are a beginner?

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham

Why run in the first place? Because of the benefits!

1) Its easy: you don’t need any special skills. You just need to re-familiarize yourself with the movement.

2) Weight loss: relying solely on running to lose weight wont do anything, but it’s accessibility that makes it one of the best exercises to target your goals.

3) Mental health: running is part of our flight or fight response, but doing it voluntarily can be seen as exposure therapy, where we learn to associate it with safety instead of danger. It has been proven to make the mind more resistant to stress, anxiety and depression, among others.

4) Physical health: it improves memory, cardiovascular fitness, strengthens bones and contrary to popular belief, can help avoid knee injuries.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” – Fred DeVito

How to get started: The gear

1) Running shoes: the shape of your foot, your biomechanics and the amount of running you do will all influence what type of shoes you buy. If you’re serious about it, it’s best to go for higher quality ones (shoes by Adidas, APL, and Nike have been named top three best running shoes of 2019) – they can be on the more expensive side, but it’s a good investment.

2) Clothes: although largely dependant on the terrain, you must get the essentials: running socks; tights or shorts (snug fitting and comfortable) and tops (slightly snug and anything but cotton, which absorbs moisture quickly). If you find that running is your calling in life, you can also invest in gloves, hats and jackets/gilets.

3) Hydration: hand-held or other, it’s important to always have a water bottle nearby!

“Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Elliot

Tips for beginners

1) Make a plan: create a habit by following a schedule of running days (distance, speed and intensity), goals and rewards once you reach these goals

2) Have a Killer playlist: it will help you power through, help battle boredom and improve your speed because you will automatically run with the bpm.

3) Focus on your form:

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy… I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams

Common injuries and remedies:

Although it a relatively safe sport, it’s important to be vigilant about taking precautions to avoid getting hurt.  Here are some of the most common injuries:

1) KNEE
What is it? An irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap. Treatment: run every other day, or try the elliptical/swimming while you recover
Prevention: incorporate uphill runs to your training, as these strengthen the glutes and these control hip and thigh movements that preventing knees from turning inwards.

2) ANKLE
What is it?  The Achilles tendon tightens and becomes irritated
Treatment: do not run through it. A minor strain will heal in a few days, but a serious one can take months. Apply ice fives times a day.
Prevention: strengthen the calves with daily heel drops, and consider wearing compression socks

3) FOOT
What is it? Small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes.
Treatment: stop running and give time to heal. Roll your foot over a frozen water bottle.
Prevention: make sure you are wearing the correct shoes. A stable core reduces stress on the spine, so do core-strengthening exercises twice a week.

4) SHIN SPLINTS
What is it? Small tears that occur in the muscles around your tibia (shin bone). 
Treatment: back off running for a bit, then start again at a reduced level.Rest, ice, and ibuprofen can ease the pain.
Prevention: wear the correct shoes, and increase mileage gradually.

“Don’t fear moving slowly forward…fear standing still.” – Kathleen Harris

The ultimate challenge: Marathons

1) Establishing a goal:  you might have a need to strive for more, and what better way to test your limits than by running a marathon? Whether it’s for fun or as a personal challenge, establishing your goal and constantly reminding yourself of it will help you in the preparation for the big day.

2) Know your limits: start early and start small, and build up gradually until you can comfortably reach your goal.

3) Choose your challenge:  they can range from small, countryside runs to long-distance city runs. One of the most popular events in the UK is undoubtedly the London City Marathon. Registrations open from April to May the previous year (so if you want to participate in the London Marathon 2020, now’s the time to apply!) and a place is not always guaranteed.

It’s a long and arduous race, (check out the marathon route) but one of the biggest events of the year and a fulfilling challenge to complete!

What to do after a long distance run?

After marathon you must dynamically stretch regularly. Follow a similar stretching routine as what you did to prepare for the marathon. Make sure to stretch all muscle groups for at least 30 – 45sec.

Short, soft runs in regular intervals will help your muscles to recover from any muscle pain. Start with smooth walks and slowly increase the intensity of your exercise. This will help your muscles stabilise.

After following the classic outlined steps, it is extremely beneficial to have some form of therapeutic massage.
A professional treatment will promote lactic acid removal, lymphatic drainage, muscle recovery and an alleviation of the mental pressure it would have taken to complete an endurance event. Sports massage can be used directly to focus on areas that have been highlighted as problematic and other forms of massage can be used as an important tool in an effective holistic recovery. It is also ideal as preparation for your next challenge and as reward for completion of your recent one.

So what are you waiting for? Get up and get moving!

You can book your sports massage at relax.org.uk.

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” – Ellen DeGeneres