THE BLOG

Don't Panic: Why Fear Is the Only Thing Standing Between You and Your First Marathon

21/03/2016 12:23 GMT | Updated 21/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Over the last few weeks, with the London Marathon now within arm's reach, I have really felt the fear.

And by fear, I mean fear of everything from fuelling to falling ill (pretty much on repeat). The highlights, you ask?:

• Am I doing too little?

• Am I doing too much?

• Why is it no one talks about the last 6.2 miles (a bit like giving birth)? Is it really that bad?

• Will I make it?

• Should I eat more?

• Should I eat less?

• Should I start using Vaseline?

• How will I get round without needing the toilet?

• Why do practice races all involve kerbs? How can I avoid twisting my ankle?

• Why is everyone around me sneezing and coughing?

• Should I practise running in just my vest rather than a baselayer?

• Why am I doing this to myself? Yes, really?

• Should I find a new hobby? Yep, like knitting! Less painful on the knees.

The one thing, however, that I've never feared - ever in my life - is this:

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To the untrained eye, this is a humble, unassuming wooden post.

But, to someone turning out of the entrance to Hampton Court at the start of her second half marathon in eight days, it is a runner's nightmare.

This is no ordinary wooden post. It's the post I had to dodge to avoid being skewered when I came round the corner. And, by avoiding it, I could do nothing else but trip over the legs of the runners around me.

Yes, that's right. I hadn't even got to the end on my first playlist song and I was on the floor, face down on the gravel!

In fairness, it was a bit like a playground injury - grazed knees and gravel being picked out of your hands.

But the difference between this Sunday morning race and a playground is you tend to go back to class rather than go on to run for another two and a bit hours!

What I loved the most was the fact that - once I'd realised it was not a running injury as such and that I wasn't going to do any permanent damage by hobbling round with sore knees - I started thinking not about cups of tea and pieces of cake (my comfort food of choice), but the importance of getting some more miles (muscle memory) in my legs. If I wasn't going to do more damage, there was no choice but to carry on (blood and all).

It may not have been the personal best of the Bath Half the week before, but I got round, I didn't stop to walk and, yes, pretty much every step hurt.

But this isn't a blog about wooden posts - as exciting as that would be!

This is about fear. That race taught me a few things:

1) No amount of fretting will ever prepare you for what is around the corner (quite literally). You can only face the opposition in front of you.

2) Even when bad things do happen that are outside of your control, it is amazing what you can achieve when you think you can.

3) Don't panic. Slow it down and you will get to your destination!

4) You only get the fancy medal if you cross the line!

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I know my mind is stronger than my body.

I know that if I make it to the starting line, I will get to the end.

And now I know that I can't always face my fears because I don't know what it is I should be fearing. So why fear at all!

So now is the time to stop worrying about whether you should be going longer and start being grateful for every training run. Now is the time to stop worrying about loo stops and Vaseline and start thinking about your body and your run. Now is the time to stop filling the house with random energy gels and start working out what you like and need (I recommend Lucozade beans and Bounce balls as they're great running fuel and tasty too)! Now is the time to stop worrying about getting injured and start enjoying all those pain-free steps.

Oh and now it the time to avoid posts - wooden and metal!

Perhaps most importantly, however, now is the time to stop asking people about those last 6.2 miles (which you are advised not to bother running until the big day) and start thinking about running your own race.

And, just remember, they may not tell you about the last stretch of running, but they will tell you about the end. I hear that crossing the finish line - which you will - is the greatest feeling in the world. (And, don't forget, the fact you're in the race at all is a pretty amazing thing!)

Why are you doing it? That's why! So enjoy every step.