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Twenty Tips for Running Your First Marathon

I'd always looked at people running marathons before I attempted mine and thought; "it can't be that hard can it". Although I'd done a few half marathons and thought the prospect of running it twice seemed the most ridiculous concept ever, I still didn't think it would be quite as hard mentally and physically as it was...

I'd always looked at people running marathons before I attempted mine and thought; "it can't be that hard can it". Although I'd done a few half marathons and thought the prospect of running it twice seemed the most ridiculous concept ever, I still didn't think it would be quite as hard mentally and physically as it was...

So here are some things I wish I'd known before taking on the epic feat;

• Three months training is not enough - I only signed up for the marathon at the beginning of January (foolish New Year's Resolution - must have been drunk) which left me with 14 weeks to train for it. I did have a baseline level of fitness but with injuries creeping in and illness it really didn't give me much wiggle room. 20 weeks is the recommended amount of time from a base level of fitness, whereas if you're coming from the couch with no running experience, it's suggested you take 10-12 months.

• Your social life has to change - I thought I'd be able to keep the same social life, running home, quick shower, change and out. Friday night in, long run on the Saturday, Saturday night out. But this became exhausting and boy did my body punish me for it each Sunday. You've got to give up some things if you're doing a marathon and prioritise. It'll be worth it in the end...

• The cost doesn't end at the entry fee - on top of this you've got all the kit to buy, one or two pairs of trainers, the physio when you inevitably get injured, the sports massages, the foam rollers, the entry fees to all the training races...

• You get a little bit over excited by buying new sports kit - it's no longer about going out and buying a new LBD or gorgeous new heels. Oh no, you get ridiculously excited about a new pair of running leggings or sweat wicking top. You justify yourself that you really MUST have them - they'll 100% make you run faster. And you need both the long and short sleeved top - the weather in this country is way too changeable to risk it.

• Do not follow the training plans that just say run, run run - so many plans I've seen just focus solely on the running and don't even mention strength, cross training and yoga/pilates. The second marathon I did where I only ran three times a week (compared to five first time round) and added in body pump once a week and one or two yoga sessions meant I didn't get injured and ran it half an hour faster.

• Sweets and lucozade for energy is not the way forward - I completely ODed on sugar during my first marathon, feeling completely sick from scoffing too many jelly babies on route. I just needed salt so I messaged my friends who were supporting to buy me a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. They were literally the best thing ever!! Second time round I turned to salted nuts and dried fruit - these more natural sources of energy worked better for me.

• You will get injured - marathons are not good for your body. Maybe once upon a time we were used to running those distances, but our lifestyles where we sit at a desk all day, then get into a car and sit down some more before going home to eat and watch TV sitting down means our bodies just aren't used to such intensity. I couldn't run for the last month in the run up to my first marathon due to the joys of runners knee (ITB) and second time round got a spot of plantar fascilitis. Unless you're extremely lucky, once you start ramping up those miles, expect some niggles at the very least.

• Don't be too hard on yourself - everyone sets themselves goals which are, let's be honest, probably not that realistic. You can't just double your half marathon result and expect to run the marathon in that time. A lot of people said to me just aim to finish your first marathon, take it in and enjoy it. Did I listen to them? No. Do I wish I had listened to them? Yes. Take the pressure off yourself and just say you want to get to the end in one piece and hopefully a smile on your face

• You're not going to lose weight - you may if you're overweight lose some pounds and tone up but in all likelihood you will maintain or put on weight. As you start upping the distances your body becomes more and more efficient and will start using less energy. So if your main motivation is to run it to shed some pounds, you may want to think again!

• It will hurt - the training will hurt, the aches and pains the couple of days after those long runs will hurt, the marathon will hurt, the massages will hurt, everything will hurt. Accept it.

• Stretch, stretch, stretch - I was pretty lazy first time round in terms of stretching after my runs, long or short. Second time round I made sure I stretched for a minimum of half an hour following any long run and frequently had ice baths. Maybe my body was more used to it but it made such a big difference with no aches or pains even after the second marathon.

• You will have days you want to throw it all in - your body isn't listening to you, you're tired, you mind is saying sofa not running shoes, you just want to go out with your friends and get drunk. There are always so many reasons why you should just quit, but there was a reason you signed up in the first place so keep focussing back on that when times get tough.

• You will form a firm bond with your washing machine - So. Much. Washing. The antidote to this obviously is buying more clothes...back to point number four!

• You will become a running bore - you will breathe and sleep running. When you're not pounding the streets you'll be working out your times, your next route, what your next meal is going to be, are you eating enough protein. Problem is, your friends don't really care that much. You've just stopped drinking and aren't hanging out with them in their minds. You're a boring runner. It's ok, it's only for a few months...

• Tapering is harder than it sounds - tapering sounds like the best thing ever. A month of doing shorter and shorter runs. It's actually pretty difficult though. You're going against everything you've just done for the past two/three months and it doesn't make sense to your mind or body. Trust the research and just enjoy it (not by going out on a month of binge drinking though)

• Make sure supporters know what you're wearing - "I thought your top was red" said my parents as I met them at the end after they'd missed me twice en-route. Nope it's very, very orange. Trouble was the photo I took made it look red. So even if you think it's obvious, just be extra clear on what colour you're wearing!!

• Crossing the finishing line was the biggest anti-climax ever - this is probably not what you want to hear at all but crossing the finishing line I just felt, well, nothing. I was disappointed with my time and my body for not being in one piece on the day and there was no one I knew near by to hug and say "hey look at me, I'm part of the marathon club". It was the biggest anti-climax ever!

• You're going to think "what next" - you've just spent the last three/four/maybe more months training for this. And then it's over and you think now what. How am I going to fill my time now? I don't want to go back to having nothing to aim for. Chances are you'll be tying those laces back up in no time at all!

• And finally, you will feel immense love and support from so many people - I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who sponsored me, sent me messages on the day both before, during to spur me on and after to congratulate me. I felt this amazing bubble of love and support around me - that was by far and above the best thing for me about it all and made all that running in the rain and wind completely and utterly worthwhile!

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