My son Stephen Sutton used a phrase 'Don't sweat the small stuff. Go out and enjoy yourself'.
That’s how I’m approaching preparations for my second Virgin Money London Marathon and indeed my participation on Sunday, 22 April, as I will be running as a member of the Wolverhampton Bobsled Team, carrying a 15ft replica bobsleigh around the 26.2 mile course.
Training schedules are an ‘ideal’ scenario in terms of preparation. However, we all lead busy lives and have varying demands on our time.
I love my Zumba and Clubbercise classes, which I do twice a week and continue to do so during my marathon preparations. They help me switch off from work and vary my training programme. It’s high intensity activity which helps build up my stamina and core strength - key ingredients for potentially being out on the road for up to six hours on marathon day.
I’m not a natural athlete and certainly not a runner, so the marathon is an enormous challenge but one which I try not to dominate my life schedule, albeit I know I have to put in the training miles.
If it’s difficult to complete your training run tonight, look at moving it until tomorrow morning or tomorrow evening. Don’t stress that you’ve missed one scheduled training session.
When I decided to participate in my first marathon in 2015, I started by following the NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ programme. It was small steps but it worked. Within 2 months of starting I had increased my distance to 10K and gradually built up the mileage. I would never have thought I could run 10K, let alone build up to marathon distance. So if I can do it anyone can.
I also prefer to run in the evening, which is not ideal when the London Marathon begins around 10am, so from early March I will change my schedule and complete my long runs in the morning starting to replicate what I will do on marathon day itself. This includes eating breakfast at the time I will eat on marathon morning and, during my run, take on board any supplements, isotonic drinks I intend to consume during the marathon itself.
You need to get your body adjusted to what it will experience on the day itself. You don’t want to be making dramatic changes to your routine just ahead of lining up alongside 37,000 people, looking to run/jog 26.2 miles around the capital city.
There are dozens of training schedules available on the internet and all will have different ideas of how many miles you should complete at certain times. The best advice I can give is follow what you feel works for you knowing you have 26.2 miles to complete on 22 April.
My training programme suggests my longest run, 3 weeks before the marathon, to be 18 miles but in 2015 I was encouraged to push that to at least 20 and, if possible, slightly further.
I managed to complete 22 miles and psychologically I then knew I only had to run an additional four miles to complete the marathon distance three weeks later. I got a real buzz from that training run and know it made a huge mental contribution during the final few weeks of preparation and on marathon day itself. So much so, I was back at my Zumba class on the Tuesday following the marathon. So I’m following what worked for me in 2015 and hoping for similar results.
My longest training run to date has taken me to 14 miles last weekend with a scheduled 16 for this coming weekend. I have 18 miles pencilled in for the second weekend of March before dropping back to participate in the Stafford Half Marathon on 18 March with the Wolverhampton Bobsled Team - our first outing with our new sled - built specifically for this year’s London Marathon.
From there my training will be geared towards my longest run on Easter Sunday, where I plan to complete 22 miles before enjoying a nice Easter Sunday dinner at my parents and maybe a small chunk of chocolate!
Easter Sunday will see thousands of London Marathon entrants pounding the streets as most training programmes will have that date scheduled as the longest training run.
I’m off this weekend to purchase another pair of running shoes and socks, identical to those I’ve been training in to date, so I have time to break them in order to have replacements available should I need to switch for any reason.
Best of luck with your training over the next few weeks and let’s hope we see the end of this cold weather soon. At least we are beginning to enjoy lighter mornings and extended daylight at the other end of the day.