There are two peak running periods for half-marathon and marathon runners – Spring and Autumn. These are the times that races are many in number and the conditions allow for personal bests galore. The number of races in winter and summer dwindle because, in the case of summer, people travel and the conditions can be too hot, whilst the winter races would be suitably unappealing to the masses. All very understandable.
The problem arises with this factor: to compete in a spring marathon, you have to undertake your training – the many long, cold, wet, lonely hours of training during these dark and dank months. When the evenings get lighter, the weather gets warmer, you’ll have already completed the bulk of the training. Doesn’t quite seem fair somehow!
However, this is the reality. As I set aboard the train to ‘Marathon PB’ for another year, with Rotterdam on 8 April well within sight, I am reasonably well attuned to the torment of the long winter mileage. This year, Team DFT currently has two clients with race ambitions – one a half marathon in Harpenden and another is upping their challenge by tackling their first marathon – the London Marathon on 22 April.
Psychologically preparing for any endurance and distance event is important, but the reality is, it’s the training that is the tough part. The race itself is just one day and invariably has masses of support on the route to lift one’s spirits. The long runs alone, the hill work with lactic acid coursing every ounce of your legs, the speed work with every lap of the track seeming like another cruel twist and the rapid speed of time never more evident than in the limited rest periods of high intensity interval sessions.
So why do people compete in these events?
Everyone has their own motivations, but frankly, as humans we are not built to live the life of comfort that we do. Food readily available, limited daily movements, hours of sedentary inactivity, a lack of life-threatening scenarios. This is not what we are programmed to withstand. The marathon, half-marathon or other ultra-endurance events challenge our body, our mind, our will, in ways that day-to-day life no longer does. It gives us a sense of accomplishment that goes above and beyond what our bank balance tells us. For some, it also allows them to make a genuine, tangible difference in the world. By raising significant sums to causes close to their hearts, they may make an impact that couldn’t have been achieved without pounding the streets.
Having experienced the most demoralising race in my life last year, with empty crowds and a lacking support system, I’d encourage everyone who knows somebody competing in a race this year, to give them your full support. Attend, cheer, encourage, empathise and understand that what you’ll be seeing is the result of a lot of hard work that went on during early mornings, evening and weekends, in the cold, rain and hail; and at a time when every sinew in their body wanted to quit. It can be a lonely sport, but it can also be amazing. If you’re not running a race this year, play your part in a different way, you have no idea what a difference it makes!
About the author
Darren will be competing in the Rotterdam Marathon on 8 April. He’s posting weekly updates on his training on Instagram. If you don’t already follow, make sure you do @dynamicfitPT. If you are looking to run a race and would like to support, look no further. Book your free consultation today.
5 lessons for marathon runners Darren shared after his last marathon in Belgrade. Putting them down in a blog was therapy for him, but may well just help you to not make the same mistakes.
Follow Darren’s progress on his marathon training for Belgrade marathon in 2017. He shares his experiences of months of training, niggles and injuries, self-doubt and much needed summoning of self-motivation.