Each year, the runners who complete the London Marathon manage to inspire, amuse and amaze us with their success stories.
Some stories are funny (like the woman who ran dressed as the Mona Lisa), some are romantic (one couple actually got married during the marathon itself).
But most stories from the London Marathon are stories of triumph; tales of ordinary people achieving the extraordinary together. It’s all very inspiring, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, inspiration alone can’t take you through a full 26 miles. Once inspired, you need to take action to make your dreams a reality. If you can capture the right mindset and start your training regime now, it could be you that crosses the finish line next year, regardless of your current fitness level.
Here’s how you can turn that inspiration into your own story of triumph in London next year.
First and foremost, running is a mental sport. You need mental strength during the run itself and in the moments when your mind is telling you to do anything but go out in the rain and train.
Getting into the right mindset is the first and most important step in your London Marathon journey. Here are three key ways you can achieve an athlete’s mindset.
Capture negative thoughts - Negative thoughts might make you give up mid-way through your training or even stop you from training in the first place: if you don’t believe you can reach your end goal, you won’t see the point in even trying. Throughout your training, stay vigilant for any negative thoughts that creep into your mind so you can nip them in the bud. Replace them with affirmative statements like “I am capable” and “I can do this”. With practice, it’ll become easier to quickly steer your mindset to where you need it to be, which is vital for completing a marathon.
Set small goals - Running the London Marathon is a big goal, so big that it can be overwhelming if it’s the only goal you have. As you begin your training, set smaller goals for yourself, which you feel are more achievable. Maybe you want to run your first mile by the end of the month, or run a 5k in three months’ time? If they still feel too big, make your goals even smaller; maybe your goal is to run an extra 100 metres today. Do whatever helps you progress and stick with it.
Don’t compare yourself to others - One of the things that can drain away your motivation is comparing your times and distances to other runners. All you should focus on is competing with your previous performances and hitting the goals you’ve set for yourself. All runners are on their own journey; just because your progress isn’t as rapid as someone else’s doesn’t mean you’re not progressing.
Once you’ve tackled your mindset and committed to achieving your goal of running the marathon, it’s time to hit the tarmac. Building your stamina, speed and general fitness takes time, commitment and planning.
Here’s how you can physically prepare for your marathon:
Make running a habit - When you first start running, it’s vital that you keep running regularly. It doesn’t really matter for the first few weeks how far you’re running or how long it takes you; all you need to do is establish running as a habit. Aim for three runs a week to begin with; you can increase this amount later if you need to.
Get a personal trainer - Sometimes there might be flaws in your running technique that could hold you back unless you can identify them and make the effort to fix them. That’s why getting a personal trainer is so important. A personal trainer can help you work on your breathing, posture, gait and even your psychological approach to a run. They’ll also provide you with nutritional advice to aid recovery, energy levels and recovery speed. For these reasons, using a personal trainer can help you progress much more quickly than you would by training alone.
Change your diet - As you progress in your journey, your body will require a more nutritional diet to help you recover from your runs, stay lean and build muscle. Consulting a nutritionist is a great way to ensure your diet is providing you with what you need, but if you’re not sure where to start, here are some things you should make a bigger part of your diet:
Seeds and beans - protein and essential fats
Colourful fruits and vegetables - vitamins and minerals
Milk, cheese and other dairy products - Protein, calcium and good bacteria
Fish and other seafood - Omega-3 fats
Lean meat and poultry - Protein, iron and zinc
If you have dietary requirements, you can find plenty of alternatives online.
Getting the right equipment to help with your running is vital if you want to achieve your running goals. The wrong footwear, for example, can make the impact of running over long distances unbearable on your joints and a top that isn’t breathable can leave you feeling damp and heavy from sweat before you’ve even passed the one-mile mark.
Here are a few things you should pick up to help you run comfortably and effectively both during training and on race day.
Footwear - Look for a pair of running shoes with plenty of cushioning support to take the pressure off your joints. If you’re flat-footed, you should also insert insoles into your running shoes to give you the additional support you need. It’s best to carry out a gait analysis with an expert at a DW club; it’ll help you find the right shoe to suit your running style. Learn more about getting about getting the right footwear here.
Shorts - Grab a pair of running shorts that are light and allow for plenty of movement so they don’t create friction while you run.
Tops - Get a running top that’s lightweight and wicks away sweat to keep you comfortable and dry.
Jackets - You won’t just be training in the summer; you’ll be running all year round. Make sure you have a jacket you can wear on your winter runs to keep you warm and dry without hindering your performance.
Fitness tracker - The only way improve on your last run is make sure you measure it. Fitness trackers (FitBits being the most popular) ensure your training is productive and that you hit the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Start your story
The most inspiring thing about the London Marathon is that it shows what ordinary people can achieve when they put their minds to it.
Your story doesn’t just start on race day: it starts from the first run you complete, through all the hurdles that you overcome in your training, all the way up to the moment you cross that finish line.
For more advice on running the London Marathon, check out our 10 essential tips.