I think I am officially capable of running a marathon.
I feel comfortable making this possibly hyperbolic statement after completing the longest training run of my life.
A week ago I made it my mission to run home from my office in Canary Wharf in London's Docklands to Surbiton in the southwest suburbs, a distance of around 19 miles. Considering this would be the longest run I had ever attempted by some six miles, the fact that my first attempt was a massive disaster should not have been a huge surprise.
However, after limping home from the train station, having a bite to eat and a manly cry in the shower, I decided to pick myself up and have another crack of the whip.
With my tattered running shoes pulled tight, enough plasters on my feet to stem a severed artery and a new (comfortable) bag on my back, I set off across London for a second attempt.
Well it turns out that 19 miles is a long way. Especially when you get lost and end up running 20 miles.
I managed to complete my route, which saw me cross Tower Bridge, cut through Elephant & Castle, past Vauxhall tube station, through Battersea, on to the A3 near Putney, through Kingston and home, in just over three hours and 10 minutes.
Running a distance that was so much further than before made me realise how the marathon is as much a mental challenge as it is physical.
It seems that if you can run 15 miles, you can run a marathon, barring any sudden, unexpected injuries. You just have to keep going and ignore that voice in your head saying: "Hey, sit down, relax, you've done well. We could just stop at Greggs for a pastie...you'd like that wouldn't you?"
Ignoring the inner voice was easier said than done at certain times. At one point I passed a sign on the demoralising straight A3 that said "Kingston - 5 Miles". With no landmarks to look forward to except the vague outline of another street sign in the distance I slogged on, occasionally flinching at the proximity of passing lorries. Finally, after what felt like several years I limped closer to the next sign which said "Kingston - 5 Miles". That was the closest I came to stopping.
Instead I just made a whimpering sound like a toddler watching his balloon float away and carried on until I made it home. The experience made me realise a few important points:
- I need new shoes. The current pair are too old and have become instruments of torture.
- When planning a long training run for yourself make the backdrop varied. Spend some time plotting a route that gives you things to look at. If you try to run 20 miles around the same recreation ground you will go insane.
- Don't run the same route more than once if you can avoid it. Monotony saps motivation.
- If you set yourself a distance target - barring a completely unavoidable complication - make sure you complete it. You are your own harshest critic and any lax training will show up on race day.
- If you write directions on the back of your hand don't wipe your sweaty forehead with it. You will get lost.
Nick is running the London Marathon for Amnesty International. To sponsor him visit his fundraising page.