Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '09
If I could offer you only one tip for the Marathon, Vaseline would be it.
The long term benefits of Vaseline have been proved by countless marathon runners whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own training experience…
I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your runs; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your runs until the Marathon. But trust me, on 26th April you'll look back at the start of your training and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really are…
You're not as fat as you were. Don't worry about the Marathon; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to work out your average mile split times by drinking carbo gels. The real troubles in your training are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; like doing enough stretching after your run. Do some training almost everyday that improves you.
Swim. Don't forget the rest days, don't be tempted to skip them. Stretch.
Don't waste your time on other people's times; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind… the Marathon is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself. Remember the shouts of encouragement you receive, forget the niggles; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old race medals, throw away your old training shoes (after 500 miles). Cross-train. Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life… the most interesting people didn't know before the Marathon what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting people I know found new direction after the Marathon.
Get plenty of carbohydrates. Be kind to your knees, you'll need them on April 26th. Maybe you'll get injured, maybe you won't, maybe you'll have to defer your place, maybe you won't, maybe you'll hit the wall at 20 miles, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on the finish line… what ever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your chances are not certain, neither are anybody else's.
Enjoy your body, use it every way you can… don't be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it's the greatest instrument you'll ever own. Stretch… even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room (but warm up first). Read the running forums, even if you don't post in them. Do read running magazines, they may well make you feel fit. Be nice to your parents and siblings, you never know how much they may sponsor you.
Be nice to your running shoes; they are the best tool in your kit and the items most likely to get you round the course. Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few that are really behind you - hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the nearer to April 26th you get, the more you need the people who are rooting for you.
Run the London Marathon once, but do it again if it's not hard; do the Great North run once, but it may seem a bit soft after the FLM. Stretch. Accept certain inalienable truths, aches will come, bad runs will happen, you too will get fed up, and when you do you'll fantasise that when you started aches were negligible, all runs were good and things could only get better. Respect your body. Expect everyone else to support you.
Maybe you have a sponsorship target to raise, maybe you have a ballot place; but you know either one got you your dream place in this run. Don't mess too much with your hair, or fancy dress unless you have practised it beforehand, or by the time it's 26th April, it's too late to try anything new.
Be careful whose advice you follow, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth. But trust me on the Vaseline…
Actually this advice is totally free, but if you're feeling generous, you could always sponsor me to run The London Marathon!
With equal thanks and apologies to Baz Luhrmann
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