Running with a little help from my friends
I’m Nikki and I’m a first-time marathon runner. I’m spending some time, talking to members of WH who have run a marathon, to find out about their marathon experiences and to see if I can collect as many marathon tips and tricks as I can for myself and other first-time marathon runners. This week I’m talking to WH Chair Neil Boosey. Neil has a lot of experience of marathons and ultra-marathons, on both trail and road, and was very happy to answer the Marathon Monday questions this week.
When I asked Neil, what question I should be asking, that would assist me and other first-time marathon runners, he replied, “Who wants to come training with me?” I laughed when I first heard his answer, but now I’ve had time to reflect upon it, I think it’s a pretty crucial question for any first-time marathon runner to be asking. I really thought I’d be able to get through all of the training on my own. I was very, very wrong. A top tip, if you’re a steadier runner or don’t know anyone else training for a marathon at your pace, ask people to run shorter distances with you, so you could run a few miles alone, to meet one person, run a few miles with them, to meet the next person, and so on. I have a great group of people willing to do this with me, to run at my pace, who just keep chatting to me and keep me going and it really transforms a long run. So, that’s definitely my top tip for this week, thanks to Neil.
So, here are the rest of Neil’s answers, talking about his first marathon run and his other tips and tricks for getting through and enjoying it.
1. Why did you enter your first marathon?
My old school friend Scott talked me into it (15years ago), it was the New Forest Marathon in 2005. It was great as we hadn’t been in touch much for years and we got to do some training runs and socials as we prepared.
2. What was the most valuable thing that you learnt whilst training for your first marathon?
The 10% rule, don’t increase long run distance or total mileage by more than 10% each week.
3. What did you learn whilst running your first marathon that no one had ever told you before?
I got chatting to a chap with an “100 Marathon Club” vest on, and I asked for his advice. He told me that Marathons are 20% in the legs and 80% in the head.
4. What did you do immediately after your first marathon and the next day?
Honestly? Straight after we went to a pub and I had a Pint of Guinness and a Roast dinner . The next day, I could barely make it down the stairs. Sorry Nikki, there was a lot of pain!
5. How many times have you run a marathon since?
About half a dozen marathons, I prefer the trail based longer races, which I’ve done over 15 of.
6. During later marathons, what have you learned that you wished you’d known for your first marathon?
Hydration/fuel from the start, not to wait until I’m thirsty, tired or hungry.
7. What was the favourite marathon you’ve ever run and why?
I loved the Andover marathon last year, as I was in amongst a bunch of similar paced runners, we were really competitive right to the end, great sportsmanship.
8. Do you have any tips for staying comfortable during the race?
• Practice, I try various foods/drink/kit combos to find out what does/not work.
• Find a pace that is comfortable.
• Stopping for a quick stretch or a walk, can help to ease an ache or pain.
• Never take NSAIDs e.g. Ibuprofen.
9. What tips do you have for overcoming the wall?
It’s best to go around a wall than through it, but that’s easier said than done. The Wall or “Bonking” happens when I run out of energy, this happens if I run too fast or I don’t drink/eat enough. It’s also worth learning how to recognise how it feels to bonk. For me it’s stressful feelings that I’m going to fail or get left behind by everyone or if I slow down and start getting overtaken. To avoid this, from the start of a race, it I drink Tailwind (400ml/hr), which does wonders, plus I eat about 200 calories per hour. Despite my wise words I can think of two occasions last year when I went out too fast and regretted it after a few hours. In that case, I slowed down and ate a GU Espresso Love, struggled for about 20 mins, then picked up the pace again.
10. What tips do you have for staying motivated whilst training for a marathon?
• Friends, get out with different folks to keep things fun.
• Train off road. 10 miles walking/jogging in the muddy hills around Godalming is like 20 miles on the road. Builds up ankle/ calf strength, reducing repetitive strain risk.
• Mix it up. Cycle, swim, walking all help.
• Rest is key, enjoy the rest days so that you recover and feel eager to get back out.
11. Is there anything else you’d like to share about marathon running, that hasn’t been asked here?
For me the race is great, but it’s not the most important thing. Having something in the diary that motivates (scares) me to plan, exercise, get out to club events and feel healthy, is a lifestyle thing.
Also, during a race there could be tough times, when thoughts turn negative, I try to zone out, some call it mindfulness. I stop thinking and just listen to my surroundings, my breathing, my feet, or when that fails, count to 4 then start again and so on.
12. Who’s been a big help to you whilst you’ve been marathon training?
Ruth is wonderful, she understands the ups and downs of preparing for events and dealing with injuries etc. WH have so many lovely people it’s easy to find someone, happy to spend a few hours out on the trails.