It’s decision time: are you motivated to run a marathon?

If you are prepared to prioritise your running for the next 17 weeks, you’ll be able to smile at the finish line

Enthusiastic runners of all shapes, sizes, ages and sexes setting out last year at the start of the Airtricity Dublin Marathon, in which more than 14,500 took part. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Enthusiastic runners of all shapes, sizes, ages and sexes setting out last year at the start of the Airtricity Dublin Marathon, in which more than 14,500 took part. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 01:00

On October 27th, in 17 weeks’ time, thousands of people will be hobbling around the streets of Dublin city wearing a smile on their face and a medal around their neck. The sense of pride, relief and disbelief that you feel after your first marathon makes all the training and dedication worthwhile. It all starts early that morning as you line up with the rest of the runners nervously discussing pacing, the weather, toilet stops and post-run dinner plans. You doubt every bit of your training and suddenly feel the enormity of what lies ahead. You are about to run a marathon.

Thankfully, the nerves disappear once the run starts and for one day only you are cheered around the city streets by friends and strangers alike. Once you cross that finish line, you are a different person. You are a marathoner, and as anyone else who has competed a marathon knows, it changes you in ways you never even imagined. It helps you believe that if you put your mind and time into anything, you can achieve the impossible.

As tempting as all that might sound, arriving at the finish line of a marathon is not easy, and to do so with a smile on your face is quite an achievement. The key is preparation.

There are 17 weeks from today to the Dublin Marathon. Do you want be one of those smiling faces at the finish line? The first step is working out if it is realistic for you to take on a marathon this autumn.

Before you rush out the door for a run, ask yourself the following questions:

Fitness

If you can run 10k comfortably and have at least one or two years of running in your legs, you are in a great starting position for marathon training. Are you injury-free and confident over 10k?

Reason

There will be days when you don’t feel like going for a run, runs where you feel like stopping, and times when you run past a park bench and wish you could sit down. You need a reason that’s going to help you stay on track. Why do you want to run a marathon?

Finances

There are many hidden costs in running a marathon. We are tempted to buy new running gear, fancy watches, sign up for races, attend sport massage or physio, and buy everything from blister plasters to energy gels. Can you afford the investment?

Miles

Marathon training will involve four or five runs a week, depending on the training plan you follow. You will have one long run each week and the rest will be short runs. Do you have the time for a long run and at least three short runs every week?

Sacrifices

It’s important to be fresh for your long runs. Early nights and a clean diet make your training easier and your runs stronger. Can you prioritise the marathon over late nights and tempting summer food and drink?

Commitments

Consider what events, holidays, weddings and exams you have coming up this summer. You will need to be able to fit in your runs around these events. It’s important that you can focus mentally on the marathon training and not be distracted by other events in your life. Can you organise your summer around your training?

The marathon doesn’t have to take over your life, but it certainly helps if you can prioritise it. Don’t just start running miles aimlessly. Once you decide to commit, get a training plan in place. Structure the training around your holidays, events and work commitments. Be sensible and structured yet flexible in your training. Treat each day of the next 17 weeks as part of the marathon.

When you come to marathon day, you will have 95 per cent of the hard work done and you can enjoy the race itself. You can be one of those smiling marathoners on that day if you put the work in now. The race day will be your reward for the effort you put in over the summer. You will certainly deserve your medal for that.

Are you still tempted?

Marathon tasks for July

Commit to the race. Set up your

training plan. And get running. If you need support to train for a marathon, Mary Jennings’s 16-week Dublin Marathon coaching programme starts this week. See forgetthegym.ie. For more articles about running and fitness, or to sign up to our Get Running beginners and 10k courses, see irishtimes.com/getrunning.

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