Trade your complaining for marathon training

Laughing, not whining, will help you through the next six months

The hardest thing about a marathon is staying motivated throughout your training. Photograph: Thinkstock

The hardest thing about a marathon is staying motivated throughout your training. Photograph: Thinkstock

Fri, May 16, 2014, 11:40

Q I am a 29-year-old complainer and serial feeling-sorry-for-myselfer. My life is fine in the grand scheme of things but I am a serial whiner and giver-upper, and my inner bitch has been sat on for years by inner lazy cow (depression) and inner whiny cow (anxiety).

I am a preschool teacher living in the British Virgin Islands. I am running the New York marathon in November. Having randomly signed up for this after three glasses of white wine at a house party, I applied and got in.

Unfortunately for me, the girl who talked me into applying is a triathlete, whereas I am a lover of both the couch and the potato (covered in butter, cheese and mayo). Although I am absolutely nowhere near marathon status yet, I can run six miles and started running, thanks to your book, about six months ago. I have managed to go from “I can’t do this” and looking at the cancellation policy, to “I hope I can do this”, to “I am totally going to do this.” Can you please help me?

A You have signed up for your first marathon in much the same way as I did. In my late 20s, I was in a pub and jealous of a girlfriend who announced she was running the London marathon and so, half cut, I declared I was going to run it too. It felt like nothing short of madness to do so, especially as I had never run farther than the bus stop before, but simultaneously it felt gutsy and exhilarating; just entering it gave me a huge injection of motivation.

So, well done for signing up and your (much longer) email had me laughing out loud, so thank you for that. Your keen sense of humour, aside from your training, is your most valuable weapon in running a marathon, because you need to be able to laugh a lot or risk crying a hell of a lot more. Plus, you can already run six miles, which is fantastic. Only 20 or so to go.

Six months is an ideal amount of time to have you race ready. As for your triathlete buddy, no one knows better than she does how courageous you are to have taken on this challenge, and she will be full of admiration for you. Just don’t try to beat her on race day, or attempt to follow her training plan. You will lose.

Decide now what a “win” would look like for you. For example, do you want to complete your marathon in five hours without stopping or walking? It is a really good idea to have a goal, so you can run towards that from now on.

The hardest thing about a marathon is staying motivated throughout your training, so you need to source inspiration from as many places as you can. Inspiration can come from raising money for a chosen cause; vowing to beat the person who is in front of you at mile 18; entering a few 10km races and a half marathon; beating the clock; and so on.