On your marks: Countdown to the Dublin City Marathon
Mary Jennings: With 20 weeks until the big day, it’s time to plan your training schedule
The starting line at last year’s Dublin City marathon. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Your first steps to the Dublin Marathon
The countdown is on for this year’s Dublin City Marathon. Such is the interest in this iconic event that already the 20,000 places have sold out. If you missed out this time, hard luck. But if you are one of the lucky ones who secured a spot for the coveted start line, it’s time to start thinking ahead. It is natural to be apprehensive as well as a little over enthusiastic about the mileage involved. But there is no need to rush into long runs just yet. With 20 weeks until the big day, you have time now to get organised. Be sensible and practical in June and it will stand to you in the autumn.
Find your plan
There are many different paths to the marathon start line, but it would be foolish to ignore the benefits of having a practical and realistic training plan in place. Seeing a plan on paper helps us visualise where we are going but also holds us back from rushing into long mileage too soon. Our weekly check-in with our plan keeps the focus and the weeks are less likely to disappear into a summer blur. There is a variety of training plans available from coaches, clubs and online. In principle, most plans will require three or four midweek runs with a long run at the weekend. The miles will build gradually in the weekend runs right up to the beginning of October, before a wind-down phase for the final few weeks.
Make it personal
It’s easy to download a recommended training plan and assume it will work for you but it is important to remember that a plan needs to fit into your personal schedule in order for it to be a success. Be realistic about how often you can train and note any summer commitments that will restrict your schedule. Do not commit to a plan that looks unachievable from the start. As you progress through the summer, it will only bring stress, tension and anxiety as you cut corners in your training and your personal life to make it work. Indeed, some compromises are required to fit any marathon training plan but if you define these compromises up-front there is less uncertainly. You can adapt your training plan to make sure that your work, personal life and training maintain the correct balance.
Put pen to paper
It’s worthwhile in these early stages of training to write down your views on the marathon. Why are you running the marathon? What are you nervous about? What are your reasons for committing to such a challenge? Identify how important the marathon is to you and how much you are willing to invest in it. There will come times in training when you get frustrated and being able to look back over your reasons for running will give you the focus and direction you need to remain motivated.
It is also worth noting your marathon goals at this stage. While they may change over the summer, knowing your targets will help you fine-tune your training plan. As a first timer, I wouldn’t commit to any time goal but instead set a goal to enjoy the training as well as the race day. If you ever run another marathon in the future you can then choose to beat your 2018 time. Maybe you wish to run to raise money for charity or maybe you have a very personal goal. Write it all down and these notes will be very valuable in the later stages of training when you need to remember the person you were before you spent a summer on the road to the marathon.
There is no point wasting your energy worrying about the long miles that lie ahead in the autumn. Your body will adapt if you focus on the current week in your training plan and don’t get distracted by the future. Don’t stress about pacing right now either. It’s hard to know at this stage what your marathon pace will be, especially if you have no experience of such a long distance. Accept that by August you will have a much better idea of how your body has adapted to the endurance training. Avoid thinking about everything that might go wrong on race day. By the time the race day arrives, you will be a completely different runner than the one you are now. Take the focus away from your doubts and instead get excited about what might go right and all the new challenges that lie ahead.
More than miles
Nothing I have written here involves running a mile – it just requires you taking a little time out to set some structure to your summer, to plan the road ahead and to be able to enjoy the whole process. A marathon is so much more than a race day. Right from the minute you signed up until you cross that finish line there will be memories made, friendships created and lessons learnt that will stay with you well into your future. Treat every day of these next 20 weeks as part of your marathon journey.
Every day, ask yourself if what you are doing is helping or hindering your marathon success. A series of simple choices and decisions will all add up to a strong, confident and successful runner come marathon day.
Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!).
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!