Marathon Strategy (Or How Not To Look Like A Wretched Sack of Crap)

Added on 10 March 2011

The North Dorset Village Marathon is fast approaching. Fast. Much too fast. Seven weeks on Sunday. When I entered I had some grandly quick time in mind. 2 hours 30 minutes perhaps. Quicker, if I didn't stop to drink or anything; and then I could be sitting in the pub with a pint of cider and a plate of chips by lunchtime. Given that the last time I ran a marathon, I did it in 4 hours 14 minutes, I felt bloody awful, it was six years ago, and I've not been running all that much in the interim, two and a half hours was probably always going to be unrealistic. London 2012 is really a pipe dream. I'm just not on schedule. Better off aiming for 2016, when I'll be 52, and the Olympics will be in Rio, which by any standard is a good deal more exotic than London.

52... Holy crap.

So, having downgraded my projected time on the back of just plain not training enough, what realistic ambition should one have for the North Dorset Village Marathon. I've outlined a five point plan:

1 Don't die.

This one is fairly crucial. I've run five marathons before and didn't die at any of them, but I have felt absolutely bloody awful a few times, and immediately spewed forth a day's worth of energy bars and all the previous evening's pasta the minute I crossed the finishing line. And on one occasion I felt bad enough to realise how it is that people do actually die doing this. I can't die yet, as I haven't watched Scotland win the World Cup.

2 Don't throw up at the end.

The secret to not throwing up at the end is to keep hydrated and not to push yourself beyond your limits. Take time at the watering stations to drink, rather than wafting a sponge in the vicinity of your face. That kind of thing. I don't want to throw up at the end. I want to walk casually off, looking cool and smooth and oozing panache - rather than the wretched, salt-encrusted sack of crap that I have resembled in the past - and head to the pub for my cider and chips.

3 Don't try to run the marathon in under four hours

That would be stupid. I did it in under four hours once before, but I was fit back then, seven years younger, and even then I still felt bloody awful.

4 Do stop every now and again, put your feet up, admire the countryside or read the paper

Basically, don't be in a rush. I couldn't go 26 miles in two and a half hours if I was on a bike. Let's everybody just relax. If I take five hours, or even close to the time limit of six, it will be worth it if I don't die and I don't feel apocalyptically shit at the end.

5 Don't die.

Seems to be important enough to mention twice. Would be ironic if I didn't die running the marathon, but then died the following day walking a hundred yards up the road to the Co-Op. That'd be one for Alanis.

I've been running the last three days, but will take today off. Legs are tired. I'm going to work today. Either that, or sit with my feet up eating doughnuts and drinking tea, a much-maligned marathon training tactic that has served me well in the past.