Ross Edgley explains how strength and stamina can co-exist in modern day training. It is true, or is it just gym folklore?
I entered the 2018 London Marathon the day after the event in 2017, having never ran over a 5k in my life.
My inspiration for doing so was the heartbreak of my Granddad passing away as a result of a stroke a month earlier, and I really wanted to make a difference for victims and their families who have experienced the same thing.
It was one of those it'll never happen to me moments, knowing that each year hundreds and thousands of people enter and only a few of those get selected, even less actually crossing the line on the big day.
Initially, I received my email in October telling me that I'd not been lucky enough to get a spot. In a way, I was relieved as the thought of training to run 26.2 miles was extremely daunting.
However, right before Christmas came, The Stroke Association got in touch to say that they had a spot for me. After a good few minutes of really freaking out, I accepted my place and began to look at the challenge that lay ahead of me.
This was huge and I had such a weird mix of emotions going round in my head - what had I signed up for?!
I am fortunate enough to have running in my family - my grandad on my mum's side is an endurance running coach, having ran tons of marathons in his life and not giving a second thought to a 10+ mile run on a wet and windy evening... at 71 years old!
I knew that I had the best advice possible available to me, and we sat down to plan a 16-week training plan. The great thing about training for the London Marathon, is that it aligns perfectly with the 'new year, new me' mantra, as most runners start their training in the early weeks of January.
My training is split into three to four runs a week and two cross-training/intense stretching sessions, with one or two rest days. One of the runs (usually on a Sunday) are my scheduled 'long runs' which first began at seven miles in January and are now at 18-20 miles right here in March.
I would be lying if I said that training has been easy, as there have been some really rough days - especially at about 15 miles into a long run where I had to ring my mum to ask her to shout at me to carry on...!
Cross-training is just as important as the shorter runs in the week; keeping your fitness up but not adding wear and tear to your joints. My go-to gym routine is usually 10k on the exercise bike, followed by a lot of core work as well as those all-important stretches to keep my joints and muscles in the best condition in preparation for whatever my long run has in store that week.
DRESSING THE PART
Having the right kit is so important. A good pair of trainers will make your training much easier - I have two pairs of the same which were professionally gait-tested at a running shop with a treadmill.
I alternate between the two, keeping my newer pair's mileage lower in preparation for the main event as I don't want them to be overused and worn out. These shoes support my whole running style and I know that I wouldn't have been able to get to this point in my training without them.
In terms of other running kit, the best way to see what's best is to try different options. I prefer a long sleeve and a capri pant, however some people love shorts and vests!
The only way to decide what to wear on the day is to try out a few shorter runs with different options and when you find an outfit that works for you: stick to it.
MIND AND BODY
I'd also recommend seeing a physiotherapist early on in your training to iron out any 'niggles' before they become problems. A problem that I am managing is a temperamental IT band which gives me the odd issue with my knee and hip - attending physio every 3-4 weeks has ensured that nothing stops me running.
When training to run 26.2 miles in one go, there are going to be huge changes to your mind and body.
First of all, I have proven to myself that I really can do something when I put my mind to it, and secondly, I think I've found my calling - I can eat so much food but still stay in shape!
On my long runs I am burning anything from 1,500 - 2,500 calories - so fuelling is so important. I haven't changed my diet too much, but my portions have got bigger and I still seem to be getting smaller.
Maintaining a healthy balance of carbs, protein and vegetables is key - and so is listening to your body. So when I really fancy a crumpet at 9pm in front of the TV, I am going to eat that crumpet!
This is as much a mental process as it is a physical one.
In terms of keeping your mind focused on the job in hand, some people recommend podcasts, others prefer audio books, but I haven't seemed to go far wrong with a playlist of my favourite songs.
Find what works for you. For me, the amazing sense of achievement I know I'll be feeling at the end of it all keeps me going through those bumpy miles of training.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
As the big day gets closer and closer, my main focus is maintaining my fitness and the pace I'm at right now. Now is not the time to push myself too hard, nor is it the time to make any huge lifestyle choices.
I'll be running my longest training run next week (22 miles!!) and then I will begin to taper. This is where my runs will be reduced to no more than 10 miles the week before the race.
I'm mostly looking forward to crossing the line and saying I've done it, as well as raising a huge amount of money for charity. This being said, I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm looking forward to a lie in on both days at the weekend!
Check out how much Emma's raised so far here.