Over the last week I have been unable to avoid the constant social media posts about applying for your London Marathon 'Good For Age' place. 'Are you Good For Age?' it asks. Well no, according to London Marathon guidelines I am not. This led me to thinking a bit more into the 'Good For Age' branding of runners...
When I ran my first marathon I was 23. I was juggling marathon training, fundraising for a £2k charity place, a full time job, a full time masters degree, learning to drive, and various voluntary commitments. I was stepping up from being a 10k runner to a 26.2 mile runner. I was learning with each training week, resisting things most 23 year olds wouldn't event think about, and pushing myself hard. My point is, at 23 when I ran the London Marathon in 4:09:32, I feel this was 'good', not just for my numerical age, but for the point I was in my life.
That is just my example. There will be other runners out there who I am sure have ran marathons under many adverse circumstances, from a variety of backgrounds, and with numerous lifestyle factors going on. They will have recorded times they are (rightly) proud of, but times which are not actually classed as 'good' simply according to the year they were born. Then there is of course the physiological differences between everyone; no 30 year old is physically the same - so what's to say they should all run the same time?
I can see how the system works in certain cases, as some runners will train hard and push the boundaries of their body at a certain age and this is admirable. But should a birthday and a numeric clock time really be correlated? Should it be able to class you as 'good' or essentially 'not good'?
I am striving to run a 'Good For Age' marathon time simply so I can run the London Marathon again; the ballot chances are getting increasingly ridiculous and I have completed the race for charity before, which although rewarding, is stressful meeting fundraising targets. But really shouldn't I just be running to my own 'good' targets?
I know my Manchester Marathon time this year was not 'good' for me - it wasn't what I trained to do, and was not what deep down I know I could have been capable of. We know our own lives, our own limitations, and our own possibilities - so I feel slightly sad that a mass participation event such as the London Marathon should get to classify us. According to the London Marathon for a (now) 24 year old female, I am not a 'good' runner. But as a 24 year old female I am proud of what I have achieved - which surely matters more.
I am not sure yet whether I will enjoy running a marathon... I will soon be finding out though! But what I am sure is that I have enjoyed marathon training.
I have seen a few quotes online and on various social media streams which states 'marathon training will take over you life' or 'marathon training will change you life' and whilst I agree it has, I don't agree this is a bad thing. Over the past sixteen weeks when I have been in full marathon training mode I have learnt a number of things which have really enhanced my marathon training experience and in their own unique way have added to my enjoyment levels of it all:
1) You can never have enough running gear
Seven pairs of running shorts and seven tank tops is perfectly acceptable when you are running so much (well in my mind anyway!) Plus I definitely did need that new running jumper, and that headband, oh and those gloves... A sale in Intersport will never be as exciting unless you are marathon training.
2) It's ok to run slow
Marathon training has definitely taught me you do not need to record a PB on every single training run, let alone every single race. Running longer and slower has allowed me to explore more of my hometown, take in the scenes and enjoy my surroundings - which is a lot harder to do if you are fixated by your Garmin!
3) There is more to eat in life than just beige food
Before marathon training my diet was literally beige, both in colour and taste. My food was plain and basic. However through absorbing all the nutrition advice Runner's World can possibly offer I have since been adding actual flavours to my foods! I am proud to say there are now a number of herbs, spices and seeds sitting happily in my food cupboard.
4) Training is better with friends
My friends have helped make my marathon training experience so much more enjoyable and also bearable. People who will listen to me recount both the achievements and struggles of my weeks of running, sympathise with the aches and pains in my legs, and offer that needed encouragement at just the right time. A text on a Sunday morning asking how your long run went as you lay collapsed on the sofa somehow instantly makes your body feel a little bit better!
5) You develop a love/hate relationship with your Garmin watch
An item so essential when training for a marathon but also so frustrating. Those seemingly endless minutes stood in the cold waiting for it to 'find location' at the start of a run. Then at the end of a run wishing those last few metres would count down quicker as you run up and down the same piece of your street. Then there are those extremely annoying times when you go to run and realise the thing you depend on so greatly isn't even charged...
6) There is no such thing as bad running weather
Gale force winds, sleet, ice, heavy rain... all conditions I would have never even dreamed of choosing to run outside in before marathon training. But I have happily embraced them and the individual challenges they chose to throw at you.
7) The treadmill is actually the dreadmill
Before marathon training I spent the majority of my time running on a treadmill. Now I can just about bring myself to do 5k on there. Staring at the same view, or watching some mindless TV gameshow literally does not even come close to the enjoyment I now get from running outside. Beforehand a lot of the reason I resorted to the treadmill was confidence, I didn't like people seeing me out running, but marathon training has made me feel proud to be out on the streets!
8) Sports massage is a pain worth bearing
Before marathon training the idea of having someone manipulate my body and squeeze my muscles to the point of extreme pain was definitely not something I wanted to do. But I plucked up the courage to invest in sessions during my training - which was a decision made probably more to do with the fact my calves were so painful more than my mind telling me it was a good idea! But I am so pleased I took the step and am now converted.
9) Skinny jeans are a struggle
The largest change I have seen in my body from marathon training is in my calves. They have definitely got bigger. Either that or the legs of my skinny jeans have all shrunk in the wash! Pulling jeans on over my calves literally requires me to sit down and is certainly not a graceful act!
10) Sweaty selfies
You don't have to look good in every single photo you take of yourself! I feel proud looking back at my - often very unflattering - sweaty post run selfies, as they all document the effort I have put in during marathon training to help me make it to race day.
I was delighted to come home this week to find a parcel waiting for me containing my London Marathon running top! I love the top for three reasons:
1) It proudly shows who I am running the London Marathon for - vInspired
vInspired support so many young people across the UK develop their own skills through volunteering whilst also helping to make vital changes in their local area. I have personally had support from the charity and know how beneficial this process is on both the young person and the community in which they volunteer.
2) Its got my name on
I have read in so many blogs and articles how motivating it can be to have spectators shout out your name when running the Marathon, I also think its quite a good way to be able to strike up conversation with fellow runners!
3) Its purple
I love purple exercise wear. Sometimes I am guilty of leaving for a run looking a little too purple! The fact that vInspired's colour scheme is purple therefore suits me perfectly. I now just need to decided which of my numerous pairs of purple running shorts match best!
My only slight worry is the fact I will be running in a t-shirt... I am used to wearing vest tops as I tend to get hot very easily whilst running. So on Marathon day if you see a purple, sweaty mess running by with 'Alice' on their top you will definitely know its me!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...