Running a marathon is a hugely demanding affair, not just for the runners themselves but for all those around them: partner, family, work colleagues and friends. It devours the runner’s attention and emotion just as much as it does their time, and disrupts the flow of day-to-day life, the ordinary. As it should: taking on a marathon is an extraordinary endeavour.
And the journey is so much longer than the 26.2 miles on the day: the idea may have been conceived some years before, but the preparation – and disruption – runs for many months before “The Day”. This means that those around the runner play a crucial role: it may be one of enthusiastic support, or of grudging – even resentful – tolerance. In fact, it will most likely be both, at different times.
So as a veteran of five (yes, a whole five) full 26.2-mile marathons, I thought that as I approach my sixth I might try to share some of what is going on in your marathoner’s head. It is written primarily to set the scene if your runner is attempting their first marathon, but much of it will still be true even if they (and you) are more experienced: subsequent runs do not necessarily become any easier, or more certain. If you know someone who is training for an autumn marathon like me (York, Nottingham, or maybe even Dublin or Berlin) you can follow it with me for as long as my ramblings last; or maybe your runner has their sights on London or Brighton or Paris in the spring in which case you will have the full set.
Either way, I hope you find it useful, and that it might make your runner’s and your lives a little smoother as you run this journey together.
Episode 1: A different kind of calendar