Marathon Training Diary, Week 1: Sacrifice and abnegation

2 Comments4 July 2016  |  Alex

About Me

My name is Alex and I am a marathon runner. I'm not sure exactly why I ever chose to run a marathon, or why after having made the choice and dealt with the painful and draining consequences, I chose almost immediately (like, within a fortnight) to sign up for two other marathons this year. For people that knew me before I started running, my newfound love for the sport seemed to come completely out of the blue and was extremely out of character – even I, at times, catch myself wondering whether I have become a completely different person since I started running.

In October this year, I will (touch wood) be running the Amsterdam Marathon. Working for a website that is all about sport, I thought that it might be a good idea to document my efforts to prepare and train for the race – I hope that I at least have some nous and tips that I can pass along to those of you who are just starting out. Who knows, even those people who are au fait with running marathons might be able to pick up a tip or two.

Running as a Form of Sacrifice and Abnegation

I would say that I enjoy 95% of the runs that I go on and that after I am finished, I am glad that I did them. This doesn't mean that I don't look ahead at the next three months of training without a sense of trepidation. To run properly (and especially to run a marathon), you need to make sacrifices in other areas of your life. One of the things that I find most difficult to give up is the opportunity to sleep in at the weekends – I run roads and I run almost exclusively around London and this means that the earlier that you get up, the easier your run is going to be. Even if you've got the luxury of a course that is unimpeded at any time of the day, the sheer amount of time that running 20 - 40 kilometres takes means that (for me anyway) it is just better to get it out of the way. The sooner you set off, the sooner you get home.

The first sacrifice that I have made to my marathon training this time around is one of the easiest and unavoidable: smoking. Despite being a fairly dedicated marathon runner, I am also something of an idiot and one of the first things that I did after completing my last marathons was to have my first cigarettes in a while. If you have ever tried to complete a long run as a smoker, you will know that the difficulty is multiplied by two or three times. Giving up cigarettes can be pretty difficult but the idea of running a marathon without having quit is even trickier.

The idea of sacrifice has always been quite a noble one – from the Christian tradition of martyrs up to the modern idea of people doing something unpleasant or extreme for charity. To be a runner is to sacrifice and deny yourself – want to go to the pub after work? Better not drink as you've got a twenty-mile slog on the horizon. Fancy going away for the weekend? Only if I can stick to my schedule! I'm sure that for the majority of you that have trained for a race (no matter the distance), this will sound familiar. You've just got to ask yourself the question "Is my sacrifice worth it?"

My Week in Running

Due to my aforementioned idiocy, despite having run a marathon relatively recently (the Manchester Marathon in April), I haven't really run a significant distance since. Last week I ran my standard work-to-home route three times (it's roughly a seven kilometre journey), which doesn't really present me with any problems. I also ran a half-marathon at the weekend, managing to just scrape under the 1:50 mark (my personal best, for reference, is about 1:40) so I was pretty pleased, especially considering that I haven't run that distance since my last marathon.

Top 5 Running Songs of the Week

While there's been a lot of talk about whether or not you should run to music, I personally find that it is a big boon to my running (though I make an exception with races). Each week, I'll be giving you five of the songs that I love to run to – a few of the gems off of my personal playlist!

Justin Bieber – Sorry

I'm certainly not sorry to profess my love for this song, which is an absolute banger.

Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill

Another quite obvious choice (especially because I'm mad into Kate Bush, to, like, a worrying degree) but if you've ever been struggling to make it up an incline when this song comes on shuffle, you'll understand.

Temple of Coke – UK Garage Rock Medley

Providing a tongue in cheek tribute to the Garage bangers of the past (some of which will be gracing future blogs, I'm sure) this infectious medley is ideal for getting your heart racing.

Burial & Four Tet ft. Thom Yorke – Ego

Proving that not every running song has to be fast paced and designed to gee you up, the looping bass and drums of "Ego" allow you to get into a groove and help to keep you running at a regular pace.

Nina Simone – Sinnerman

Building up slowly from that iconic piano riff towards a cacophony of crashes, listening Nina Simone's Sinnerman while I'm running always makes me feel like I'm being chased (in the best possible way).

That's all for this week. Next week's topic: Why Do We Run?

If you're running a marathon or training for a race, I want to hear from you! Share your advice and your tricks below!

04 July 2016  |  15:24


My name is Agata and I would love to be able to complete the Ironman triathlon one day. In order to get there, I need to learn how to swim, beat Alexís marathon time... but I'm not worried about cycling. I can get everywhere in no time on my new bike!

I donít smoke, Iím vegan (like Scot Jurek!) and altogether a very nice person. I have better music taste too; I hate pop and love electro-ambient. I also think Aphex Twin is the best running music. I think I have fair chance of beating Alex!

04 July 2016  |  15:53

Hi Agata,

Thanks for getting in touch -- I'm sure that you'll be able to finish your Ironman (or maybe ironwoman is more appropriate?) triathlon one day. I've got to say, I can just about finish a marathon without swimming and cycling first, so I don't think a triathlon's on the cards for me just yet.

I love Aphex Twin too (and I think that the Richard D. James album is probably his best to run to), so you never know, keep tuned and I might mention a song you like!