What happened to the fun?

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With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll wager that all the things that end up pear-shaped in life will all have seemed like a good idea at the time. They may have even started with some small innocuous sentence. Here are some classics…
  • Lets just go for a quick drink, yeah just the one...
  • I’ll have the vindaloo please…
  • We probably won't need trail shoes…
  • Who else is entering the <insert marathon here>

You probably didn’t even get to the end before working out that a marathon would be up there in the list of stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time, and there’s a lot of truth in that. It's not just beginners who, when getting close to the M-Day, start to have doubts about their choices, all runners go through it.
 
One of the biggest reasons why runners start to feel like they’ve made a mistake and shouldn’t have entered a marathon is the sheer, unrelenting boredom combined with physical and mental fatigue that kicks in roughly two thirds of the way through the plan. Most likely you’ve trained through the dark, rain, sleet, wind and possibly snow. You’ve woken up at stupid o’clock at the weekend. You’ve run alone, with people, in crowds. You’ve worried you’ve peaked too early, you’ve worried you’re not ready, you’ve worried you wont finish. You’ve been unable to walk properly for days on end. You’ve felt permanently hungry and gorged on whatever is in your cupboards…for days on end. You’ve felt deflated, elated and agitated in the same day. To cut it short, you’ve been through the grinder, and then some….and there’s still weeks to go.

So what’s that all about then? Why do we put ourselves through all that? Some might say the end is worth it. The moment when you hold your beer in one hand, medal in the other, and wear the smile of a champion, grinning from ear to ear, makes it all worthwhile. I know it is, because I’ve been there, but first-timers don’t.
 
So, could we do that any differently and still get to the same place? This is the million dollar question…the single biggest thing that no-one thinks of at the start of the training, is just how drained you will become just trying to stick to the plan. Many simply stop! Many give up on running altogether as a result. It’s a fact. No-one, it seems, factors in any ‘fun’ training events into their schedule to break up the monotony of ‘mile after mile’ and give them a little something to look forward to. Simple things can break up the miles, like speedwork sessions with the club or novelty races, or parkrun. More important than simply entering ‘fun’ events, is attending with a ‘fun’ state of mind. Take away the pressure, relax, and run for a laugh for a change. You could try running off road too, the change of scenery from buildings to trees and the feel of trails underfoot will help remove the some of the stress of the training.

It seems to make a lot of sense to try and factor some fun stuff into the plan, just to keep sane and also force yourself to run with less pressure. In the end, there are no magic formulas though, but it's true that you stand a better chance of being in top shape on the start line if you de-stress yourself along the marathon training journey, remembering that above everything else, it should be fun, and when it's not, your body soon lets you know about it.

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