Improving Health Habits and How Not to Train for a Marathon

When friends said we could just walk a Marathon I thought what a lovely idea and then we can say we have done one. I guess I didn’t really factor in that a Marathon is still a Marathon and going to be hard work either way!

I guess it is true that if you just keep doing the same thing then things will never change, and so this year I have been working harder on making changes for my health. Hopefully making my first Marathon easier. I am not getting any younger, and yes turning forty has brought with it things I just wasn’t expecting. They have made me question what I do and what may happen in the future if I do not address things.

Good Sleep Habits

I have always been great at sleeping and I do fear what happens if, or when, there comes a point when I may struggle with sleep. I currently do practise sleep meditation (try it even a fifteen minute power nap can do wonders). More importantly I have been trying to regular ensure I go to bed at 10 pm. It is quite shocking how much I feel so drained if I go to bed even as early as 11 pm now – considering how late I used to stay up.boy sleeping in lavender field

Giving Up Alcohol

My children aren’t big on alcohol – probably seeing the effects of my binge drinking. Our teen particularly makes lots of comments about it. So this year I decided not to drink. I was going out drinking every Friday with my friends so this has been quite a change. I have been out a handful of times this year where others are drinking and I have not. I know I use it as a crutch and there have also been so really difficult times when I really would have just turned to drink. The only time I was really tempted was when there was a close death in the family – but my husband put the can of cider away before I opened it, telling me how well I was doing.

I had read a book last year – The Unexpected Joy of being Sober by Catherine Gray. The author overcame a really bad drink problem and it was a crossed between a self-help book and autobiography. Thing is it made me really stop and look at alcohol and society’s attitude to it in a really different way. The whole idea that drinking is the only way we can have fun, be confident and deal with things – when actually all we are really doing is not really enjoying ourselves, becoming more anxious and certainly not having fun!it doesn’t help that drinking has been part of normal culture for me since I was small. Growing up around people who would dip a dummy in whiskey and I have been drinking since I was 8 years (and a lot more than an odd glass of wine at Christmas by around 14 years at the very least; to throwing up paralytic at 17). Underage Drinking - DrinkawareI need to reread it and if you fancy it too it is £8.99 ISBN 978-1-912023-28-7.

I guess one of the big things for me was suddenly realising how people were perceiving me. Like the guy who told me his heartbreaking story and I was too drunk to remember it – and then drunkenly asked him to tell me again! It is interesting watching people drunk when sober, thinking about if that could be me and what others around me could have been thinking. Obviously I haven’t been alcohol free for long and I am not sure I will last the year but it will be interesting to see what a difference it makes on me. The first one being sleep (see above) as I am not coming in at silly o’clock Saturday mornings and running Parkrun with a hangover. I also do not have much caffeine, (I start the day with hot lemon water and if I have tea we use decaf bags), but if I go out drinking I have far too many jager-bombs and feel my heart thumping out of my chest all night.

Improving my Running

Now I am sleeping better and not drinking it means I am better able to concentrate on running. I guess this is the area that I am probably pushing the most (if not too much). Firstly I am running Parkrun more efficiently each week as I am not always hung over with too much caffeine inside me. We take it in turns to run with our under 11 now (and often helping encouraging a friend’s teenager round) and the other week we run faster. In fact my husband even often comes back to run with the under 11 when he has finished, allowing me to run the last bit faster too. This year I have cut off 29 seconds from my PB (personal best) and just this last weekend hubby has taken off 31 seconds.

I have Tewkesbury Half Marathon coming up in four weeks and my first Marathon in eight weeks. I have no training plan and feel like I am not ready for them at all. I just do not know where the time has disappeared. I know I want to beat my last time when I was injured but I had trained more for that. I generally run around 4 or 5 miles on a Tuesday with my running club (who I am now an affiliated member) and then my 3.1 miles at Parkrun. I decided that what I needed to do is run more often, rather than trying to fit in a long run. So I have started to add in a Friday run when our son is having swimming lessons. Just another 3 miles but hopefully it is the habit more than anything.

Gloucester 20

I have done a couple of long runs – although honestly don’t come looking for advice as this REALLY isn’t the way to do it! I ran 15 miles with friends at a slower than usual pace and then joined one of them for Gloucester 20. See above how I was only running 8 miles a week! We had said that we were going out at a 13 minute mile – but it turned out that we had to do 12 as there was a cut off. It was 3 loops and you had to have done the 12 minute mile pace for the first two laps or they wouldn’t let you do the third.

Well this race isn’t for slow runners I can tell you that now! We started at the back so that we didn’t get pulled along too quickly – but that didn’t work. As the other runners zoomed off and we thought we were keeping a steady pace at the back (with an ambulance sweeping us up/pushing us along) my friend realised that actually we were doing a 10 minute mile! We ran as a three and waited for each other – and as I walked a bit to wait for one of us one of the marshals told me off and to “keep moving” – but not in an encouraging way either! By the time we were coming to the end of the second loop we had completed a half-marathon and I was in so much pain. I said I was going to give up. I even ended up scratching my arm on some bramble. I thought it wasn’t worth the injury as I hadn’t trained for it. But then I would have had to just stand around getting cold waiting for the others – so caught them back up and decided to complete it. Again the area with the moody marshal was packing up as we went round – I think this is wrong as literally another minute or so (there were a couple of runners not far behind us) and everyone would have been done without this feeling that they weren’t important enough! We all finished at around the 4 hour mark too (it was actually a couple of minutes over so at least they weren’t too strict about that!). At the end we were given a banana – and oh my never did one taste so good!

Obviously this is the how not to train bit – but it did give me an insight into fueling. I am never running with nuts in a tin again they were soooooo noisy!

The 10 Year Challenges

The running club I belong to is 10 years old this year and so they have a challenge sheet and if you achieve 10 of them by the end of the year you get a medal. I had already ticked off a few – such as 26 miles in a week (the week I ran 15 miles at once); run with somebody different (I have started running with the fastest group at club!) Parkrun Tourist, Volunteer and I decided that the Gloucester 20 mile should be the “create your own challenge”! As it happens I received club runner of the month too (who also get a little gift of a Sports Direct voucher).female runners selfie before gloucester 20

7 Day Challenge

One of the challenges in to run 7 days in a row – and I don’t think this is as easy as it sounds. I had tried to do Red January (which is run every day in January) just doing a mile a day but I soon became in a lot of pain by day 10 (I have to admit I was trying to do fast miles to get them out-of-the-way). But I had managed to get out and run with the Thursday ladies – as well as adding in my Friday run. Obviously Saturday is Parkrun and I had stupidly agreed to take a club runner’s place at Angels 10k on the Sunday (I say stupidly I had no idea about the “undulating course” before I agreed), then I managed to go for what was meant to be a recovery run on the Monday (but I took my husband and it ended up being a fast run). So this left just the club run and one more on the Wednesday. But by Tuesday my legs were screaming at me! Our teen often gives me leg massages and he was refusing (telling me that I am running wrong or I wouldn’t need so many). The run involved going up a tiny bit of a hill and it was such a killer. I didn’t think I was going to make it to the end of the run! Luckily I had a professional sports massage booked in on Wednesday and my new trainers arrived so I managed a short run to complete the 7 day challenge!

Since then my legs have still been aching so I have taken it much easier. I walked a little on Friday but didn’t run. Saturday I ran with the under 11 (even though it wasn’t my turn) and yesterday I just went for a 4 mile walk with my husband – to make sure I was still keeping moving. I think the main thing is to definitely get my body used to all these miles, at whatever speed.

Footwear for a Marathon

Now I just have nothing comfortable, that I like, which isn’t falling apart. New ones arrived but they just aren’t right. I had some advice from a very nice trainer shop in Worcester (The Active Foot Company). They do not stock barefoot trainers but do have a lot with a zero drop and I had lots of great advice. I was told that my calves keep hurting because I am tackling miles, speed and hills – as opposed to running wrong!


What is seriously lacking though is my diet – especially sugar. I am looking at diet with the boys for home education so hopefully that will be the next thing to tackle.pile of oranges


I was sent a copy of The Unexpected Joy of being Sober by Catherine Gray for purposes of review – I have had it ages I am ashamed to say but it is so good it is because I wanted to read it again and really pull out the key points but just haven’t got around to it.

1 thought on “Improving Health Habits and How Not to Train for a Marathon”

  1. Well done on all your efforts to get healthy! I think giving up alcohol is the very best thing you can do for yourself and will help in so many other areas of your health, as you’ve discovered. You are crazy to run 20 miles without training, but you did it! I’m in awe. Good luck with the half and the marathon.


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