Eleven weeks which shook my world

Anna Dedhar allows her life to be ruled by a runner's ultimate goal

I made the decision to join the Independent on Sunday/Whizz-Kidz marathon team over a weekend, which was not long to think about it considering the huge task ahead.

I made the decision to join the Independent on Sunday/Whizz-Kidz marathon team over a weekend, which was not long to think about it considering the huge task ahead.

The team are running to raise money for wheelchairs and walking frames for disabled children, and if the decision was quick, so has been the learning. I've never been a club runner, and although I've run regularly for years it has been off-road and never further than six miles. Signing up 11 weeks before the race I needed a strategy - not the running-magazine training schedules, there wasn't time, and I had been warned to run only on alternate days after suffering toe stress fractures.

First, alcohol had to go - there was no time to waste on slow mornings. Out went the old cotton tracksuit that acted as a sail in wind and a dragnet in the rain, to be replaced by hi-tech lightweight shirt and tights. Next, my three runs of three miles a week became six miles each during the first week and then two or three runs of six miles and one extended run every week; first it was eight miles, then followed runs of 10 miles, 14, 16, 13.1 (in a race) 18 and 22, which was my peak before tapering off to 19 miles and finally 10.

I had to do at least one race as a dress rehearsal, and the only one that fitted the work rota was the Reading half-marathon on 12 March, six weeks into my training. It went fine, once I'd realised the importance of knowing exactly where the course begins. With over 7,000 entrants I nearly missed the gun. The start seemed curiously deserted. Finally, I asked a passer-by why and was told that was the children's gateway; our start was hundreds of yards away.

The weeks are now defined by the run tomorrow and the run yesterday. I'm now an expert in blister pads, and I've even been gardening in bare feet to toughen up winter-softened skin. Discovering new corners of south-east London was good, but the lesson of not looking around for too long was not so much fun. I'm timing my runs (nine-minute miles in ordinary training, 10 for endurance), carboloading, rolling out the jargon and, just occasionally, giving myself a lovely off-road run to remind myself I do actually enjoy it. The point of all this was to see if I could do it; in a week's time I'll know. Perhaps I'll also know what it feels like to "hit the wall", and what mile splits are.

 

Anna Dedhar is a sub-editor for The Independent. Donations to Whizz-Kidz can be made by credit card (call 020 7798 6118) or cheque (made payable to Whizz-Kidz, FREEPOST LON19191, SW1E 5ZY)

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