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This is worse than cold calling! Or 5 Lessons Learned from running my first marathon.

A few weeks ago I ran a marathon. 26.2 miles was certainly a challenge. It seemed completely do-able when I signed up on Christmas Day 2014 (after perhaps a glass of champagne too many). Up to this point, I had never raced further than 10km and many people suggested a half marathon first but I decided I might as well set a big goal, so a marathon it was. Now that a few weeks have gone past, and the legs have stopped hurting and I no longer need to wince when going down stairs, I can reflect on what I learned from completing this.

1. You cannot be too clear with your goals.

A question people have asked me is, “Did you think you wouldn’t finish?” To be truthful at no point did I feel I wouldn’t finish. I felt I wanted it to end quicker than the 26.2 miles, I felt my muscles were sore and I felt it was a stupid thing to have signed up for, but never that I wouldn’t finish it. I had set out with the goal that I would complete this before they closed the race down and the time to complete the marathon I wanted to be between 4 and a half hour and 5. I also decided before I started that I would really enjoy the first half. And I did.

2. It’s OK to rely on a support team.

For those of you who know me well, you will be aware I am a rather independent person. It is one of the things I value about myself so it was tricky for me to admit that I could not have done this without the help of my parents. They were stationed at every 5 miles and this simple fact made the miles just tick past. The most it would ever be on the mile counter until I saw them again was 4 miles. It made the 26.2 miles seems like merely 4 checkpoints and then the end.

3. Preparation – not hitting wall

As I have competed in triathlon for a number of years, I have consulted a professional sports nutritionist to help me with endurance races. She has helped me with the calculation for race preparation and also for the nutrition needed whilst racing. This meant that with the help of my amazing parents (see previous point), every time I saw them, they handed my next nutrition pack. The beauty of this was I did not hit the wall (when your body runs out of fuel to keep going).

4. Hills occur. Whether you want them to or not

The marathon I completed was hilly. I knew this before I started but still the sheer amount of hills surprised me. Coming from Oxfordshire, we have a few hills but not like these ones on the outskirts of Bath. One of these “hills” went up for over a mile and a half – surely, surely that counts as a mountain? It’s not dissimilar to when we set ourselves goals, we know there is likely to be something that makes it difficult but still we are surprised when it happens. The main point is the hills didn’t last forever. They certainly weren’t easy, but they finished.

5. You are unremarkable.

This comes down to some advice someone gave me the night before the race. At the time, I didn’t think it was very helpful but it turned out to really help. They said, “you’re not going to come first, you’re not going to come last. You are just there as a grid filler, a body to make the race go ahead. They need lots of people like you.” From about mile 14 onwards, when the whole race became less enjoyable, I thought about this. I thought about how hundreds of thousands of people complete marathons every year if not more and there was nothing special about me. This helped me to keep going as if all these other people could finish it, I was just like them, there was nothing special about me that would make me not finish, so I did.

So that all important question…. Will I do it again? Absolutely! Not this year though and on a flat course by choice – I mean why make more obstacles than you have to!

Anneli Thomson is MD of Sandler Training in Oxfordshire. She ran the marathon to raise money for Myton Hospice as a family member had been helped by them last year. If you would like to check her progress or sponsor her – the link is here (

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