It begins! Marathon Training and ‘Third Baby Syndrome’

On Sunday morning – the 3rd – my parents are leaving for a four month round-the-world trip, and on Tuesday I start my four months of training to run the London Marathon. If you’d told us a year ago that either of these would be happening there would have been some laughter in the room…

Most of you know the story of my running by now. When my mental health slumped at the end of 2014 my mum desperately suggested I run to fundraise for Mind. I’d tried running before and boringly never stuck at it. Within a few weeks of her suggestion, it had consumed my life more than anything I could remember since I taught myself web design as a teenager. I was utterly driven, utterly stubborn and – most strangely for me – lacking any doubt that I could do it. I was emotionally and financially broken. I spent four hours in a back room at Leicester Station after having an anxiety attack on the train on the way to a birthday party. But when it came to running, I had no fear. I started with the gaudy Couch to 5K app in January, then ran the London 10K at the end of May, raising £700 for Mind, then the Oxford Half Marathon in October, just to show I could. In June, I decided to enter the London Marathon to fundraise for Mind again. I paid the last of my entry fee just before the Christmas break, and Lodger bought me a £25 Sports Direct Giftcard as a present. I ran a 10K with my mum on Boxing Day. This is it. 

The self-doubt I’ve bizarrely lacked about running all through the year has come crashing around my ears over the holiday. The Marathon is my third running event and it seems I have a case of Third Baby Syndrome. This is – I’ve been told – the name for what seasoned parents (chuh, those mythical people whose relationships last longer than three months…) go through when they get to their third. An ever-interchanging mixture of blind panic and blase nonchalance.

The panic: “Oh God, why a third!? Wasn’t two enough!? What am I trying to prove? What if all those people chuckling and saying ‘Rather you than me!’ and ‘You must be mad!’ and ‘I can’t imagine having three, it would kill me! How will you manage?’ are right? How AM I going to manage!?”

Then the nonchalance: Scoffing at all the advice books/blogs/articles/plans/special diets you poured over for your first two, realising that a fraction of them were very helpful and most of them were irrelevant or a load of bunk and you can ignore them and just busk it. “Fuck it, I don’t need to do that/buy that/eat that/avoid that! I just did X last time and it was fiiiiine! Most of these ‘experts’ are just trying to scare you or rip you off anyway!”

The training plans. Oh, the training plans! Even the ones labelled as Beginner or Intermediate are BONKERS. How they expect anyone to complete them as well as work, eat, live and have friends is beyond me. Granted, I was barely working last year when I started so I could pretty much run when and where I wanted. This year I have actual social life and (hopefully, if business holds up…) actual proper work to think about. I used Runkeeper’s Beginner Half Marathon plan for my half, which I liked because it was preloaded into the app and all I had to do was follow it. The Runkeeper plan for a full Marathon has two or three 22-25 milers in March. Excuse me, but FUCK THAT. I’ve decided to go it alone this time and customise a plan for myself, based around one of the beginner plans on the official Marathon website. It’s slightly babyish to begin with, but I’d rather start simple – as I did last year – than exhaust myself by February. I’m also going to split most of my medium-to-long runs between Saturday and Sunday so that I can use short local routes I don’t need money or a car to get to. All of this means I have to enter all my workouts into my phone manually, which I will probably do wrong, but at least I’m training on my own terms…

In no order, some of the things I’m worried about…

  • My diet. Most people who run a Marathon schlep around to their parents’ for a big, free dinner sometime in March when they get too knackered from all the training. Slight problem: In March, mine will be in New Zealand and Fiji. My only friend in Bucks (or so it feels mostly…) has already offered to cook dinner for me at some point, which is super-lovely. Friends who love to cook are brilliant. Friends who love to cook for vegetarians are even more brilliant!
  • My feet. In 2014 I injured a tendon so badly that I couldn’t walk for six weeks just by wearing my sandals too tight. I still have a black left toe from the half Marathon ten weeks ago. Happily, an intuitive friend bought me a Soap and Glory Pedicure cream as a Christmas present, and my intuitive mum bought me some long-handled pedicure scissors. There’s also a house thirty seconds across the road from me advertising manicures and pedicures in the window…
  • The 18 and 20 milers. The two big “dress rehearsal runs” at the end of March/beginning of April. I Googled for interesting/scenic routes I could do in London before having visions of getting hideously lost, crumpled and weeping down some side street, and realising that running five loops around Hyde Park is the only way I can possibly manage. Embarrassingly, I didn’t even know until my dad pointed it out that Hyde Park is right near Paddington, so I can easily get to it. FFS, I was born in Paddington. On the plus side, I do know that Paddington station has luggage storage and showers. Score!
  • Work. Well, I’m always worried about that. Even the good things (No daily commute at the moment. I often work from home…) leave me guilty for not having them to worry about. But, I am less worried about it than I have been for years.
  • How the mother-of-flip I’m going to raise £1,750. £700 for the 10K was amazing. £1,750? Eeeep. When I applied I had to explain how I was going to raise the money. My pitch boiled down to: “I’m a journalist. I’ll think of something.” I need to…
  • Keeping up with this blog I was slightly disappointed not to be chosen as one of the running bloggers for the official Marathon website, but then, my reasons for doing this aren’t the most palatable. Never mind, it’s all here…

Mind are a wonderful charity I am very happy to be running for (I throughly enjoyed carol singing at Canary Wharf with them too).  There are a few other equally-wonderful ones I would have split the money with if I could raise enough and who deserve a mention…

  • The Dyspraxia Foundation, who made me a Trustee this year.
  • Cruse. A friend recommended bereavement counselling to me at the end of last year. I was skeptical given past recent experience but ended up going for five months and had the most wonderful counsellor, who I still sometimes miss.
  • The Samaritans, where my dad is a volunteer. Not specifically because of me, I should add, but because he’s an all-round good egg who does those sorts of things.

If you can, please consider helping them as well as sponsoring me.

And please be nice to me for the next four months because I’m a bit petrified right now. This will be the longest I haven’t seen my mum and dad or any of my family, despite having lived in Durham and Wales when I was much younger than now. And this is the biggest challenge I’ve taken on since I moved to Durham University at 19, in the year I’d had a breakdown. If I hadn’t gone there then, I probably wouldn’t be doing this now at 31-and-a-half. There’s something to think about (in a roundabout, morbidly philosophical way…)

Deep breath. Here we go….


2 thoughts on “It begins! Marathon Training and ‘Third Baby Syndrome’

  1. Go Maxine!! You CAN and WILL DO IT!! I believe in you and your ability to do complete this little run (or walk if you have to), so you can also get back to believing in yourself….
    I will support as and when you need, I will even give money to your charity; the only thing I can’t do is run with you – sod it!
    First Pilates class is 6.30 pm on 6th Jan at Downley Old School Community Centre. Be There. I will collect you if you want.
    Happy New Year!
    Mike x

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