'My first marathon'

Before her first marathon, Susie Wood wasn't much of a runner. Nor was she particularly sporty.

This article was part of a special report on the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Susie did enjoy cycling, clocking up 40 minutes a day as part of her daily routine.

Then one year she went to support some friends who took part in the London Marathon – and was inspired.

“I found it really moving to see all these people doing this amazing thing,” she says. “They had trained for so long and this was their day. I wanted to experience that.”

She began a six-month training schedule for beginners for the 2008 London Marathon. “The programme is designed to take you from a standing start to being able to run a marathon,” says Susie, from Peckham.

“The training programme was fundamental. Its aim is getting you to have enough fitness and stamina to run a marathon with minimum risk and injury.”

Marathon training regime

Susie is 165cm (5ft 5in) and has a slight build. She sometimes drinks alcohol. Her healthy lifestyle and physique were a good basis for the rigours of a demanding training regime.

Week one involved alternating short bursts of running with walking. “I was expecting the training to be really awful, but it wasn't,” says Susie.

“But even though I cycled regularly, my leg muscles weren't conditioned for running. At first I did find it hard. On my runs to work, I'd see cyclists whizzing past and I'd be envious.”

By week 10, Susie was running three times a week, with a longer run on weekends. She says: “I was still thinking, 'How am I ever going to run a marathon?', but I kept faith in the training programme.”

With a little encouragement from Stevie Wonder, Blondie and Rihanna on her iPod, Susie got into a training routine. Rain, wind or shine, she never found excuses to stay in.

“On Easter Sunday I ran for three hours in the snow. There were tears, but I did it. I was no longer looking at the cyclists going past me.

“I felt like a runner; my legs stopped feeling heavy; I felt taller and lighter. I started getting a real buzz from my runs, which I'd never experienced before.”

Susie's training tips:

  • Invest in good pair of running shoes. Visit a specialist running store where you will be fitted with appropriate shoes for your running style.
  • Stick to a training programme. If you follow it rigorously, you'll have no need to worry on race day.
  • Adapt your diet to your higher energy needs. Eats lots of carbohydrates, such as pasta, brown bread, rice and potatoes.
  • Don't ignore any aches, pains or niggles. Rest for a couple of days. If the pain is still there, consult your doctor or a physiotherapist.
  • Have a phrase, like “Come on!“, that boosts your morale to keep you going whenever you feel like giving up.

Vegetarian diet for athletes

Being a vegetarian didn't affect Susie's new high-energy dietary requirements. Her main source of energy was from carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and potatoes.

“Before I started training I would skip meals here and there, but the energy demands of training soon meant I had to eat properly,” she says.

Three weeks before the marathon, Susie entered the tapering period, where the training becomes less frequent and intense. “Your running fitness doesn't disappear overnight,” says Susie. The goal of tapering is to maintain fitness, revitalise the muscles, and help the runner peak at the right time.

Race day went smoothly. Susie completed the 26.2 miles (42km) in a time of 4 hours and 46 minutes. “I was nervous before the start, but I really enjoyed myself,” she says. “It was the best thing I've ever done.”

Susie says the marathon has changed her and she's already planning her next race. “I need something to aim for like a race to get me out training,” she says. “But I love being fit. I feel and look healthy, and I don't want to lose that.”

If you're tempted to take up running but aren't sure how to start, try the Couch to 5K programme. It's designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks.

The above is meant to depict real life stories and to inspire change. The content comes from nhs.uk (with permission). Their experience is not related to slim.in