Who is feeling inspired after the London Marathon? At MV HQ, we certainly are feeling more motivated. Now that the days are longer and the weather is better, getting outside for some fresh air and exercise feels slightly more appealing.
We spoke to Bella Mackie, journalist and author of Jog On, a novel about running and mental health, for her top tips for running beginners and where to start…
1. “Go slowly. I mean it, as slow as is possible without walking. It’ll feel ridiculous, and your body will instinctively want to speed up, but resist the urge. I started too fast, felt out of breath, got horrible stitches and quickly ended up with shin splints and a sore knee. Injuries this early in the game might put you off, and that would be pointless. Check your pace – download a running app which will tell you how fast you’re on course to do a kilometre. Whatever that time, try and prolong it. When I cottoned on to this, I was losing steam after about ten minutes, and slowed right down – to the point where it took me over seven and a half minutes to do one kilometre. And that’s fine, because you’ll speed up as you get better. The important thing is to give yourself time to love it – and you won’t do that if it hurts, or your body is screeching at you to stop.”
2. “Be kind to yourself. Cherish every little goal, make sure you recognise what it is that you’re doing – you, a person who has a brain which has not always been your friend. Buy an ice cream after a run, have a glass of wine. Never berate yourself if you have a panic attack and need to go home abruptly. Running is not always a straight line (that would be boring). Sometimes there will be diversions and hold-ups. You can try again: it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You can’t ‘fail’ running.”
3. “Remember that running does not have to mean marathons, endurance feats and six-packs. Some people will go down that route, and others will run around the park twice a week. As I’ve said, I’m in the latter camp, and I firmly promise that this option is fine too. However far you run is further than you’ve ever run before. What a brilliant thing. And it’s brilliant if you decide to do a marathon too – but that’s not the obligatory end goal. A 5k for someone with massive anxiety is a huge feat. If you compare yourself to other runners, you’ll enjoy it less.”
4. “Have fun. I know it’s obvious, but running shouldn’t just be a joyless slog which you endure because you’ve heard exercise can be good for your mental health. Vybarr Cregan-Reid advised me that it was helpful to see running as ‘not exercise’, which I loved. ‘Exercise is something that is mechanistic – you do it for a specific outcome… to get a healthy heart or to help with diabetes. Running is a lot more than a means to lose some weight. It’s a multidimensional thing that’s much, much bigger than just exercise.’ Try to remember this. Try to run in whatever way works for you – whether that’s for ten minutes, or doing hill sprints, or treadmill slogs or fun runs with mates. Sprint down a hill. Remember how you used to chase your mates when you were little? That childish abandon can be recaptured, no matter how long it’s lain dormant.”
Well done and congratulations to all the runners who took part in this week’s London Marathon.