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How do you balance training with real life?

London Marathon
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Richard Irvine-Brown is a BBC Sport Journalist keeping an interactive diary of his training for the London Marathon.

Time: that precious commodity, when marathon training, that some of us will claim not to have and some of us will work and sacrifice to find. Some of us are so dedicated to finding time to run that jobs, sleep and everything else take second place.

The recurring sap on training time, according to 606 users over the past few months, is family. I don’t have children so this is a genuine question: Marathon-training parents, just how do you manage?

I do however have a job that’s been known to take up 80 hours of my week and was wondering if there are others out there with such demands on their time who are locked in the circular fight to find the lunch hours, spare evenings, and early mornings to get the miles in before 13 April?

Many 606 users have the recommended a salient and guerrilla attitude to running: Have the trainers close at hand, and just pull them on whenever you know you have the spare time (the work is done, the children are cared for, the pasta is fully digested).

But how often does this work, realistically, for you? I probably average less than 10 hours a week running, but add on to that changing, warming up/down, showering, extra sleep, and accommodating everything else, can take a full day out of every seven.

A colleague of mine from News trains for marathons by running to work and back, a round trip of twenty miles, four shifts a week.

To fulfil my ideal of doing a 65-mile week (the most I’ve done is 45, several times) I had to take five days’ leave. Then I crocked my ankle on day two and spent a week on exercise bikes, cursing.

If time wasn’t worry enough, training for a marathon decides when you sleep, when you eat, what you eat, your laundry... but is this any different from other serious or sporting hobbies? I guarantee that anybody smelling of porridge with a five litre rucksack full of kit, spare kit, gels, drinks, work documents, compact wallet and spare safety pins is in the middle of a serious running bender, and employers should understand that such a person’s lunchtime and quitting time are now precise co-ordinates in a grand strategy of sweaty ardour.

When I asked friends to do a mile lap of the local common with me, or cheer me on and watch my rucksack (full of the above) one weekday evening, as part of my final 20-mile run, many hoped they could make it. Inevitably, fiancés, nephews, cinemas, pubs, and working late all took their toll and the number of jogging buddies dwindled. Although one friend managed a lap with me my bag could only be watched for 40 minutes. I reduced the run to 10km and went home moody.

As mentioned, there are always the tribulations and realities of a run itself – when to take on fluids, how much fluid to take along, will you need to wrap up beforehand, what will you do with your spare clothes, do you expect to have to make a stop, if so are there accommodating pubs on the route?

Annoyingly, this came to a head on the Kingston Breakfast Run last Sunday where, as with the Milton Keynes Half-Marathon, I had to stop for a necessity early on, fully attributable to having not ‘stopped’ between my last pre-race drink and the starting line.

Also, for the first time in this six-month training period, I got that uncomfortable feeling that I hadn’t got the timing right between my breakfast and the run and had to stop again, losing three minutes and a lot of dignity.

So just how do you manage your time to get a run in? Are children really the biggest impediment to doing so? What’s the most you’ve ever had to give up to get a jog in? And what’s the worst excuse you’ve ever heard for not going for a run?

Remember, time allowing, the London Marathon Expo is 9-12 April for all runners!

And have a great run!

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posted Apr 4, 2008

Hi Richard

I have a very active three year old boy, so have had to fit in the training around him. The biggest challenge was (past tense now!) finding time for the long runs at the weekend. This often meant getting up when he does before 6.00am to let my wife have a lie in and then earning credit to go off running for a few hours! To be honest, it would be really difficult to fit all the training in without a supportive partner. I have also made use of lunch breaks to go running during the week, got in to work really early to go running after work or getting up early to go for a run before work. It is not easy, and I have sometimes taken leave from work to make time.

Other impediments have involved a lack of public toilets to use on route and finding somewhere to hide my drinks during the runs!

But very nearly there now... :)

Good luck on the day!


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posted Apr 5, 2008

Hey I use to run a large amount regularly, (50 K weeks as an average) for several years, but I gave it up a year and a bit ago, I had a knee problem and I've had an operation that didn't work and another operation to come, I only managed it cause I had a couple of easy years in school, but I hope my coach won't mind if I share his success in terms of weekly runs.

He ran to and from work each and every day (10K in and 10K out) and he brought the kids to the local athletics club and dumped them in the group for small kids while he went and "trained" the older juvenile group with training meaning led them/us on a 8K run.

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posted Apr 5, 2008

Steven - sounds like amazing commitment, well done, I'll see you in Greenwich! You're right - carrying drinks is up there with blisters as being a minor but insurmountable irritation.

Ciaran - great story, what a legend your coach is. Such a shame about the operation not working, how do you keep fit nowadays? (There are some other 606 users with similar stories.)

Also - finally got that 20-miler done last night. Probably too close to the actual Marathon itself, not recommended but did it in - calculator ready, BobbyNads? - 2'38'11.

Was too dehydrated to enjoy the moment when I finished (and inside my hoped-for time). See, it does pay to keep drinks handy, above all else.

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posted Apr 5, 2008

I do a little bit of time on a cross trainer or exercise bike each day but to be honest my fitness isn't great at all. I'd do more if I didn't have another operation coming (they think they can do something for my knee) and that will destroy whatever fitness I have again.

Congrats on the 20 miler, thats always tough, but shouldn't you be tapering not increasing the mileage at this stage? In fact you should definitely be tapering at this stage, I've never done a 30K and not still felt it the week after, though to be honest I've never preped for a marathon before, the longest race I've ever actually run was the 10K (rare) anything more than that was me punishing myself in training but the point still stands it will still e in your legs.

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posted Apr 6, 2008

Ciaran - entirely right, running such a distance so close to a marathon is possibly counter-active and potentially damaging.

Unfortunately, I've made a rod for my own back in some ways by trying to do as much as is recommended by 606 users. Months ago I agreed to five 20-milers as part of my training.

I managed two, and attempted two more (managing about 17 miles in each), which is not what I hoped for so wanted to get one more in.

Also, 606 users' consensus recommended running one 20-miler in my expected marathon time (see:, and another one at my expected marathon pace - which is what I finally achieved on Friday.

I am comfortable in my own resilience to such runs and know, and had planned, my recovery.

I've also done some pretty risky training over the last six months and hope that I've put in a large enough caveat that some of what I've done can be dangerous, is not recommended, and is undertaken in my own spirit of adventure, if only to later provide an example from my hospital bed. <injured>

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posted Apr 8, 2008

I'm going to stick with my previous prediction even though I'm not sure I remember what it was. 2:34:50?

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posted Apr 8, 2008

Actually, I think I remember better than that. I think I said 3:34:50.

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posted Apr 8, 2008

<laugh> - in every sense.
Cheers, Bobby.

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