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Sunday 6 March 2011

Going The Distance.

In exactly two weeks time, on Sunday March 20th, the 27th Hastings Half Marathon will take place on the streets of the town.

This is the sort of event that Hastings does so well. So much so that it is regularly voted the best half marathon in the UK and quite rightly so.
The race is a real credit to its organiser Eric Hardwick. A man who deserves all the praise that he might get.

At this time of year, the towns streets and especially the seafront, become crowded with runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. All training for the big day.

I'm sure that the Hastings Half Marathon has been the first stepping stone for many local people on that, often, long journey to fitness and a better lifestyle. And if nothing else comes from the event, that in itself would be a great legacy.

Having a race of this kind in your home town does wonders in getting people into their first ever pair of running shoes. I often wonder how the percentage of people who live in Hastings and have completed a half marathon compares to other similar towns? I'm not a betting man, but i bet it's right up there with the best.

Running and completing a half marathon is an achievement to be proud of. Something that takes a lot of effort, training and dedication.
13.1 miles is a long way, especially in Hastings, where the first 5 miles of the course are uphill!

But, there is one thing that does annoy me about all of this.

It doesn't concern the runners themselves, or the organisers. It concerns members of the general public and their ignorance of the race.

I have lost count of the amount of times that i have heard ordinary members of the public refer to the Hastings Half Marathon as "The Marathon".

It is NOT a marathon, it is a half marathon!

This may seem like a minor issue to most and i'm sure that the people who make this mistake mean nothing by it. It is most likely a genuine error. But to me at least, it matters a lot and is a constant source of annoyance.

For a start, there is the obvious matter of a half marathon being 13.1 miles shorter than a full marathon. It is called the Hastings Half Marathon for a very good reason.

As someone who has run countless half marathons, including Hastings 10 times and 7 full marathons, including the London Marathon 4 times, i can tell you that those "extra" 13.1 miles make a hell of a lot of difference.

As i said earlier, i have the utmost respect for anyone who completes a half marathon, but a full marathon is a completely different animal.

For a start there is the training.
I know people who have completed a half marathon with very little training. They may have struggled, but they got round. This would be almost suicidal and certainly very foolish, if doing a full marathon.
Personally, i also think it's foolish if you're doing a half marathon, but....

An "expert" would usually recommend at least 6 months training for a full marathon, as a minmum. That requires a lot of dedication, potential support and understanding from family and friends. That time will also include many lonely hours spent pounding the pavements. Often in inhospitable conditions. Rain and strong winds are no respecters of a runner.
Believe me, a 20 mile training run can be a lonely experience.

But, for me, the main difference between running a half and full marathon is a mental one. It's all in the mind.
It takes a strong will and single mindedness to complete the training schedule alone. Although you are "only" training for an extra 13.1 miles. That training schedule becomes far more intense.

It is in the race itself though that the mental side of things really comes to the fore.
When i ran a full marathon i often used to think that the race didn't really start until around the 20 mile mark. That is the point at which it really takes an effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Especially, if like me, you are aiming to run every step of the way.
By that time your body is pretty well exhausted and it just becomes a real case of mind over matter.

But, all that time, pain and exhaustion are well worth it. Believe me, it is quite an amazing feeling to know that you have finally conquered the full marathon distance.
If you are lucky enough to have done so at an event such as the London Marathon, it is an experience that will live long in the memory.

I can honestly say that running generally and especially running marathons, really improved my mental strength. I'm quite sure that many other runners would say exactly the same thing.

So, if you want to improve both your body and your mind, why not try running a marathon, or even a half marathon?
They are both a great experience and a great achievment and you can then be very proud of yourself for having completed one.

Just don't get the distances muddled up, or you'll have me to answer to!

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