Confessions of a 40-year-old marathon newbie

-May 2, Hannah Hargrave, Fitness -

What's running a marathon really like?
Faced with her impending 40th birthday, Sarah Wagland knew she wanted to do something extraordinary to celebrate, but sky-diving or an ultra luxurious spa weekend wasn’t cutting it for her, instead she chose to run the London Marathon. She talks to us about this incredible life-affirming experience. 


You might not expect a 40-year-old mother of two to suddenly decide the London Marathon with no previous long-distance running experience, but Sarah Wagland is certainly a woman who enjoys a challenge. 

Whilst she’d always been fit, and with an Instagram handle of ‘theFolloweroffitness’ you’d expect it, she had never been a runner. In fact Sarah had barely managed to run a total of three miles before making the monumental decision to endure all 26.2 of them.

Despite a few “hellish” setbacks, Sarah achieved her goal on April 22nd and now wants to inspire other women to celebrate milestone birthdays by leaping on the marathon bandwagon.


Age is just a number


Sarah tells Lumity Life magazine, “I was inspired after I watched the documentary ‘Mind Over Marathon’ and decided 2018 would be my year to run a marathon.

“Oh, and I was also turning 40 and I felt like I needed to do something extraordinary.

“I knew I wanted a challenge that would push me beyond my physical limits and I needed conformation that turning 40 is just a number and anything is possible if you want it badly enough, so a marathon seemed like the perfect fit.”


What is the right kind of fitness for marathon running? 


“I’ve always been fit,” Sarah explains. “I trained as a contemporary dancer and have practised yoga and pilates for over 20 years. And I like to think that I can knock out a HITT class with relative ease. I also pride myself on my competitive nature and fighting spirit but running is a different kind of fit.”


Why I was naive about endurance running


Sarah continues: “I naively assumed that my back catalogue of fitness prowess would equate to having pretty good running fitness too …right?

“Er…wrong! Especially when entering the world of endurance running – it’s a whole different ballgame.”


Can people have have never ran complete a full marathon? 


The reality of preparing for training to run a marathon soon began to dawn on Sarah, shortly after she set herself the challenge. “I’d run the odd 3 miles and done a Tough Mudder but running any kind of distance was completely alien to me,” she says.

“I soon realised that to turn my marathon dream into a 26.2 mile reality, I was going to have to go back to the drawing board and start from ground zero.”


Is marathon training a nightmare?


Once Sarah had trained so she was ready to run a half marathon she was given a rude awakening: “I started running once a week and slowly building up my distance and in October I threw myself in the deep end with a local (very hilly) half marathon and quite frankly it was hell,” she admits. 

“My once a week training session had not prepared me for the distance, I didn’t have enough miles in the tank, had no clue about pacing or nutrition and I hated pretty much all of it, especially the last three miles. I hit the wall and the last mile felt like 20!”


How determination and a mentor became the key to success 


“Despite my truly awful half marathon, I brushed myself and my ego down and decided to find a plan from someone who knew what they were talking about,” Sarah continues.  

“A much better idea than making it up as I went along.

“I found my mentor, Martin Yelling, on the London Marathon website. He devised me a step-by-step, week-by-week, run-by-run plan and I was able to run my second half marathon in February, even knocking off 15 minutes from my personal best.”


What’s running a marathon really like? 


On the morning of the official London Marathon, Sarah found herself struggling with self-doubt.

She says: “Even though I’d trained like a beast for the past six months, I was consumed with nerves, self doubt and ruminating thoughts of “can I actually do this?”

“As I headed to the start line at Greenwich Park (after 200 trips to the toilet) the fear was real! But I ended up smiling all the way and was still smiling at the finish line.

“I never would have believed that this run through the streets of London was going to be one of the most magical experiences of my life.

“Or that it would spark a passion for running that I didn’t even know existed!

“It is everything people say it is (and more) and if I encourage you to do one thing it would be to enter the ballot for London 2019 – whatever your age – I know I already have!”


Did you enjoy reading this article? If it’s inspired you to pound the pavements then you might also like to read our tips for starting running whatever your age and follow our beginners guide to running 5k.

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