The Experience of a Long Distance Runner – The Start

23rd September 2015
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For all of you who have dreamed of becoming a long distance runner, or for those who already are long distance runners, have a look at this article from a passionate long distance runner! It is sometimes really inspiring to have a look at an individuals personal experience of their fitness and lifestyle goals. I shall be uploading this article my cousin Mark Tabone has written for me to share with you, section by section over the coming weeks. Thank you Mark – what a pleasure to read about your experience!

 

My cousin Jordane, founder and owner of Function360 (jordane@function360.co.uk), a few months ago asked me whether I would contribute to her online blog regarding long distance /marathon running. I was happy to accept and I thank Jordane upfront for this opportunity.

It has proved to be an amazing personal journey really. After nearly 5 years of regular running training and racing, I sat down, reflected, jotted notes, reviewed training schedules, data collected, and photos before typing away at my keyboard today.

What I try to relate here are some salient points of my running experiences to date – where it started, how my running dream developed, the training process, race day, my highlights and some of my personal ground rules with respect to running.

I have taken the liberty to openly share a few of my thoughts about training and preparing for races from my own personal experience. Perhaps this may help anyone that happens to read this with their own preparations for some big running target they have set their sights on. The intention is not to be scientific here (although it is a very scientific sport) or in any way instruct anyone as I am not qualified to share such advice as yet, but maybe you may find some of my thoughts useful in any case. So here goes.

My sporting background

At the age of 10 I started playing tennis very much as a consequence of my mother playing tennis socially with her friends and taking me along whenever she played. A couple of tennis lessons a week soon increased and all of a sudden age 11 I entered my first junior Under 12 tennis competition. I subsequently went on to being Malta’s top junior at Under 12, 14 and 16, competing locally and at European level overseas. At age 17, for a number of reasons, principally, a lack of competition and motivation locally in Malta somewhat hindering my progression in the sport, as well as academic studies at the time limiting my time to train properly, my tennis days came to an end.

No time to breathe and straight away my school friends urged me to join the football club where most had been playing for a number of years already – St. Andrews FC. What a start that was…. in my very first football season in 1997/98 I played the Under 18 National Final which unfortunately we lost but that launched me into the sport I was to train and play for the next 10 years.

Injuries in football are fairly common…. Twisted ankles, knocks from tackles, pulled/strained muscles etc are pretty much the order of the day (very different

to tennis in terms of the physical contact involved). In the summer of 2008 though, during a pre-season friendly, I suffered a big blow… a torn ACL in my right knee, which would keep me out of football for over a year in the end. Due to work career commitments I had to delay the operation by a few months and in March 2009 my knee was operated in Belgium. 7 months of rehabilitation ensued. Flexibility and strength exercises the order of the day and the gym became something like my second home. I was determined to come back stronger and play competitive football again and in November 2009 I was back to the football pitch!

All seemed fine but the reality is that due to a mix of side movements in football questioning the stability of my knee together with far from ideal synthetic grass playing surfaces used nowadays (in my opinion) my operated knee felt increasingly vulnerable.

In October 2010 during a fairly casual 5-a-side match with friends I fell awkwardly on my knee and I felt a particularly odd movement… at that point after all those months of post-op rehabilitation I felt my sporting world collapse!

Early running days

A visit to the doctor who had handled my post-op rehab put me back into the gym and after 2 weeks I needed something more. I asked my doctor whether it would be at all possible for me to run outside (not on a treadmill)… his reply was simply: “Yes you can, run straight and keep side movements to a minimum due to stability but don’t forget to continue your strength work in the gym.”

That is exactly what I did and at the end of February 2011 I completed my first Half Marathon in Malta… this year I have done my 5th consecutive one! In fact I still meet this doctor and we joke about the fact that I took him to the word and kept running straight indeed! I’m covering give and take over 3,500kms a year these days.

Running dream

Since that February 2011 (nearly 5 years ago now) I have completed multiple 5K and 10K races in Malta, five consecutive Malta Half Marathons, the Great North Run Half Marathon in Newcastle in 2013, the Milan Half Marathon in 2014 and 2015, and two World Major Marathons in London (2012) and New York (2014). My experiences to date have been simply amazing and so far my times at all distances have kept improving which is always an added bonus.

Over the years, I developed a long-term running dream which is to complete the Six World Major Marathons at least once. At the moment I have done two, with the four left being Berlin, Tokyo, Chicago and the holy grail of Marathon running in Boston – the latter being the only marathon that requires a qualifying time for entry which to date I am yet to achieve.

Today, I am just a few days away from another World Major Marathon in Berlin on the 27th September 2015, my 34th long distance race. Can I qualify for Boston in Berlin?… We’ll see, I’ll definitely give it my very best shot!”

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