Marathon Men Preparing for the Challenge of a Lifetime
Posted Tuesday, 16 July, 2013
For many, completing a marathon is the ultimate in physical endeavour. Running 26.2 miles is not for the faint-hearted, requiring a physical and mental endurance which can only be reached after months if not years of single-minded dedication.
So imagine doing that and then repeating it, for 12 days in succession. That’s the challenge ‘Marathon Men’ Tim Bliss and Tom Byrne have set themselves. On July 31 the British duo will embark on a 315 mile run from Land’s End, Cornwall to Trafalgar Square in London to raise money for the Mersea Island Festival Trust, a charity which provides two annual camps for 400 young people and adults with physical and learning difficulties.
It’s a prospect many experienced runners would baulk at but before starting training in May 2012, neither Bliss or Byrne had ever run further than a half marathon and they’re hoping that innocence will work to their advantage, at least psychologically.
“An experienced runner who’s completed multiple marathons told us it was probably better than we’d never run one before because if we’d done one, we’d have the idea that it’s horrific and never want to do another one again,” Bliss explains.
“When we’ve been doing training, because we know it’s building towards doing 12 consecutively, it’s been a bit of an advantage.”
The duo have benefitted from advice from Colorado based ultra-runner David Clark, a man training for arguably the toughest race on the planet later this year – 135 miles across Death Valley.
As well as emphasizing ice baths as a recovery aid between marathons, Clark told them that the most important aspect of their preparation is to adjust both body and mind to running in pain.
All marathon runners have to learn to deal with pain but the elite master it to such an extent that they almost function better when in pain. Instead of attempting to disassociate mind from body, they simply channel it as a means to focus in on their stride and pace.
While neither Bliss or Byrne can claim to have mastered such mystical mind power techniques they’ve found that walking has proved a useful warm down tool after lengthy 18 miles training sessions to relieve soreness and help them bounce back each day.
“As soon as I finish running, if I say walk for half a mile, three quarters of a mile, just to ease it out and stretch your calves off a little bit, I actually find that’s one of the most useful things for recovery,” Bliss says. “And you recover quicker as your body gets used to running, sleeping, getting up and doing it again.”
Both admit that the first few days of the route will be among the most challenging as Cornwall is notoriously hilly, adding yet another hurdle to the challenge.
“Day four stands out as being particularly horrific but day three’s going to be a flat one because most of it’s on an organised cycle path, so hopefully that will help,” Bliss says. “Thankfully from then onwards it becomes a little flatter and we’ll be picking up a few miles in towns and things so I’m hoping that once we’re out of Cornwall it’ll be just slightly easier.”
The fear of the unknown is one of the biggest challenges for many novice marathon runners, knowing that they won’t complete the full distance until the race day itself. For Bliss and Byrne, the risk of even attempting six successive marathons ahead of the challenge is too big to take, with injury a constant concern.
“I did four in four days in May but that’s as far as we’re going until we attempt the 12,” Bliss says. “It’s about striking a balance because I know when we’re running 12 we’re going to pick up injuries. It’s inevitable but neither of us wanted to risk picking up an injury with 2 months to go and then put ourselves out of training for one of those crucial months.”
Injury has been in the back of their minds throughout the past year but apart from a few niggles they’ve avoided the lengthy spell on the sidelines which could have ended their dreams.
“Luckily so far it’s just been a few sore knees and touch wood nothing will change before July 31st,” Bliss says. “When I run when I’m tired, my running style isn’t as good as I’m not concentrating as much on getting my stride pattern right. And that’s when I come back and I’ve got a slightly sore ankle or a sore knee. But a couple of days later when I’m running fresh and I’m concentrating on keeping myself straight and square on, then it’s been fine.”
“We both went through little phases where we were both running with knee supports but both of us are feeling good now and can’t wait to get started.”
You can find out more about the challenge at www.marathonmen2013.com