How running London Marathon taught me about inner strength

What does it feel like to train for a marathon? How do you find the inner strength and determination to built up your stamina and fitness?

Earlier this year, virtual PA Bev Loczy ran the London Marathon to raise money for Meningitis Now in memory of her late niece Milly.

She tells us what it felt like to train for the marathon, how she got past the pain, early mornings and inner doubts to triumph, and what the experience taught her about starting her own business.

I ran the London Marathon

Earlier this year I trained for, and ran, the London Marathon. I had no experience of running long distances so it was an enormous test for me, both in terms of the physical demands and the amount of time needed to train – not easy as a working mother!

But I did it. I had to plan my time well and teach my body to put up with a lot of pain – but yes, I ran a marathon. And in the process of doing so, I learnt some things about myself that I hadn’t really understood before.

There were times when I wanted to give up

If you haven’t trained for long distances, you may not know that you start off by gradually increasing the amount of time you run over a week, and make one of those weekly runs longer and longer until you are only a few miles off your target distance.

So by February I was running around 30 miles a week, including a very long weekend run (which reached 20 miles per run by the middle of March).

I cannot describe to you how painful these runs were, particularly at the beginning when my body was screaming ‘what the @!&$ are you doing to me?’ I’m not going to lie, there were times when I really wanted to give up.

Not running wasn’t an option

On one memorable day I rang my husband to pick me up after forcing myself to put one foot in front of the other for the last 3 of 18 miles, and cried in the car on the way home. I got back out there, though, and the following weekend I ran 20 miles.

The other thing about training for a spring marathon is that you are forced to train in winter, which means you’re at the mercy of the elements. I ran in the rain. I ran in the snow. I ran in high winds. I ran in the dark (a lot).

Not running when I didn’t feel like it wasn’t really an option – I’d committed to raising a lot of money for my chosen charity, I was blogging about my training and posting about it a lot on Facebook. I really didn’t want to lose face.

But then, people started commenting about my dedication and perseverance. In a positive way. And then my Dad said, “We always know you’ll do something when you put your mind to it”, and I thought ‘Really? Is that me?’

Perhaps it IS me!

So I started to think about it. Actually, perhaps that IS me. I remembered when I learnt to scuba dive. In a rash moment, possibly (definitely!) fuelled by wine, I declared that when my (now) husband and I went on holiday to the Red Sea I was going to learn to dive.

I completely overlooked the fact that I was absolutely terrified of the sea, never went out of my depth and couldn’t even bring myself to swim over a patch of seaweed.

I tried not to think about it as we learnt to breathe through regulators in the swimming pool. I blocked it from my mind as we boarded the boat and chugged for two hours out into the black, slightly choppy, water. And then it came to the time to get in, and I said “I don’t know if I can do it’, to which my husband replied “Well, don’t if you don’t want to, but that 12 year old boy over there just got in”.

That was all I needed. In I went, and I am now a certified PADI open water diver.

So much of running a marathon is psychological

Then came the lightbulb moment. So much of running a marathon is psychological: there is a constant battle between the part of your brain that wants you to stop, and the part that thinks you can do it and, actually, doesn’t this apply to every situation where you’re outside your comfort zone?

When I was finding it tough, particularly on those long runs, I reminded myself of all the other things that I’ve done that required me to dig deep and find my inner strength. I could, for example, liken running a marathon to childbirth – painful at the time but worth it, and afterwards, when the pain is slightly forgotten, you find yourself signing up to do it again!

Starting a business is like running a marathon

Anyway, it occurred to me that starting my own business was like signing up for a marathon. It was, quite frankly, frightening. It took a lot of discussion with a lot of people before I made the decision to hand my notice in and go for it. I didn’t know what was going to happen: there was a risk I could fail, it was going to be a huge amount of work, and would I even enjoy it?

Just like a marathon there are high times when it’s going well and I feel great, and low times when I wonder what on earth I’m doing! But I know I’ve got it in me to dig deep, find that inner voice that tells me ‘you can get through this’ and on I go.

Bev Loczy is a virtual PA, offering support in organising and planning to small businesses and busy individuals.