How To Run The London Marathon - Jon Jenkinson 2016
11 min reading time
How would you go about the challenge of running a marathon for the 1st time? We chat with Jon Jenkinson to find out how he took on The London Marathon 2016. He takes us through his training plans and lifestyle changes to make this the experience of a lifetime.
As we approach the new cricket season, some players realize they have neglected their fitness over the winter period and may be carrying a few extra pounds. The 1st team captain at Abingdon Vale CC, Jon Jenkinson, does not have this issue, as he has spent the last 10 months training for the London Marathon and last week completed his first one. We took the opportunity to chat with him to find out how he approached one of the biggest challenges of his life and how he adapted his normal life to train for the big day.
Why the London Marathon and who did you fundraise for?
The London Marathon has always been on my bucket list. Last year I had a couple of friends running it, and so for the first time ever I watched the TV coverage with a little more intent. I didn't see any of them, but the day itself looked fantastic. I applied unsuccessfully through the ballot, but knowing I may not get a place made plans to run for a charity based at the hospital where I work. They teach basic first aid techniques to primary school children in the area, which seemed like a great local cause to raise money for - I also owed them, as me and my colleagues had kicked them out of their old office and into a smaller one! If you would like to contribute towards his fundraising goal of £2000 please go to www.justgiving.com/jonjenkinson to make a donation.
a Proud Jon Jenkinson following his London Marathon 2016 finish
What was the furthest you had run before?
The furthest I had run before I knew I would be running the marathon (which was in June/July last year) was something like 5 or 6 miles on a treadmill. I used to run reasonably regularly, but only small distances.
How did you create a training plan to run a marathon?
I found many training plans online, but used the BUPA intermediate 16 week plan as a rough guide for training. I made minor adjustments to fit regular and specific runs around my usual weekly activities like squash and football. This took effect from the beginning of January 2016, but beforehand I used an informal plan whereby I was trying to run for at least half an hour, three times a week. I also ran the Blenheim half in October 2015 as part of my informal plan, which was a lovely course.
Did you have to change your diet and eating habits?
Admittedly, not really. I was a little more conscious of what I was eating at times, but all in all I didn't make any major changes until 6 weeks before race day. At this point I tried to eat more balanced, healthy meals while trying to minimise snacking and not drinking any beer. With 2 weeks to go I started to slightly increase my carbohydrate intake, before properly carb-loading for the last 5 days.
What did you find most difficult, was it the amount of training or motivation?
Nearly all of my running during the week was done after work, and it was difficult on occasions to motivate myself to get out and do the planned mileage, especially when it was cold and wet. Running for a charity helped somewhat; I didn't want to embarrass myself by raising money and then not being able to finish because I hadn't trained properly. I dedicated every Sunday to my longest run of the week as per my training plan (starting at around 6 miles in January before reaching the 20 mile mark towards the end of March). After a longer run, my Sundays would often be a bit of a right-off, which was frustrating when the weather was good and I wanted to get out of the house.
Did you get any injuries whilst training and how did you manage it?
I've always had a troublesome right knee, so right from the outset I bought myself a decent knee support brace. While this helped somewhat, my knee still gave me some grief. As this problem wasn't going to go away, I had to adjust my training plan to allow an extra day of recovery here and there. Towards the back end of training, my other knee began to hurt in much the same way. I therefore bought some compression tape and strapped both knees up for every run, while continuing to wear the brace on the right side. At the point when I got up to around 14 miles, I also noticed my hip joints felt sore too. One or two people pointed out this was likely due to strain on my hip flexors, and that they just needed a good stretch as per other body areas at the end of each run.
What was your target time for the race?
My target was always to do a sub-4 hour marathon, with anything on top of that being a bonus. 3:45 was my most optimistic target, but I always knew this would be a little unrealistic.
What was it like in the morning, on the build up to the race?
Most guides tell you need to wake up three hours before such an event to have breakfast. So between around 7am and my arrival at Greenwich Park at 9am, there was a lot of time to think. After arriving at Greenwich I was hit with a mixture of feelings; anticipation, excitement, nervousness. In hindsight I made the mistake of drinking too much in the last hour, and had to take a toilet break half a mile in! Once you've dropped your bag off, you can line up with other runners in your pen and have a bit of a chat with them. I found this a helpful distraction when the runners in pens 1 and 2 had started to go off at 10am. I didn't cross the start line until 10:12, so there was 12 minutes worth of tension to pass by.
How did the race pan out for you?
All in all the race went near enough to plan. I was towards the back of my pen on the start line, with runners who were aiming for times around the 4:30 mark. As a result there was a fair bit of traffic in front of me in the first 5 or 6 miles. Luckily there are no barriers in use at this part of the race, which enabled me to run on paths and weave in and out of fellow runners in order to move up the field. After a mile or so I had overtaken the 4 hour pacer (who carries a flag), from then on my aim was quite simply to stay in front of him. After my second mile, I could no longer see the flag. From that point I knew I could settle down, maintain my pace and enjoy the route. The marathon itself was fantastic. There was rarely a quiet part of the route, and having my name on my vest meant that people would cheer my name. All the kids out along the route are either wanting high fives or giving out sweets, so you can engage and smile back at them for a brief moment. When my body started to hurt at 20 miles onwards, all of that was a massive uplift. What also helped maintain my focus and keep my spirits high was seeing my family/friends at miles 14 and 21. Two particular highlight were tower bridge and miles 24 to the end. Here the noise and support from the crowd was deafening.
What did you feel emotionally following the race, as some people feel elated but also empty, as what they have worked towards for the last year is over?
As good as it felt to run the last couple of miles in front of the crowd, then turn the corner at Buckingham Palace and run the last 200m down The Mall, as soon as I finished the overwhelming feeling was one of relief. After you cross the line you are hurried out of the way, into a queue to have your photo taken, into another queue to collect your belongings you dropped off at the start and then into another queue to collect your goody bag. It was only after doing all of these that it sunk in, and despite the feeling in my legs I felt incredible. From there I went straight to meet my family at a pre-arranged meet and greet point. I was laughing in hysterics, almost delirious, when I got to them. At that point the gravity of what I had just done in the past four hours or so really kicked in, and I was elated, breathless, and all in all a bit of an emotional wreck. It wasn't really until getting the train back to Oxford, away from the crowds and the buzz that I began to settle down.
How did the body and mind feel on the morning after the race?
In short, the body felt sore and the mind felt even better. I had pre-booked a days' annual leave, so I didn't leave bed for a few hours after waking up. In the heat of the moment I didn't cool down and stretch off as much as I should have done. As a result, I think was hurting a bit more than other runners! The following day (Tuesday) I was even more sore, but I got myself a sports massage after work, and although I felt like I had been assaulted afterwards, I woke up the next day feeling pretty good. All the while, in myself I remained incredibly proud of what I had done, and also a little relieved that training runs and structured eating plans were no more.
Who knows... I'd like to get into swimming while my joints fully recover from all the road running. I'm not much of a swimmer, but I can imagine it feels like a gentle alternative to pounding out the miles on the tarmac. Looking forward, as fantastic as the day was, I'm not sure I'll be running another marathon for the next few years. Next year I'd love to go down and stand amongst the crowds, cheering on the 40,000 or so runners. I like the thought of doing a Tough Mudder; I might try and get a couple of friends to do it with me this time, but we'll see about that one after the cricket season.
All in all, what was the best advice you were given?
When people find out you're running, if they have run themselves they will naturally offer you advice and share their experience. As a novice, all advice was helpful. In the run-in to the marathon, the best advice I received was to take a jumper and pair of tracksuit bottoms with you on race day that you don't mind losing. This is because you drop off your bag of belongings (which then gets taken to the finishing line) and then have to stand around waiting to start. It was cold on the Sunday morning, so I was particularly grateful to have warm clothes that I stripped out of just before setting off running - lots of people did this, I believe all the clothes get recycled... Perhaps the best piece of advice I got was on the night before the race; relax, enjoy the run, engage with the crowd, and don't worry too much about your finishing time.
My London Marathon was an experience I will never forget, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the day to anyone.
Many thanks to Jon for talking the time to speak with us and good luck with the new season in Division 2 of the Cherwell League. If you would like to contribute towards his fundraising goal of £2000 please go to www.justgiving.com/jonjenkinson to make a donation.