Carly Sharples


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Marathon Training: Onset of Maranoia

Marathon Training: Onset of Maranoia

By the time this post is published, we will (hopefully!) have reached Paris and will be gearing up ready for the big event: the Paris Marathon 2018 on Sunday, 8th April.

You may have followed my journey from the beginning, but to sum up in a nutshell: I'm not a natural runner. I've worked really hard to overcome this in the last couple of years. I've come on leaps and bounds in fitness terms, but my proudest achievement in training has been overcoming my mental demons (I have bipolar disorder). I signed up for the 2018 Paris Marathon last year and have been training for six months to reach this point.

James and I will have flown out at WTF-o' clock on Thursday morning to Paris and we are meeting our friends who are travelling over by Eurostar later in the day. We've got a few days of sightseeing (and gratuitous eating) lined up before the 26.2 mile main event itself on Sunday.  

Paris Marathon 2018 route

I can imagine that it is going to be an incredible feeling lining up on the Champs Élysées with 55,000 other people ready to take on the epic challenge of running a marathon. It looks a supremely scenic route, passing most of Paris' most revered landmarks and I'm sure the city will be buzzing with excitement.

I'm all prepared with clean and fresh kit, enough snacks and gels to last an ultra marathon and all manner of heat / cool gels and packs for the aftermath... assuming I finish, of course.

And this is wherein the problem lies. In the past week or so, I've become afflicted by a phenomenon common amongst marathon runners at the 11th hour: marathon paranoia, or maranoia

It began with this overwhelming urge to squeeze in one last training run of 21 miles. I can't say I've ran enough during training to taper in the traditional sense, but all of a sudden I just felt the irrepressible need to run. Fortunately I quashed this urge, reasoning that it was unnecessary and I would likely do more harm than good.

I then progressed to becoming obsessed with the weather forecast. I had palpitations when I saw the predicted 21 degrees for Sunday's race - after a long slog of training through the cold, winter months this floored me. I needed to dig out my summer running gear! How would this affect my hydration strategy? Will I need sunscreen?

Towards the end of the week, I saw that the forecast had changed to around 16 degrees, light rain and gentle breeze. Well. This set me off again! How am I going to cope being sodden? Do I need leggings or shorts now? What if it is slippery on the course? There's cobbles, isn't there? OH MY GOD! WHAT IF I SLIP AND BREAK MY LEG?

Paris On My Mind. CONSTANTLY.

Paris On My Mind. CONSTANTLY.

Thinking logically, this is precisely why you train. I've ran in all weathers, from running a half marathon in Gothenburg's midsummer scorching heat, to the Lincoln half marathon in torrential rain, to training runs in the snow at the onset of the infamous Beast from the East at the beginning of March. It may not have been pleasant at times - but, I got the job done. Realistically, the BBC's meteorological forecast for Paris on Sunday 8th presents ideal weather and climate conditions for running a marathon. I mean, you couldn't really ask for better? 

My husband has been plagued by a recurrent knee injury (definitely not from lack of training, okay?!) and it is touch and go at present as to whether he will make it to the starting line of the marathon. He's been seeing a physiotherapist and has stocked up with kinesiology tape to strap his knee up ready for the race. He came home the other day with what looked like a tourniquet, to be strapped tightly around his leg above the knee, ostensibly to provide support to a tight IT band. Well, what do you know? I spent the rest of that evening wondering if I absolutely, desperately, needed one. JUST IN CASE!

I'm pleased to report that I successfully overcame that urge, too. But just in case it hasn't become apparent yet, this marathon is consuming my every waking thought. It is the first thought that pops into my head in the morning: can I do it? / will I do it? / should I do it? / ad infinitum. At night I'm waking frequently, sweating. Dreams like high definition cartoons, being scooped up kicking and screaming onto a snarling, menacing sweeper bus whose sole purpose is to extinguish my marathon hopes and take me to the finish line where I am met with jeers and ridicule instead of the fabled gold medal. Completely irrational, yet completely normal at this stage in marathon preparation {so I'm told!}. 

I'm being even more antisocial than usual. Avoiding EVERYBODY, lest they have some form of cough, cold or lurgy which may be passed on. Antibacterial gels and sprays have been used in wild abandon on surfaces and body in such measures that have not been seen since I had a newborn baby in the house. I've then got conflicting thoughts in my head telling me that perhaps it would be beneficial to me if I caught a cold? At least then I'd have an excuse for a poor performance! I even went so far as to fleetingly daydream about breaking a limb, just to give me the ultimate get-out clause. I mean, honestly! You'd think I don't actually WANT to do this marathon!

Last year, 97% of those who began the Paris Marathon completed it. But what, really, is the worst that can happen if I don't finish? Well, to put it bluntly - nothing. Only 1% of the world's population have run a marathon and it just wasn't meant to be for me this time. Bounce back, stronger.

Paris Marathon in figures

Heck, even if I do manage it - really, who cares what my time is? My younger children will undoubtedly ask "Did you win, Mummy?". I may complete the marathon in the best time I am physically capable of, but my concept of 'winning' is always going to be different to their youthful, black-and-white perception of 'winners and losers', borne of coming first in the egg and spoon race, or Usain Bolt running the 100m sprint.

Much like saying "I've got an upper second class honours degree in International Relations" eventually becomes "Yeah, I've got a degree", I'm sure "I ran the Paris Marathon in 2018 with an average pace of xx:xx in a total time of xxhrs, xxsecs with six months of training and a rigid nutrition and hydration strategy; now let me show you my medal and finisher's tee..." will in time be diluted to "Yeah, I ran a marathon once".   

My point? CHILL OUT. This, too, shall pass.  

Maranoia makes you feel vulnerable in the weeks leading up to a marathon, so that you feel invincible on the day itself. It's a good thing. The adrenaline is already coursing through the veins, ready to help carry you through the challenge ahead and onto victory. It is the crescendo of months of training, working so very hard for personal and physical fulfilment.

Harness that adrenaline and remember that the body achieves what the mind believes!

Carly xo

Enjoy this post? Check out my previous marathon training updates here: Marathon Training Is A Go!, Month Two, Month Three, Month Four.

New to running? Check out So You Think You Can't Run? and All The Gear, No Idea


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