South Africa - Cape Town. 12.04.19. Health and Fitness writer Viwe Ndongeni practising for the Two Oceans half marathon that she will participating in on April 20. Picture: Ian Landsberg/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)
The popularity of marathon running around the world is at an all-time high, with seemingly everyone signing up for, or thinking about signing up for, the iconic distance.

Like many other health enthusiasts, I decided to jump on the healthy running bandwagon and enter my first marathon, the Two Oceans Half Marathon which takes tomorrow.

My training started more than two months ago and it has not been as easy as I anticipated. Before that, I’d never run more than 5km.

The training regime started with a 3km run that I struggled with right till the end.

10 weeks later and I can now run 15km comfortably.

Running and training was a complete shock to my system and lifestyle.

Training is about more than the running.

It’s about finding the right mix of food, water, gear, running form, and even having a plan in place, and a guide to follow while figuring out my strengths and weaknesses.

Basically, once I signed up for the marathon I become a runner, and that comes with a whole new group of terms to learn as well.

While I haven’t reached my goals yet, I’m very proud of my progress.

It hasn’t been easy. I felt tired constantly and lost four of my toenails.

The worst was getting a knee injury that forced me to rest for seven days.

Norrie Williamson, a coach with a unique Two Oceans record of 10 silver medals for the ultra-marathon distance out of 10 starts, says running injuries are self-inflicted.

“Unless you trip or fall, running injuries come from two sources: incorrect running shoes or from structural imbalances which become exacerbated by the running action and overloading the soft tissue,” Williamson said.

That was true for me.

As soon as I found a proper running technique, my knee problems became better.

“We are born and designed to be symmetrical, but what we do for work and in our everyday lifestyles has tended to change that.

“By sitting at an angle, watching TV or computer screens at an angle, we cause an imbalance in soft tissue on left to right or in a rotation,” Williamson said.

He agrees that a marathon or ultra is a long way to run, and can take anywhere from two hours at elite level to seven hours for the 56km Two Oceans ultra. It is vital to have a realistic goal and game plan for achieving at those distances.

It is possible to predict what sort of time you can realistically achieve over the marathon or Oceans based on your timed run over a shorter distance, such as a park run or 10km event.

To prepare, she advises you visualise the route, mentally preparing for the hills, knowing why you want to run the race and what you want to achieve. I refer to this as being a “D” student:

Desire - having a burning “need” or reason to achieve a finish, a time, or some goal - It’s not important what that reason is - but it has to be “vital” to the runner.

Dedicated to the training.

Disciplined in sticking to the game plan.

Determined in wanting to fulfil the desire.

These four Ds will take runners to their finish, psychologically.

The longer the race, the more important the Ds become.