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Running column: Mark Armstrong looks at the five qualities you need to run a marathon

Mark Armstrong during the Robin Hood Marathon in 2017. Picture: Robin Hood Marathon

Mark Armstrong during the Robin Hood Marathon in 2017. Picture: Robin Hood Marathon

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I see at least three runners on my car journey into work each day.

If I had time I’d like to wind down the window and ask them what they’re training for.

You can normally spot a few clues.

You don’t have to be Columbo to realise that if they have got a hydration pack on their back they’re probably training for a marathon or ultra.

We’re at the time of year now where runners training for spring marathons are putting in the mileage in preparation for their big race.

I’ve got to admit, it makes me slightly envious, but I had my time last year, running two marathons. With another baby due to arrive in the next few weeks, 2018 was never going to be the time to have another go given the hours of training you have to put in.

That’s not to say I haven’t taken a lot of the lessons I learned from last year’s experiences into this year, particularly when it comes to training.

I saw on social media this week someone posing a question over what’s the most important quality you need to be a marathoner.

You find out an awful lot about yourself when training for those 26.2 miles.

In truth you need a mix of several qualities to become a decent runner but here are my top five…

MORE: Get your race diary planned for 2018 here

Patience

You can’t jump into a running a marathon without giving it some careful consideration. It’s important to have a plan and structure to your so you don’t ask too much, too soon of your body. If you’re used to doing a leisurely 10K most weekends and you suddenly try to ramp it up to 10 miles then you’re tempting the injury gods. Whilst it’s important to have a plan, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a run – life still has to go on around you – let it go and just start planning your next one.

Stubbornness

No matter what training you’ve done there’s more than likely going to come a time during a marathon when you question whether you’re going to be able to complete this. For most people it happens around the 18-20 miles part – it certainly has for me. But this is where you have to fall back on the hours of training you’ve hopefully been able to put in. Each long run should provide another little building block of confidence that you’re going to be able to make it. Don’t listen to that little voice imploring you to stop (unless you’re injured!) – you’re capable of more than you think.

Commitment

I remember growing tired of training for a marathon. It’s exciting when you start – you’ve set yourself an enormous physical challenge and you might have a time in mind that you want to beat.

But a few weeks out from your race it can become a chore, particularly when your run involves being out on the road for three hours or more. It’s not as if you want to do much when you get home either other than stick your feet up.

But the more sacrifices you are able to make to accommodate your training then the easier the race will be. The actual event is like a prize for all the hours of hard work you’ve put in but you have to earn the right to be on that start line.

MORE: The rock and foam roll life of a runner

Understanding

It gets to the stage that all you can think about is your training. When’s your next run? What pace are you going to run it? Why is my knee/hip/ankle etc hurting?

But unless you’re an elite athlete you’re going to have other commitments in your life and if you neglect them then a friend or family is probably making up the shortfall. Remember that and appreciate it. It’s not all about you…just mostly…

Be happy

It doesn’t get any better as a runner than finishing a marathon, particularly if it’s your first one. It can be an emotional experience and if you could bottle the feeling then you would make a fortune. It will be hard but it’s so worth it. If you’re anything like me then for the last six miles you will be promising your body you won’t do this again. A few minutes after finishing you realise it’s a promise you can’t keep…

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