For many of us, even the thought of running a marathon can seem daunting. But it is possible – all you really need are a plan and goals, according to runner and fitness professional Erica King.
And she should know. A decade ago, an 11-month training program took Ms King from the couch to running the New York marathon.
“To go from zero to crossing the finish line in New York was like no other feeling I have experienced before,” she said.
“I felt like ‘I actually can do anything I want’. I’d never felt like that before.”
Since then, Ms King – who has now run 30 marathons – has set up Running Divas. It is an online running community that helps support and motivate women, whatever their running goal.
Running Divas members will be out in force for Melbourne’s Mother’s Day Classic on May 13. Dubbed “angels” (and wearing the wings to prove it), the members will be at the bottom of the hill that comes six kilometres into the eight-kilometre fun run, ready to support anyone who might be struggling.
“Whether it’s 10 kilometres or a half marathon … it can feel like the biggest Everest climb,” Ms King said. “But I always say ‘how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’.”
She said the journey from couch to full 42-kilometre marathon should take a minimum of six months. If something shorter is your goal, say a 10-kilometre run, that can be achieved in about 10-12 weeks.
“You need to build up your body at a manageable pace – to build your leg strength and glute strength. To be able to engage that when you are running is really important,” she said.
Non-runners should start with a simple program of running and walking – perhaps five minutes of running followed by a minute of walking.
“We expect too much too soon,” Ms King said. “You need to enjoy the journey. Part of the journey is creating that strength in your body.”
New runners should also try to find amazing locations to run in and a tribe of supporters, to help make their training enjoyable. It is also important to mix running with other exercise, especially strength training – and not to run more than two days in a row.
“That can be Pilates, yoga or bike-riding, anything that uses different muscles,” Ms King said. “I would run today and then some cross-training. I would also have a full rest day in the week.”
It is crucial to have a health check before beginning any kind of running program – and make sure you have good shoes and (for women) a good sports bra. But age is no barrier.
“When I first started running, I was 38,” Ms King said. “We have women start in their 50s and 60s, of every body shape and every body size.”
“We just say ‘take it slowly – and celebrate every achievement’.”
But, she said, achieving goals in running instils a unique confidence, particularly in women.
“There’s a sense of ‘I really am more capable than I imagined’,” Ms King said. “Slowly and carefully, and with some support, any woman of any age, any body shape can achieve a running goal.”
The New Daily is a media partner of the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic, which takes place in 100 locations across Australia on Sunday, May 13, raising money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation to help fund breast cancer research. Registrations are open here.