Karl's Marathon Journey - 26.2 miles and a bit...

Why did you decide to do The Belfast Marathon?

I did the Belfast marathon two years ago and didn’t train properly. I finished in over 5 hours and 15mins, crawling over the line – I said I would never do another one. I kept the running up since then and joined a club – Monkstown Spartans. Training with the club twice a week really helped my fitness and times. My Parkrun 5KM dropped by a few mins and my PB is now at 22m 44s. I took 12mins off my half marathon time PB time, which is now 1hr 48mins. I felt that I had another marathon in me and signed up in January, along with a load from the club.

Did you set yourself any goals?

I set myself two targets – Under 4hrs 15mins as my first goal and under 4hrs 30mins as my second goal.

What charity did you support?

We Care Project. A friend of mine is involved in the charity. They provide basic hygiene bags to foster kids, who are transitioning from care into independent living. They also provide these bags to families in my local community, who are struggling to buy basic items, such as shower gel and sanitary products. They don’t get any funding, so they rely on donations.

Your marathon journey, how you prepared and trained on top of a busy work schedule?

I trained twice a week in the evening with my running club. I followed a 16 week training plan, which involved my club training, a night in the gym, a short run on Saturday and a long run on Sunday – starting at 12 miles and peaking at 20 miles. Two weeks before the marathon my miles and training dropped down in preparation for the race.

Karl Armstrong at the Belfast City Marathon

Who else supported you?

My running club, my friends, who I trained and did my long slow Sunday runs with. My wife was also a great support. She met me around mile 16 on the actual run and passed me food. It was great seeing family lining the side of the road on the day – it was a real boost!

What you gained from the experience?

I was running well to mile 18 and under my first target, but then started to get cramp in my legs, so I had to slow way down and walk parts. I was annoyed at the time as I had ran further in my training and this hadn’t happened. Looking back at it now, I am taking all the positives from it. I easily beat my time two years ago. I ran 26.2 miles (actually I ran 0.3 miles more due to the mistake made with the route) which only 1% of the world's population have done! It’s also made me more determined to do better next year. I will be more experienced at the distance and I hope to get closer to 4hours! If you set yourself a target and don’t make it, learn from it and get it next time!

Would you recommend it/ any top tips?

100%! If you are reading this and thinking about starting to run then do it! Couch 2 5KM app’s can be downloaded straight onto your phone and they will have you running 5KM in 12 weeks, even if you can't run to the end of the road at the minute! Parkrun’s are a free timed 5KM run every Saturday and there will be one near your house! This event is brilliant as you have guys running under 18mins, people walking the whole thing and everything else in between! It can be daunting on your first visit, but everyone there was in the same position as you, when they started. I can’t recommend Parkrun enough! You really can go anywhere from here – 10KM’s, half marathon, full marathon and even an ultra marathon! Set yourself a goal, work hard and go for it!

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