Before you run
Whatever goals you decide to set yourself before you start running, the important thing is to make sure they're SMART. This means your goals should be:
• Specific: What exactly do you want to achieve? How far do you want to run, or how fast?
• Measurable: How will you know when you've achieved your goal, and how will you measure it? This will usually tie into the 'specific' part of your goal, as there should be an easily measurable element, such as distance or time, which you can break up into smaller chunks to measure your progress.
• Achievable: Make sure it's possible to achieve the goal you're setting yourself. Do you have the time to complete it around work and personal commitments? Will the weather or nightfall make it difficult to run for as long as you want? If these, or any other factors you think of, will hinder your progress, rethink the goal.
• Realistic: Similar to 'achievable': are you capable of reaching this goal? Think about what you'd feel comfortable doing, and up it slightly to create a realistic - but challenging - goal. If you're finding it too easy once you've started, you can always push yourself a little more.
• Time: How long is it going to take you to meet your goal? A week? A fortnight? A whole month? Decide on your challenge, lace up your running shoes, and get ready to go!
Before you even head out the door on your first run, it's worth considering what you want to achieve from it (besides clocking up miles for MyMarathon, of course!), and setting some goals to help you get there. This stops you from running without a clear aim, and giving up before you really get going.
Now you've got some goals to work towards, it's time to get inspired to meet them. If you're struggling to get off the sofa, here are a few things to remember:
• Remember it's mind over matter: You might not have stepped into a gym since last year, or not be able to remember the last time you ran for anything other than the bus, but that doesn't mean you're not cut out for MyMarathon! The most important thing is believing you can do it - and since you accepted the challenge, you're already half way there! So put on your running gear and get out the door.
• Share your challenge: The more people you tell you're taking part in MyMarathon, the more difficult it'll be to give up on it. So talk to your friends and family about your runs, ask colleagues to sponsor you, put it on Facebook and Twitter, or Instagram your running selfies: anything to keep you committed to finishing!
• Make time for running: We all have busy lives, and it's definitely tempting to cancel a run in favour of more exciting plans. But if you're going to run 26.2 miles over the month, it's important to stick to a schedule. Try putting regular runs into your diary, and making your other plans around them once they're there.
• Create a playlist: It's much easier to clock up the miles when you've got a motivational soundtrack to keep you company. Before you head out, load some up-tempo, feel-good songs into a playlist to help you get in the zone.
• Power through: We've all been there. You're enthusiastic, you've got your shiny new running shoes on and you're off. 10 minutes later you've got a stitch and you're struggling to breathe. It's always hard for the first few days so keep it up and don't be hard on yourself - it will get easier eventually, and when the endorphins set in, you might even find yourself looking forward to a run!