How to Train For a Marathon When You Are Too Busy

Emily from Wimi-fitness talking about training for a marathon when you are busy…

Ah, the marathon. It’s the 26-mile-long pinnacle of your achievement as a runner. Once you get serious about pounding the pavement, you won’t want to stop until you’ve got a few completed marathons under your belt… and then a few more. 

But if you’re anything like me, you’ve got more than a few daily obligations to juggle. Between writing and editing WIMI Fitness’s blog, managing my career, and keeping up with athletics news, I barely have time to fit in my daily run. Some days, it just doesn’t happen. Even diehards like me need to skip a day now and then. That doesn’t mean that I can’t run a marathon, though, and no matter how busy you are, you can run one too. 

Step 1: Don’t Give It Up

You ARE going to run this marathon. It’s written in stone. Plan on it, because it’s going to happen. Place it high in your mind as a landmark toward which you run whenever you train. When other people bug you with their priorities, remember that this landmark exists. Make time for it, because it’s not going anywhere. 

When you begin to act as though the marathon is inevitable, everyone around you will, too. Certainly, it can’t dominate your life. Balance in all things is important and healthy. But your marathon can be significant. If an extra shift comes up at work, it’s OK to refrain from volunteering. You’ve done your duty and now you have to run. If your partner can pick your kids up from school, let them. Your kids are wonderful, but they’ll see you at dinner, and that marathon isn’t going anywhere. You’ve got to prepare before it arrives. Think of how proud and impressed your family, friends and coworkers will be when you cross that finish line.

Not for nothing, a family or group of friends who runs together often has a lot of fun together. One way to get ahead on that we-time while you keep up your training is to suggest running with friends instead of coffee. If they’re serious runners too, all the better. Accountability partners, as Amanda Brooks of Run to the Finish points out, can do a lot to help you stay on track. 

Step 2: Lifestyle Adjustments Are Everything

Heba Hosny at the great blog Run Addicts points out that good health doesn’t just mean going to the gym. In fact, it’s just as important to get enough sleep and eat your green vegetables as it is to exercise. You can also fit little exercise cheats into your daily routine. Running up the stairs instead of taking the elevator can give you a big cumulative health boost if you do it every day for a year. 

Even if you do fit in enough running time, remember that every candy bar or bowl of ice cream will set you back by days. It’s not just that these are fatty, high-calorie foods. Sugar is your enemy when it comes to training: it gives you nothing but a moment of gratification, and in return you get a sugar crash and a metabolism working too hard to get rid of the junk you just fed it. 

Look at when you’re running, too. Getting up early in the morning might be a pain, but it’s one of the only places in your schedule where you have real flexibility. Try running before everyone else wakes up. As an added bonus, you’ll be extra-alert for the rest of your day. 

Step 3: Train Intelligently

OK, so you’re doing both middle distance runs and speed runs. Good job! That’s how you should be training. But there are better ways to do that. As Amanda Loudin writes at Runners Connect, why not make your middle distance day your speed day, too? She’s got plenty of other good advice, too, especially if you’re going at your training in a disciplined way. For instance, she suggests combining two days of training into one, which I wholeheartedly support, and adding your runs to your week before all else. That’s a crucial factor to your success: running matters to you, therefore it is a priority. If you want to complete your marathon, your running needs to have top billing. 

Step 4: Consider How Training Makes The Rest of Your Life Better

How long do you really think you’ll have the energy to keep up your pace if your level of fitness falls off? Sure, right now you can zoom around picking up kids with one hand as you write your blog and run the boardroom with the other, but the mere fact that you can do that is a testament to your physical endurance. It’s a monument the fact that you’ve taken the time to take care of yourself first. 

But in the end, that’s the real reason we run, isn’t it? It makes us feel good. It makes the rest of our lives healthier, happier, longer and stronger. No matter what other obligations reside on your shoulders, your marathon is a priority for YOU. And YOU are important, too. Your family and coworkers see the benefits of a fit and happy you all the time. Make space for your own running zen and train your heart out. This is something that you earn every day.

In Brief…

You won’t just run this marathon: you’ll rule this marathon. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll cross that finish line in great time, regardless of how busy the rest of your schedule is. You’ll find the time to train and, like thousands of other marathoners around the world, you’ll master the demands of daily life the same way you’ve mastered your physical health. Whether you’re juggling kids, work and training, or you’re in school, or you’re just flush with responsibility, you deserve a good race. You’re worth putting the time in on yourself. If I can do it, so can you.


My 24-hour love

The once empty fields of Catton Park, Derbishire was quickly filling up with colourful runners in Wellies and raincoats putting up tents, filling up watering cans, prepping food and equipment for the weekend. Not even the summer rain could damped the nervous excitement of the runners and spectators. “Why?” I hear you ask. Well, the last weekend in July is the Adidas Thunder Run. Runners from all over the country come together with one goal: to run as many 10km laps in 24-hours as part of a five or eight person team, a pair or as a solo runner. Whoever does the most laps wins! Easy!
This year’s we had a mixed Women’s and Men’s running team with Gary Dalton and myself, Anne-Marie Lategan as team captains and the rest of the team members the competition winners, Jade Booth, Laura Bell, Alexy Dury, Dan Stinton, Paul Simons and Steve Jones. I set up base camp with Jade on the Friday night parading our camping area to ensure that our team mates would have space to camp. From 7am on Saturday morning our team mates started to arrive all smartly dressed in their sponsored Adidas gear. This was the first time we met in person. As a veteran to the event I knew that a friendly hand shake from a stranger will soon turn into a hug of friendship that will last long beyond the 24-hours. 

As noon approached a combination of nervous and excitement tension was filling the air. Event veterans and newbies all line up. Our team strategy was simply to have an enjoyable weekend with everyone doing what they can, no clipboard time keepers counting every 86 400 seconds. Yes there was a sign on course with this info. Probably not the best motivational quote at 1am when I read it without falling over but informational never the less. We decided to run alternating male female starting with Speedy Paul who did his first lap in an astonishing 38:50. Jade our own campsite giraffe (named after her onesie) would have her work cut out to turn up on time. 

In between laps, which for the mortals between us was around 50 to 70 minutes we sat around eating Jade’s homemade flapjacks and my homemade sweet potato and banana muffins getting to know each other. Things happened naturally Paul was very nervous, so to get rid of his nervous tension he had to keep the Jerry can full. Dan was the first one to take out a camera so he turned into our team’s official camera man. The rest of us walked around and support runners going on course and coming off. Before the event Adidas asked people to tweet motivational quotes and that they will put some along the course. So you could images Laura’s surprise when she got to the top of the Conti Hill to find her quote “the sooner you step away from your comfort zone, the sooner you’ll realise it wasn’t really comfortable at all” Laura Bell #allin24. 

By night fall we all completed one lap. The conversation soon changed from discussions about mud drying out to strategies of how to run in the woodlands in the dark comparing head torches. Where else in our normal life is comparing lumens, beam distance and burn time of head torches a normal appropriate conversation. And if you think that was boring you soon realised the importance of it when a runner approaches you from behind lighting up the way just to leave you behind in darkness silently wishing you could run their speed. I’ve been there before and was please to say that this year I was one of the night time light bearers. Now during these events as a team captain I have come to realised that the night time can be detrimental to team members who are not used to running in darkness. And to tell the truth I was very concerned about Alexy after she told me that due to her deafness she struggle to keep her balance if she can’t see. So when I woke up to find that we had no night time casualties I was ecstatic. I do think Mother Nature was kind to us this year giving us a dry warm night but I knew that was too good to be true. On my last lap it started to drizzle. Me and Steve manage to escape the rain but the heavens open on Alexy and Paul last laps. In true Thunder Run sprite they enjoyed every muddy step and finished their laps with a smile bringing the team home with 25 laps. 


76 miles running in two days -Mont Blanc here I come!

After two years of preparing for the UTMB ( it’s finally a reality. My place is confirmed and I’m filled with mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness.

The question that most people ask me is how do you prepare for a 103mile race and what about sleep?! The most important thing is to stay calm and break the event up into smaller bite size chunks. During the winter I was working on a very intense strength training programme to ensue I can start the season stronger than last year. My first challenge came this year when I ran the South Downs Way 50(SDW50) on the Saturday followed by the Brighton Marathon on the Sunday, a total of 76 miles for the weekend. Now for most normal people the thought of doing this is insane but this is only the first of three mental running weekends. I knew that I was strong enough to do it but was fully aware the I haven’t done enough milage between January and March, but despite it all I worked out my race plan to do all three marathons in about five hours thirty minutes each. Without injury, strong legs and a good mental and nutritional plan this should be doable.

But there was something else on my mind. Last year the SDW50 was my first DNF(did not finish). I didn’t manage my clothing correctly and had to stop after 27 mile because I was too cold and wet to continue. So this year I planned my clothing and race strategy to perfection, or at least that’s what I thought. The night before the race when I was setting out all my stuff my heart STOPED and I said a sentence not the be repeated. I had everything and more except my shoes! How could I forget my shoes! Luckily I remembered that there was an old pair of running trainers in my car. On their way to retirement they had to work one more time, only 76 mile to go!

Racing was perfect! I felt great and was thrilled to completed the SDW50 in 10:57. Three minutes faster than planned which gave me a boost for the Brighton Marathon. Getting on the bus which transported us to the start line I could see a few people staring at my penguin walk, probably thinking how on earth is this women going to run a marathon, but I knew that I had a lot more to give and that within three miles I’ll be warmed up. I met my running friend Helen and lined up for the final marathon of the weekend. Our aim was to run together but my body only knew one speed and it didn’t like slowing down or speeding up so I set of on my own. My brain and body went into a auto pilot, the only goal to get to the finish line within five and a half hours.

The two races contradict each other so much. The green rolling hill with a single file of runners spread out into the distance vs. the the sea of people threading through sticky gel stations. On the long straight stretches I practice my ‘sleep running’. By following the white lines in the middle of the road I could almost close my eyes and switch off from everything around me. I practice this in some of my training runs and was brilliant to actually use it in a race. If you get this meditated sleep running right miles just seems to fly by.

Crossing the finish line in 5h25 was amazing. I manage to keep a steady pace over 76 miles preventing fatigue! Now on to the next long training weekend 115km over the Carpathian Mountains in Romania with two goals: one set up the route for my own ultra marathon ( and to test my treadmill mountain training in real mountains.