Musings of a middle-aged marat

Musings of a middle-aged marathon man

Brian Keith shares his thoughts on his London Marathon preparations.

Musings of a middle-aged marat

The other day, my 17 year-old son remarked that my blogs have been quite serious recently. He felt I needed to lighten things up a bit. While I pride myself on not being immune to feedback (unless my wife is commenting on how I stacked the dishwasher), I cannot avoid focusing on the very serious preparations I commenced this past week for one of the most important, daunting and challenging experiences that I expect to face over the next period of my life: the 2015 London Marathon. And as I suspect that many of you (that includes my son) do not have a full appreciation of the magnitude and seriousness of this event and what comes before it, and as a five time ‘veteran’ of this race, I feel entitled to share some words of guidance, broken into the following categories for your edification.


The official marathon distance is 26.1 miles (that’s 42.2 kilometres). Why this distance? My explanation is that even a reasonably fit human being finds 26.1 miles to be beyond their normal capabilities. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself before work tomorrow morning. In my particular case, my last marathon was run four years ago when I was still in my 30s. Moreover, it preceded the knee surgery that the good doctor assured me meant that I would never run a marathon again. It goes without saying therefore that this insanely long distance should be treated with a great deal of respect, bordering on awe. Thank you.


This often misunderstood concept (especially in my synagogue) is presumed to be an excuse for a significant increase in calorie intake. This is only partly true. The idea (according to the scientists and sports nutritionists, not Jewish mothers) is to consume more carbohydrates that usual in order to fuel the body for the vast distances being covered. This may sound simple, but as the solution does not (only) involve eating an additional three chocolate croissants a day, it is actually anything but that. Pasta, potatoes, rice (preferably whole-grain) are just some of the foods that require thoughtful preparation and scheduling. As this did not occur for me last Friday afternoon prior to my 11 mile jaunt (busy day at work and all that stuff), the only items I did actually eat were a croissant and a blueberry muffin before setting off to torture myself. Simply put, this was not a good idea.

iPod playlist selecting

Any long distance runner worth their salt will tell you that one of the great inventions of the last decade was the iPod. This revolutionised training, bringing a hitherto never-anticipated synthesis between the arts and athletics. But choosing the right songs requires careful thought. Certain classics such as Snow Patrol’s rendition of “Run” are a must for any play-list. Others such as The Killers’ brilliant tune “Are You Human” and The Script’s recent hit “Superheroes” should probably be there too. But it’s also imperative to weed out some of the more demotivating ones from the existing song-list, such as the Proclaimers’ “I Would Walk 500 Miles” and Kenny Loggins’ golden oldie “Footloose”, for obvious reasons. Getting the running playlist right is crucial; imagine hitting the final couple of miles of the marathon only to be confronted with Bill Withers crooning in your ear: “I’m gonna need somebody to lean on”.


People – and I include spouses, colleagues, bosses, children, mother-in-laws and your local barista and newsagent in this category – find it extremely difficult to fully appreciate the endless aches, strains, blisters, pain and general suffering you are putting your body through. Without empathy, prospective marathon runners feel isolated and misunderstood. In my case, I am most fortunate, as my loving wife actually ran the 2007 London Marathon with me. Except that she didn’t seem to feel the pain – nor complain – nearly as much as me. (It’s not really my fault; who can compete with a woman who has had six natural childbirths!)

So there you have it. Perhaps next week I’ll try and lighten things up by addressing global climate change or the Bank of England’s dilemma regarding what to do about interest rates.

To see more of Brian’s blogs and his newly published book, go to