A fat bloke’s guide to running a marathon

Nick Barlow
11 min readAug 5, 2019

So, you want to run a marathon — or scarier still, you’ve told people you’re going to run a marathon — and you’re now wondering just how you’re going to do that. You’ve taken a look around at various training guides and noticed they all seem to be written for people who are much fitter and more active than you and are surrounded by pictures of people who look nothing like you. Even when there are before and after pictures, the before looks much fitter and slimmer than you can imagine being and the after might as well be animated for all the chance you have of getting like that.

Which is why I thought I’d write my guide to running a marathon based on my experience of completing the London Marathon earlier this year, which you can read about here:

Left picture by LW Photography

And here’s my before and after. On the left, me in April 2017 not long after I started running at the 4th birthday of Colchester Castle Parkrun, and on the right me pushing myself through those final few metres on the Mall to finish the 2019 London Marathon. There’s definitely less of me in the second picture, but still a lot more of me than there is of most people. Yes, I was a hell of a lot fitter by the time I ran the marathon, but I’m not the sleek and lithe long-distance runner most people expect you need to be to finish a marathon.

This is A fat bloke’s guide to running the marathon, not The guide. It’s based entirely on my experience and I’m not a trained running coach or any other sort of fitness professional. I don’t have any qualifications and I don’t claim to be an expert, so please bear that in mind as you read on. This is what worked for me and got me round the 26 miles, and I hope that it works for you too.

For me, to run a marathon you need to build yourself up in three different areas of fitness. They’re linked, and boosting one often helps to boost the others, but you need to be aware of them as separate things when training for the marathon. These three are:

Nick Barlow

Former academic and politician, now walking, cycling and working out what comes next. https://linktr.ee/nickbarlow