If this ends badly I’m going to blame it on a book. Also the person who kept pointing me at the book. I’ve collected my entry pack for the Blackmores Sydney Marathon and I’d be lying of I said I didn’t have a bit of a wobbly moment when the lady handed it to me. Unlike last year when, streaming with flu, I had an honorable way out. Guess I have to rock up and race this time.

The marathon thing started as a goal I set before my last birthday, because everyone needs challenges, right? And for a desk jockey with no previous form in this event and probably a good 10 to 15 kilos of extra weight it’s been a stiff challenge. My last attempt saw me scaling hillsides, baking in unexpected sun and even being chased by a very small dog in Hobart. At least I finished, which was more than the guy who decided to run it in bare feet.

So I committed to the Sydney Marathon again this year with a full training programme after having discovered from Hobart that training turns out not to be an optional extra. The one thing I learned from the Hobart race (aside from you should never run from a dog, or look like a weak member of the herd shuffling by its front gate) is that a marathon is actually just a 10km run up a very steep hill but you have to run 30km to get to the start; there is a point where it stops being a race and turns into a test of character.

I’m not big on tests of character so I fell back on the old adage: “train hard, fight easy”. This is where the book comes in… it’s Born to Run and was pushed on me by an enthusiastic colleague. It builds up to a 50km race through the canyons of the Mexican badlands between some of the best ultramarathon runners in North America and the Tarahumara, a local tribe of Zen running gods. It talks a lot about the optimal style for long distance running and how the modern running shoe has evolved to pamper the feet to such an extent that the injury rate has increased rather than decreased over the last few decades. It also talks a lot about humans running extreme distances on a regular basis through running long and running often. The biggest revelation to me was that it put to the sword the received wisdom that some people aren’t cut out to run and that running is possibly only until your knees inevitably give way some time in middle age.

So I made four changes in the build up to the marathon. Firstly, I’m trialling a change to my running style, concentrating on shorter strides and an upright posture. Secondly, I have stepped up the intensity of 10km runs during the week. Thirdly, I’m going on a fresh fruit and veg diet from now until race day (after which I will have a large steak). Finally, I didn’t buy the new pair of shoes and will stick with my comfortable old ones.

The race day strategy is to get to 37km relatively intact and watch out for small dogs. After that, apparently the crowd carries you the last five. Just so long as it’s not the ambulancemen.