Taking the plunge and signing up for your first marathon is a huge step. The build up can be a rollercoaster of emotion, pain, and endless training runs. Follow these tips to make sure you succeed at your first marathon and create memories to last a lifetime.
My First Marathon
1. Research the course before you go
One of the most mentally challenging things in running can be having to tackle a tough course that you're not ready for. Most big city marathons will be largely flat, but check out the course profile online before you go so that there are no inclines that will take you by surprise and drain you mentally as well as physically.
2. Read reviews and race reports from people who have run it before
Every marathon is different, and some will have little quirks that you might not have prepared for. Read up on reports by people who have run your particular marathon before so that you can be mentally ready for a course that might be overcrowded or not have the aid stations you're expecting.
3. Fuel and hydrate properly
This is most people's downfall and can be the difference between crossing the line in victory and ending up in a heap on the floor at mile 20! Create a fuel and hydration strategy well before the race and stick to it throughout your training. Choose whether you're going to use gels, bars, fruit, sugar, or sports drinks to fuel you and bear in mind the aid stations on route may well not have what you're used to.
4. Plan your outfit carefully
One of the worst feelings in the world is chafing badly during a long run. Plan exactly what you're going to wear and train in it well before the race. Which trainers will you wear? Do they give you blisters? Will your sports bra chafe? Will your shorts ride up? Think about every possibility to make sure you are as comfortable as possible so that you can just focus on your running and nothing else.
5. Don't overtrain
One of the biggest challenges in marathon training is getting to the start line uninjured. Don't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week and as soon as you start to feel a niggle, ease off. It is far better to miss one or two training runs than pushing through the pain, getting injured, and having to miss two or even three weeks of training.
6. Don't compare yourself to others
Everyone is different with different goals and different abilities. Don't compare yourself to someone who has run many marathons before and has a goal of finishing over an hour quicker than you. It will just make you feel less confident in your own abilities and could lead to overtraining. Set your own goals and stick to your own game plan. Just because someone is running 70 miles a week doesn't mean that is right for you.
7. Check the weather
The last thing you want is to get to the start line feeling great, uninjured, and then suffer from heat exhaustion. A lot of major European marathons are held in April which can be a very changeable month. One year it may be 25 degrees Celsius but on your race day it might only be 8 degrees and raining. Make sure you prepare for any eventuality and that you plan your outfit accordingly. Check the weather the week leading up to the event so that you can be as prepared as possible.
8. Don't try anything new on race day
This is a piece of advice you'll hear a lot, but it's not overrated, definitely heed it! This means no new foods, no new drinks, and no new outfits. You never know how your body might react to a new food or drink and you don't want to be rushing to the portaloo every mile of the run. The same goes with new clothes, as you won't know if they chafe or not. Your comfort is paramount so only go with tried and tested things that you've used in training.
9. Co-ordinate with family and friends
If you're struggling, seeing family and friends cheering you on can be a huge morale boost. Make sure you co-ordinate with them before the race so that they know exactly where to stand and you know where to expect them. The big marathons can get exceptionally crowded and thinking that you've missed each other can be a huge distraction to your running.
10. Enjoy yourself!
This is last but by no means least. You signed up for this race for yourself and no one is going to run it for you. No matter what your motives for doing it, you need to remember to enjoy yourself! Unless you are a professional athlete, you don't need to take it too seriously, so don't let setbacks kill your vibe and try your best to go with the flow. A marathon is a huge event and you can't predict everything that's going to happen. Try to have fun and at the end make sure you know just how proud of yourself you should be!