How To Run Your First Marathon
There are many things to consider when training for your first marathon. I’m not talking about the months of workouts you will have to complete. I’m not talking about marathon training plans. In this article, I’m focusing on the actual day (and week) in which you are going to run those 42 kilometres / 26.2 miles. Once you have completed your marathon training, how do you know if everything is in order for the actual race?
You have a lot of control over how successful and positive your race-day experience will be.
Here are some marathon training tips I’ve learned in my two and a half years of running and after almost 2000 miles. I’ve run in the Sahara desert, I’ve run two mountain ultra marathons, I’ve run barefoot, I’ve run at -25°. Let’s say I have “experimented” with different situations in order to find answers to my questions regarding running – especially marathon running.
Running a marathon is 50% planning and 50% running.
Try to run at least two of your long workouts on the race course. That way you’ll become familiar with the route and the terrain and you’ll be able to plan where to stop (or which rapid-transit station to exit) in advance. Run or walk the last mile of the course a few times – get used to it. It is vital to get used to the actual “feeling” of the race, and trust me, the last mile is the worst.
Visualize yourself crossing the finish line. Visualize your line-up position. Don’t forget that first-time marathon runners ought to line up at the back. You need to do this first race slowly and enjoy the experience. You might take walk breaks as you did during your marathon training. If there is a sidewalk, use it.
The Days Before The Race
Do carbo-loading a couple of days before the race. Eat complex carbs. Carbohydrate “loading” the night before the race can lead to carbohydrate “unloading” during the marathon, so be careful.
Have plenty of sleep, do short runs and make the last preparations before the actual race. Check the official website of the marathon for last-minute details you need to take care of. Buy the things you need for the marathon.
The Afternoon Before
Try not to run the day preceding the race. You definitely won’t lose your conditioning with two days off from running before the actual event. If there’s a pre-marathon expo or some kind of event, don’t walk around for too long. Just pick up your computer chip and your race number and go and rest.
The Dinner Before
Having a dinner the night before a marathon is not a must. However, I suggest going out for dinner with other runners, while enjoying the moments before the race. Do not eat too much. It usually takes 24 hours for most of the food you eat to be processed and actually used during the marathon.
Eating is really optional after 6 p.m. If you are hungry, have a light snack that you know won’t cause you any stomach issues. Less is better, but don’t go to bed hungry.
During the day before the race, just drink when you are thirsty.Try not to drink huge amounts of liquid the morning of the marathon. It could prompt restroom breaks during the marathon. While some races have portable toilets around the course, some don’t. A typical practice is to drink 6 to 10 ounces of liquid around 2 hours prior to the race. Rehearse your drinking routine throughout your marathon training plan, and do what works best for you.
Alcohol is best avoided. Some runners can have a beer or a glass of wine, while others can get in trouble. You know your body and how it responds to alcohol, so choose accordingly.
Last Minute Preparations
Pack your bag for the morning and get your race clothes ready.
- Your GPS-enabled watch or smartphone
- Running shoes
- Race number pinned to the back or front of your t-shirt
- Electrolytes, salt, Magnezium, Calcium
- Pre-race beverages, post-race drinks
- Bandages and any other first-aid things you might need
- Money for registration if you are registering there (check if there’s a late fee)
- Money for fuel and car parking
- Race chip attached
Start your warm-up about 20-30 minutes before the start.
After the Start
- Keep in mind that you can control how you feel during the run by smart pacing and walking. Go slowly to save energy for the last miles.
- Walk when you feel tired – there’s no shame in that.
- If it is warm, slow down (30 seconds/mile slower for each 5 degrees over 60°F).
- IMPORTANT: Try not to let yourself be pulled out too fast at the beginning of the marathon.
- Remember that you will catch most runners who don’t take walk breaks.
- Talk with other runners along the way, enjoy this amazing experience and smile often.
- Most people burn between 400-700 calories per hour. Eat every 40-60 minutes to maintain blood sugar levels.
- At mile 24 just remember: YOU CAN DO IT. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.
Toward the Finish
- Cross the finish line in the upright position with a big grin
- Keep walking for at least 10 minutes after the marathon
- Drink plenty of water or sports drinks
- Have a snack within the next 40-60 minutes – 70% carbs and 30% protein
- Soak your legs in cold water or ice
The next day walk for 20-60 minutes and keep drinking water and eating carbs. Wait at least 7 days before you vow to never run another marathon again or before scheduling your next running event.
Are you training for your first marathon? I’d love to hear how you are doing. Share your story with us in the comments below.