Tips for First Time Marathoners
2015 saw me complete my first Virgin London Marathon. For me, this was also the first marathon I had run. Along the way I received a lot of advice and support. But based on my experience, here's my advice for those of you planning to run 26.2 miles for the first time in 2016:-
1. Don't Panic!!
Possibly a little controversial to start with; marathon running isn't actually that hard, so don't panic. With the right training and preparation, running 26.2 miles is more than achievable. For those of you nervous, or over awed by your first marathon look at this way; for most marathons you get a 6 hour cut off, for London you get 8. So even if you ended up having to walk the majority of the way, you'll still finish within the allotted time.
2. Overtraining is as detrimental as under training.
It still surprises me the amount of people who come in the shop and are completing 15 mile training runs 3 months out before their first marathon; or those who come in after their race telling how the 20 mile run they did 3 weeks before the race felt great, but on the day there was nothing in their legs. For me my London Marathon place came on the back of an 8 month lay-off with shin splints. In training I completed one 12 mile run, one 14 mile and one 17 mile run. Albeit I finished over an hour after I had wanted to when I first got my place, but I got on the start line injury free. I listened to my body and when I felt old injuries re-occur I eased off until the signs left.
3. Practice your race day routine.
Whilst I may not have ran the long runs I may have wanted to in training, on those longer runs, and the races I booked in to my training plan I rehearsed my race routine over and over. From what meal I was going to have the night before, to pinning my number onto my t-shirt, putting my gels in my belt, knowing what I was going to wear. I repeated and tweaked my routine until perfect, so on race day, there was as little as possible that could ruffle my feathers.
4. Have a plan for your race.
Again, because of my previous injury the majority of my training consisted of long periods of running, split up with short periods of walking to give my legs a little restbite. For me I took this into the race, with a plan of running for a mile, then walking for a minute. I would advise having a plan A, B and even C. For me, B was to run to every mile marker then walk for a minute, with plan c being run for nine minutes and walk for one. Once again having all this in place enabled me to be the calmest I have ever been before any race on race day.
5. Tweak your nutrition in training, not on the day of the race.
You should have also used your long runs to play with your nutrition and have decided what energy gels, bars, sweets you will be using and when to keep you fuelled up appropriately. Start of trying anything new at home before going out. Occasionally some products can really disagree with you and the best place to be caught short is at home, near enough to the toilet!
6. Get your gait analysis done and wear the correct footwear.
It really does make a difference and the right footwear will make the whole training and race day experience much more enjoyable!
7. Enjoy it.
For me running the London Marathon was the best day of my life. The whole experience, from the build up, to the camaraderie between the runners on the start line, through to the unbelievable support from the 100,000's of people who lined the streets was unbelievable. Marathons bring out the best in people. I urge you not to be the person in a heap at mile 17 in a flood of tears because you did not prepare properly or had pushed yourself too hard. Enjoy it, enjoy every single mile. You will run plenty of marathons again, but you will only ever run your first one once!