Things to know before your first marathon
By Matt Ogg, 29, a British amateur runner and adventurer. He has completed five marathons to date and sailed around the world. He is currently training for the Gore-tex Transalpine Race 2017.
There are lots of tips for marathon running. Everybody has an opinion! Truthfully, each and every one of us is different. We have our own preferences. Our own rituals. Most of us run because we love it, or for the challenge.
Over the course of five marathons here are a few things I’ve taken with me but don’t feel duty bound by any of them. But maybe they might just help keep you on track ahead of the big day, especially if it’s your first outing…
- Prep your kit the day before — especially if you’re destination running.I’d suggest doing it before you pick up your bib. You can always pick up last minute kit at the expo if you forgot to pack something. All you have to do is wake up on race day and put it all on. No ducking or diving through bags. No panic. Try not to add anything new on race day unless you really have to. (1.1 Nipples — one for the guys, just tape them!)
2. Don’t be a slave to your running watch — great for keeping your pace in check but run the race in front of you. You’ve probably been using it throughout training, and it’s great for pacing yourself. Try to keep a constant rhythm but don’t fret too much if you’re a little off. Stretch your legs on the downhills, know the ups may be a little tougher going — listen to your body. Unless you’re going for a qualification time, take in the occasion and remember there wasn’t a mass of other runners alongside you in training after all. Sometimes you just have to duck and dodge and change lanes. Run the race in front of you.
(N.B Get your satellite connection up early once you’re in the herd just as a test, it’ll usually find it quicker the second time if it drops out and stress you less as your start approaches! Don’t forget to charge it!! It might sound silly but in all the panic check you’ve got full bars and can rely on your trusty pacer for the day.)
3. Gold, silver, bronze. A little trick that was taught to me. I always have three times in my head that I’m aiming for in the race. Naturally everyone wants their best time ever! But running, and your body, don’t always obey! If suddenly your top ‘must get’ time slips away, it’s good to be able to re-adjust and still stay motivated when the legs get tired. A marathon is as much a mental fight as a physical one. It could be pace. It could be a finish time. But be honest with yourself on what they should be.
- Gold is my perfect race. I put everything together and today is my day. I’m a hero to myself!
- Silver is great. I’ve used my training and run a solid race. No complaints here.
- Bronze is more generous, in case it’s not my day. Be proud of your run even if you didn’t put everything together this time.
But don’t forget finishing is a triumph even if you miss your time goal. You’ve achieved something special. You can always go again!
4. Run smart — you might be chasing a PB, it might be your first marathon, but think about the conditions. You’ll be buzzing and full of adrenaline, but don’t go out too hard and stick to your race plan. And plan for the conditions. If it’s glorious sunshine and warm temperatures think about hydration, accessories like sunglasses and sunscreen. Drink if you’re thirsty. If it’s cold, especially at the start, make sure you keep warm as best you can, maybe a layer you can later discard. If the sky starts leaking and you find yourself in a wet race, think about extra chafe and maybe invest in some body glide! Every marathon is different, it’s never the same 42.2km.
5. Eat breakfast. Sounds straightforward, is straightforward. Choose something carb rich. My last race was a cereal bar/bagel and a banana. I prefer a lighter breakfast but know that these stores are important. Try to eat at least a couple of hours before the start and don’t forget to hydrate!
6. Warm up — but don’t go crazy. Unlike the professionals, you’ll no doubt be packed in the herd and may be standing around the start line for some time. Try to keep moving in the start pen even though you’re a little static. A short jog before you get into the pen, once you’re in there roll the ankles and stretch the calves. Jog on the spot. It’s hard in amongst the pack but it all helps prepare your body for the race and the distraction will calm your nerves.
Soak up the atmosphere. Absorb the music and the cheers. Use the added adrenaline and excitement. It may hurt, but it’ll be worth it in the end. This is what you trained for.
You got this. Let’s dance. Let’s Do This.