So, you have enrolled for your first marathon, your first long-distance running. Quite thrilled, right! It’s but natural to feel this way. After all, the excitement of crossing the finish line is unparalleled and unmatched. And you have taken your first step toward that experience by enrolling yourself.
Now, what next? May be setting up a training calendar or may be a new diet plan or probably purchasing a new shoe!
Fact check: “Long-distance running is 90% mental and the rest is physical” – Rich Davis.
Distance running is all about endurance and the process of building strength involves effort & pain. The feeling of frustration often sinks in if the results are not visible. Just don’t give up. You need to train your body and mind in parallel to keep going even when it is hard.
I have covered a separate article on running lessons for beginners, learned from experiences, which may assist you in your marathon preparation.
In this post, I am listing down certain things, you should keep in mind before running your first marathon.
1. A couple of days before the race
Make sure you have got ample sleep in the last two days and have a good amount of carbohydrates – runners call it carb loading. Don’t eat spicy food, a day before the run.
2. Fuel before the run
You can have a light breakfast before the run. Make sure you have breakfast at least 60-90 minutes before the run. Don’t excess hydrate yourself before the run. You may have electrolytes 60 minutes before the run.
3. Cut down on unhealthy habits
Please don‘t hang me for this. As a fact, you will be on the road for 4-5 hours. Long-distance running needs stamina, a lot of determination and practice. So, it’s better to slow down your unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking, if any.
There is no rule book as such on how long before a race you can drink. But drinking can affect your sleep and may reduce your body’s ability to store glycogen, which is vital for endurance. So, it is advisable to reduce the intake of alcohol during your training plan.
Similarly, smoking reduces the lung capacity and runners require more intake of oxygen to pump up the muscles which helps them to run farther and faster.
Bonus point: It is said that, when you start training for a Marathon, smoking habit gets reduced naturally. This is because running is an excellent habit replacement due to the release of endorphins (happy chemicals) in the brain, similar to what smoking does, though at a lower level.
4. Plan your travel
If you are running outside your city, plan your travel on how to reach the race place on time. Try to reach the race place at least an hour before the start time. If the climate is cold, you can wear a fleece jacket which will keep you warm.
Check if there are storage and parking facility at the start point. Read the instructions of the Race properly and plan accordingly.
5. Route recce
Make yourself familiar with the route of the race in advance to make sure you know whether there are any uphill or downhill.
If the race is nearby your area you can do a route recce- a trial run of the race route. This will give you more confidence and would be a good encouragement.
6. Get everything ready a night before the race
Keep all your running gears and gadgets ready a night before the Marathon such as Tee, shorts, socks, shoes, water bottle, Bib & Bib pins, sun glass, cap, vaseline, tape, etc.
Carry some cash & identity proof along with contact information of the kin.
Choose your outfit as per the weather condition, preferably the one with you have practiced. Though you can’t perfectly rely on the weather forecast :), but just to be on a safer side.
15–20 minutes of warm-up exercises will make your body well prepared for the run and will avoid any sudden cramps.
Move the joints in various parts of your body and stretch your muscles so that they are not rigid enough to be injured during the run such as cramp, etc.
Also, make sure to have your washroom break before your run. That allows you to have to save a few minutes from your final running time.
8. Trust yourself
“When you believe in your abilities, you can run any distance, including the distance, you once believed was impossible”
Running a Marathon is more of a mental sport. Be positive and take a deep breath to calm yourself at the start line. Treat it as just another practice run.
And, in case things don’t go in your favor that day, there is always another race. Even, my first marathon was a DNF. Sometimes, quitting can be the best way to finish and Winners know when to quit.
And yes, don’t forget to celebrate the failure.
9. Find a mantra
Watch motivational movies. Read inspirational quotes. Listen to encouraging stories. Anything or everything that connects with you motivates you.
Find that quote, that word, your mantra which speaks to you.
Something which keeps you pushing forward whenever you are down with confidence or surrounded by the thought of giving up.
10. Inform your friends and relatives
Last but not the least, inform your near and dear ones about the run. These are the people who will be constantly motivating you during your run preparation. Also, their presence on the marathon day gives you the nitrous boost 🙂
Remember, you cannot call your friends and relatives at the start line as only runners with BIB’s are allowed. You can ask them to stay at some designated en route points to cheer for you, esp. at 30 km point or beyond that as you tend to hit the wall after 30 km.
The motivation from them would help you to run farther and can help you to complete the race stronger.
26.2 miles, that’s the distance you will be running. All those early mornings, routine workouts, and dedication are to cover this 26.2 miles. Crossing that finish line is a feeling like none other.
But, even if you cannot, those 4-5 hours of experience on the road will change your life forever. Before I conclude, remember the famous quote by Emil Zatopek-
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon”
Thank You for reading it through. I hope the mentioned tips will help you to plan your marathon experience and find a place in your running handbook.
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