Congratulations! Your big day has come! After rigorous training for 16 weeks, it’s your show time in finishing your first marathon and accomplish one of the greatest challenge in your life.
Though I have been asking you to keep calm, don’t take it too lightly. There are a few things you have to bear in mind along the 26.2 miles. It is hard to remember 25 tips or 10 things during running. So I urge you to take a PET with you.
Don’t get too excited! You are not going to run with your 4 leg puppy. PET is an acronym for Pace, Eat, and Think. Not that hard to remember, right?
Keep them in mind during the course from starting point to finish line. And most likely you will be using them in the right chronological order.
Strategy During The Course
The worst thing that can happen under your control is starting at a pace faster than your target marathon pace.
Perhaps you are too excited and want to rush out of the pack. Don’t!
Starting at higher pace will not take you faster to cross the finish line, mostly like you will finish slower or even fail to reach the finish line in your first marathon. It is advisable to start at a pace lower than your target marathon pace by 10% and pick up your rhythm gradually after some miles. Don’t worry, even if you start slowly, you have hours to catch up later in the course. There is no need to rush, and be patient. It is a kind of discipline that you have been trained for during the past months.
Another pitfall is when some runners pass over you, you may be tempted to chase and pass over them. Don’t! You will never know how they have been trained and what their goals are. This is a marathon, not a race. The only one you are competing with is yourself. Just keep to your own pace, relax and enjoy the journey.
If you have been going through the training and following the nutrition plan seriously, and rehearsed in your long runs, you should have a plan on when and what to fuel along the course. Keep to your strategy and eat your energy bars or gels, do not skip as you are not feeling hungry. It will be too late if you feel hungry. Same for water and electrolytes. Eat some more if the weather is cold, drink some more when it is hot.
While I have been stressing to stick to the fuel you carry, you may be tempted by the food offered at the feed stations when you desperately need something to motivate yourself. It is alright to taste some, but do not rely on them as the fuel. I have experienced eating some banana in green offered that made me terribly uncomfortable once in a marathon. Perhaps you can also carry some snack you love to give your mind a boost during the hard time.
Your race day is no famine event, or weight loss opportunity. Bring your own food and fuel yourself along the course, so you have the energy to avoid hitting the wall and safely take you to the finish line.
Running first marathon is gruelling, and probably the longest run in your life ever. There will be moments when you feel frustrated during the race and your body is asking you to halt, probably somewhere between the 15 to 20 mile mark. This is when your mind power to jump in and take control. And remember Gatorade Ad:
“There is a moment in every race. A moment where you can either quit, fold, or say to yourself, ‘I can do this.'”
Tell yourself that you can do it. Pat on your back and encourage other runners along the way. Visualize the amazing moment to cross the finish line, hear the applause from the audience and greeting by your friends on Facebook or any means. More importantly, it is the accomplishment that you deserve after tough training for months!
Nonetheless, remember you are not Rambo, or Terminator. In case, you are really feeling unwell during the race, such as a chest pain or dizzying that you never experienced before, slow down and go into aid station if needed. Though it may ruin your first marathon goal, at least you have a second chance to finish a marathon first time in the future.
Things To Do Before The Starting Point
Wake up early – have a time buffer for the unexpected, so you don’t have to rush and disrupt your plan.
Eat breakfast, sip some more water – sounds obvious but don’t skip, it is the vital fuel to your body. Again, stick with the familiar and eat what you have been eating.
Use bathroom at home (or hotel) – if you ever have to poop in a porta-potty, you know it’s not a good experience, especially during running a marathon and a queue of runners outside the door.
Dress up at home, put on your gadgets – don’t leave to the last minute, you may miss doing something while in a rush.
Do warm up – this is essential to avoid injuries, you should get used to it after 16 weeks’ training.
Remember, Carry your survival kit – buckle to your body before leaving home, it’s a nightmare in case you leave it in your bag on the baggage truck.
And After The Finish Line
Cool down and stretch – for better recovery, though you are exhausted.
Keep warm with towel or blanket – especially when you are still sweating and the weather is cold.
Eat and drink – your energy level drops dramatically once you complete the race, feed yourself with some snack and water. Don’t skip.
Celebrate – cherish the applause from the crowd and greeting from fellow runners. Selfie and share.
Marathon race day is your moment of truth after rigorous training for months. Have a strategy to nail it down!
Bring a PET (Pace yourself, Eat regularly, Think positive) with you during the race. Prepare well and leave spare time early in the morning so you do everything as planned with ease. Get ready to cross the finish line and celebrate.
It’s show time! Go get it!
And have fun!