With the London Marathon round the corner, i’m sure there’s many first time Marathon runners gearing up for their big day. Last year, I ran my marathon in Stockholm and it was equally the best and hardest day of my life. Crossing that finish line and feeling utterly elated from the experience is without a doubt the most incredible feeling in the world. After months of training, you have so much riding on Race Day and I want to share my running and Race Day advice for your first marathon!
Tips For Your First Marathon
In the days leading up to your first marathon, drink lots and lots of water. Your muscles need to be fully hydrated to function well and being hydrated reduces the risk of muscle fatigue, cramps and injury. Drinking a pint of water before the race is not enough to hydrate you fully, so you should aim to drink lots of water over 2-3 days before.
Plan Your Race Day Outfit
You should ideally wear something you’ve comfortably trained in for one of your longer training runs. This way you’ll know how your body reacts to the material after hours of pounding the road! I learned on my 18 mile run that I couldn’t wear a vest, as I experienced chaffage between my arm and sides – VERY uncomfortable! I actually had to remove my iPod strap from my arm and stuff it in my bra during the run as it was rubbing so much. I had raw skin for weeks after, but luckily I learned my lesson then than on Race Day itself! (tip: use Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream to help heal chaffage and on areas vulnerable to it before you set off!)
Run A Dress Rehearsal
Your longest run should be around 4-5 weeks before race day. Make this your dress rehearsal run by wearing everything you’ll have on during race day and test out your nutrition for the day. You should have the exact breakfast you plan for race day and use the same energy sources, so you know what your body can handle. I never used gels once during my entire training and on the day as i’d heard horror stories about what they do to your digestive system! If you haven’t tried something before, do not test it out on race day; do so on your dress rehearsal run.
From the 4-5 week mark before race day, you should then taper your runs. This means running slightly less each week and keeping them quite easy. I know this might seem really frustrating and you’ll worry about your fitness not holding up, but trust me and the countless other runners and experts when we say that this works! You need to store up energy both mentally and physically for race day and tapering ensures your body will not be fatigued and in peak condition for the marathon.
Instead of distance running, try some speed work in these 4 weeks to test your pace. On the day before your marathon, stick with your pre-long-run routine; a rest day if that’s what you usually do or a gentle 2-3 mile jog if you’re a daily runner.
Worried about it Raining On Race Day? Here’s what I do!
On the day, start at a slower pace. You’ll notice there’s a bit of a bottleneck situation anyway at the beginning, but don’t rush ahead of the crowds and don’t feel bad about people running past you. This preserves glycogen stores in your muscles so you can finish strong.
Your mind can be your greatest friend or your worst enemy during a marathon and i’m a strong believer that ‘your mind gives up before your body does’. To counteract feelings of boredom, exhaustion or negativity, entertain yourself with little games like counting fancy dress outfits and rating them on scale 0-10, or pretending you’re in a music video or action film. If you’ve got a great playlist, you can immerse yourself in your own world of running and I feel it’s almost like meditating when you’re in that state. Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself you can’t do this; you can.
Be Proud Of Yourself
I had a lot of physio while I was training for my first marathon and the week before my race, she said the most profound thing to me that has stuck ever since. She told me:
“The effort you’ve put into this race in all your training runs, is far more remarkable than what you achieve on race day. Going out every day/week on extremely long runs without a crowd cheering you on is much harder to do. You’ve already achieved greatness, this is just a bit of fun now.”
I carried those words with me throughout my race and still to this day. I don’t think she’ll ever know how beautiful and inspiring it was for me to hear that, but it’s so true! You’ve already smashed it! Don’t worry about your finish time or what anyone else is doing, just feel proud of yourself and enjoy one of the most memorable days of your life.
Looking for more Marathon Tips? Read my experience from the Stockholm Marathon here.
Come and join the adventure…
Instagram – cotton.tales