Are you jealous when you see cars driving down the road with that coveted “26.2” bumper sticker? Those who have finished their first marathon get more than a t-shirt or a bumper sticker. They get the knowledge that they are part of less than 1% of Americans who have run a marathon.
If you are gearing up to run your first race: congratulations! The dedication and focus it takes to train for a marathon is a testament to both your physical and inner strength.
But it’s normal to have pre-race jitters and worries. Perhaps the Boy Scouts run races, because their motto, “Be Prepared!” certainly applies to first time marathon runners.
Tips For First Marathon
Here are twelve tips to finish your first marathon, and finish strong:
1⃣ Stay Hydrated
You need to stay hydrated to keep your energy up and to replace the fluid you lose while sweating. Regular water will do the trick, but sports drinks will also replace carbohydrates, sodium and electrolytes.
There will be first aid and hydration stations throughout the course and they can act as reminders to drink regularly while running a marathon.
2⃣ Wear Compression Socks
The popularity of wearing compression socks while running is on the rise. They help ward off injury by providing stability and also help stimulate the flood of blood, resulting in faster recovery times.
Order these well in advance of your race and train with them on to get used to the feel and break in the material. Then enjoy the benefits when the race day come.
3⃣ Don’t Focus On The Time
Runners, just like other athletes, can play a mental game with themselves that end up sabotaging the race. Instead, be confident in your pace and ignore the clock.
When runners over-train on the ticking seconds of the clock, it can seem as though time is dragging on.
4⃣ Keep A Steady Pace
Speaking of pace, the spike in adrenaline on race day has ruined the first marathon of many runners. Known as “flying and dying”, many runners sprint at the sound of the starting gun, exhausting all of their energy within the first miles of the race.
5⃣ Practice On The Actual Course
You don’t want to be surprised by an unexpected hill or distracted by a neighborhood you’ve never seen.
For one of your long training races (not the whole 26.2 miles, obviously), run the actual race course in the clothes you plan to wear that day. Run the race with the same start time and try out your hydration strategy as you run.
6⃣ Stretch And Get Loose
Between checking in, getting your bib, hydrating and taking selfies, it’s easy to forget to stretch and stay loose before the race. You can do this with a bit of yoga, a ten minute walk or jog or some stretching at the starting area.
7⃣ Distract And Play Games
There are no shortcuts in your first marathon; you simply have to run 26.2 miles. And that takes a while.
So prepare yourself to be distracted by listening to podcasts or music. Or quiz yourself on geography or history. Or make up elaborate narratives about the lives of the people running around you.
No matter what gets your mind wandering, you have to think of a way to pass the time.
8⃣ Envision The Finish
Mental visualization has long been a technique used by successful people to achieve their goals. Jack Nicklaus, the renowned golfer, said that he visualized every shot before he took it.
So picture your entire race, and you are doing more than just painting a pretty picture. You are training your brain and nervous system to succeed.
9⃣ Embrace The Carb-Loading
Gigantic plates of pasta might be the reason you got into running. While it’s a well-known truism to carb-load before a big race, there are real benefits to storing carbohydrates before your first marathon.
As you start to run, your body burns those carbs and, if there aren’t enough stored or replenished, you can hit a wall. So go ahead and embrace the pasta for a couple of days before your race.
1⃣0⃣ Wear Comfortable Clothes And Shoes
Because it’s all about the selfies, right? No. Because your gear is an important part of being comfortable and able to finish. This is not the time to try new clothes or shoes.
You’ll want moisture-wicking shirts and shorts, and a hat to protect from the sun. Also, Vaseline. Ask your runner friends.
About three weeks before the your first marathon, finish your longest run. Then being to gradually taper, slowly but surely. You should be taking it easy and running to stay loose and build energy.
Usually train with 40 miles a week, but that has to be significantly decreased before race day.
There is definitely such a thing as over-preparing for a marathon. Runners can get so focused on the date, their personal best and the aura around being a marathoner that they ruin the race before it even starts. So after preparing, be sure to have fun and enjoy your first marathon.
While the popularity of running races has grown in recent years, running your first marathon is a huge accomplishment. It takes time, training, focus and patience, all before you even reach the starting line.
So follow these 12 steps to make sure that your first marathon is a success. If this article helped you, feel free to share it with your friends. Run safe!