So, you have survived your training for your first marathon - hurray! All you have to do now is run 26.2 miles...
Tom Fairbrother, a seven-time marathon runner gives his top five tips for surviving your first marathon race day:
1. Be Organised
- You will be both nervous and excited on the morning of your marathon, so you want to avoid any extra stress.
- Avoid the rush and try to collect your number as soon as you can.
- Get all your race kit laid out the night before and make sure you know how and when you are going to get to the start area.
- Check parking or public transport details, find out where the toilets are, and arrange where you will meet your loved ones after the race.
- With the unpredictability of the British weather, bin bags always come in handy - they are great at keeping you warm and dry, or for sitting on. You might look a bit silly, but it’s much better than being frozen or soaking wet.
- And please, please don’t be late!
2. Start Easy
I have learnt the hard way that you really have nothing to gain by going off too quickly. It is very easy to get carried away because you will feel rested and full of energy from your taper, the adrenaline will be flowing and you will be surrounded by other runners.
The important thing is to try and ignore everyone else and focus on running your own race. It doesn’t matter if your first 2-3 miles are slightly slower than your Marathon Goal Pace - it is better to grow into the race and conserve your energy for the latter miles than end up hitting “The Wall” at mile 20-22, so be calm, relax, and stay patient.
Running a marathon requires a huge amount of energy, so your race day nutrition is absolutely crucial. Your breakfast should be carbohydrate-based and something you have tried and tested during your training - good examples are porridge or toast. Make sure you plan when and where you will eat, especially if staying in a hotel.
Make sure you are hydrated well in advance of the start, ideally drink electrolytes or water. The number of gels varies from runner to runner, but make sure you know roughly when you are going to take them and how you are going to carry them whilst running. There should be drinks stations along the course, so even if it is a cold day you need to make sure you take on fluids to stay hydrated.
4. Break Down The Distance
Running a marathon is as much a mental challenge as it is physical. Depending on your training plan, for most people, the marathon itself will be the furthest they have ever run before. One really effective way to make it less daunting is to picture lots of smaller distances added together. So instead of “Oh no I still have 24 miles to go!” try visualising one of your regular training runs and set yourself milestones to tick off along the way. You could focus on each 5k and just imagine running your local parkrun.
At halfway you can just picture turning around and running back to the start. Once you get to 20 miles, there is only 10k to go! Think about the last 10k race you ran. With 2-3 miles to go split them into quarter miles and imagine running laps of a track. And once you get to 26 you will probably be able to see the finish line and the adrenaline will kick in, so go and get that bling!
5. Enjoy it!
Yes, really! You may only run one marathon in your lifetime and you have worked for months to get to the start line so try to have fun! Try to soak up everything the race has to offer, whether that be the Expo, chatting to other runners before the race, enjoying the music along the course, soaking up the atmosphere and the buzz of the crowds. There will certainly be times in the race when you think “Why on earth did I decide to do this?!” but the feeling of crossing that finish line and meeting your loved ones is the one of the proudest moments you will experience.
Whatever the outcome, just completing a marathon is something to be immensely proud of and nobody can ever take it away from you. Congratulations, you are now a marathon runner!
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