There’s nothing like lining up at the start of your first marathon. The nerves and excitement make you feel like you could burst. You’re likely experiencing a range of thoughts from “I can’t believe I’m about to do this” to “oh my gosh – can I really do this?”
Fear not. If you’ve put in the training and aren’t injured, there’s a very good chance that you will “really do it”. Here are some tips for completing 26.2
- Don’t set a time goal. It doesn’t matter how many other races you’ve run, or how long you’ve been a runner. The marathon distance is a beast, and it’s hard to predict how long it will take you to complete it if you’ve never run one before. Use your first marathon as a baseline, and set future marathon goals off of your finish time for this race.
- If you must have a time goal, be extra conservative. If race pace calculators, your running buddies, and your gut tell you that you can run a marathon in 4:00:00, add 15 or 30 minutes to that time goal. Twenty-six point two miles is a really long way, and a lot of variables can throw off your performance. Setting low time standards will make you less likely to be disappointed at the end – and no one should be disappointed after finishing their first marathon.
- Ask your friends and family to come spectate. There is no better feeling than seeing friendly faces cheering you on during the painful, later miles of a marathon. Seeing your loved ones may give you the boost in energy you need to finish the race.
- Accept that it’s going to hurt. Both runners at the front-of-the-pack and back-of-the-pack will be in pain towards the end of the race.The marathon distance hurts no matter how quickly you complete it. Knowing that you’re going to be in pain may make it easier to cope with once it occurs.
- Apply BodyGlide everywhere. We really mean everywhere. You may chafe in places you didn’t know could chafe.
- Carry more fuel than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have more gels, chomps, and liquids than you need than to not have enough. Take fuel early and often to prevent bonking.
- Run the race like you do your long runs. Most experts say it’s best to run the first few miles slower than goal pace and speed up as the race goes on. But here’s the thing, that approach may not be realistic unless you’ve been doing it throughout training. So, run the race like you’ve been doing your long runs. If that means you keep a steady pace, take regular walk breaks, or slow down as you reach the later miles, just do your thing.
- Distract yourself. After mile 20, it will feel like each mile is closer to three miles long. You’ll glance down at your watch more often, and be on the lookout for the next mile marker. Distract yourself by putting your favorite songs later in your playlist, by striking up a conversation with another runner, or by using positive mental imagery.
- Keep walking after the finish line. You may want to sit down after you earn your medal. Heck, you’ll probably want to lay down! But resist the urge and keep moving slowly. This is the first step on the road to marathon recovery. Your legs will feel a lot better in the coming days if you keep moving.
- Snap a finish line photo. You may feel really crummy after the race, and not want to snap a picture. But completing your first marathon is a really big deal! Take a few seconds and snap a picture. Down the line you’ll be glad to have the memento.
Veterans: What’s the best piece of advice you have for people running their first marathon?
Written by Jen Matz.