The Chicago Marathon has come and gone and the fall marathon season is in full swing. Every week more and more runners will lose their marathon virginity and much like that first time, they are nervous, edgy, excited, panicky, freaked and frustrated. With that in mind, everyone take a nice deep breath, hold it for a count of five … exhale … and RELAX!!!!! Remember, this is supposed to be FUN! I know, not quite the ‘F’ word most people associate with running a marathon, but, honestly, it really is Fun!
So, for all you newbies out there that are getting amp’d up for their big day, here are my three-Ps to a primo first 26.2!
This applies to couple of areas. First, for the last 2-3 weeks you have been tapering, reducing your weekly mileage and gearing up for the big day, remember to be PATIENT during that time. Trust in your plan. Don’t get all jived because your runs are short, slow and simple. They are designed to be that way. The leading cause of injury and DNFs (Did Not Finish) in marathoners is overtraining. The reduced miles and slower paces are there to help your body recover and be fresh for race day so you can put forth your best effort possible. It also helps reduce the possibility of getting injured. If you are really having a hard time settling into it, reach out to someone who HAS done a marathon, – coach, friend, teammate, Tweep – and let them help you get grounded. It is better to be a little undertrained and fresh than to be overtrained and fatigued.
Secondly, when you do get to the starting line and you are in the swarm of your corral waiting to cross the starting line and hammer this thing out, be PATIENT out the gate. It is an amazing adrenaline rush in that moment when the gun goes off, you're ready to tear the course up and you end up going out a full two-minutes per mile faster to start out ... Oops! I know you have all heard of ‘the Wall’, right? Well, if you get caught up in the thrill of the chase at the start I can promise you that you will have some serious face time with him when you get to that region around 17-19 miles in. The introduction will be quick and then he’ll ask you if he can hang around for a while and I can assure you he will. First time out, hit the wall so hard I was practically in tears, it was unbelievable and yet completely avoidable. Here’s a tip to help those of you that are like me and love to blow the doors off early, stand in the very back of your corral. Let the swarm build in front of you all but ensuring for a slow handful of miles at the start and allowing you to ease into the race properly. It sucks and can be frustrating, but the benefits are felt later on as you realize you still have a lot in the tank and you have passed a quarter of a million people on the course!
Getting ready for the marathon is like getting ready for a family trip overseas, the more you plan and prepare everything the easier it is on you. For ridiculous travelers like myself, who are always early, have back-ups for everything and are just otherwise nervy and paranoid, a marathon checklist is the way to go! Presumably you’ve been rehearsing for race day morning with every long run that you have had, fine tuning your routine until it is on cruise control. The less you have to think about the better, ease the stress! Here is the breakdown I use for my checklist:
- Pre-Race Clothing (All depending on Temperature): Throw away clothes to wear in the corral, Blanket/Card board to sit on, etc.
- Nutrition & Hydration: Pre, During, and Post Race.
- Race Wear: singlet, shorts, socks, calf & arm sleeves, sunglasses, sunscreen, body glide, arm sleeves, etc. Prepare for all contingencies.
- Post Race clothing: Sweats! You will feel a little chilled at the end from dehydration and from sweating a lot, so be prepared and have a towel and loose fitting clothing to change into.
One other situation you need to prepare and plan for is your goal(s). This is more important psychologically speaking. The marathon is a real test of wills and if you have problems with the first ‘P’ you can have a really hard time hitting a time goal, especially if it is a lofty time goal. For your first time out, make things simple, have three goals in mind: Achievable, Within Reach, and a Lofty. My first marathon I did this and it served me well: Finish without walking, 3:30 or better, Boston Qualify. I ended up walking thanks to a moron that I ran behind, which caused my hamstring to knot, but I still finished in 3:26. Next time around it was: Finish Injury Free, Finish under 3:26, Boston Qualify. The second time I hit 3:07 and hit the lofty goal, learning from the mistakes I made the first time around.
This doesn’t mean go buy yourself a Garmin! I mean be present for the entire day! Live in the moment. Forget about everything else and savour every nuance of this amazing achievement. This is a feat that you have undertaken the likes of which a relative few can even fathom. 26.2 miles of running in one day!! You trained for this moment for months in whatever conditions Mother Nature felt like throwing at you, pushing your body to its limits with your lungs burning, sweat pouring, blisters swelling and you willingly did it day after day to get to this one moment. Keep all that you have toiled over in perspective as you soak it all in. The long runs. The shin splints. The countless disgusting gelatinous supplements. The friday nights given up for more sleep for long runs on saturday mornings! Coffee not first thing in the morning, but only AFTER you put your miles in. All of that to be revered by crowds of cheering people with music playing, your name screamed, doing what you even thought at one time was unthinkable … it is simply GLORIOUS!!!! It is your moment. One that you will relish and relive every time anyone asks about it. You become immortal!
Newbies, go forth and dominate! Live, breathe and amaze the World! Good Luck!!
A Few Other Tips for Race Day:
- Do NOT try anything new. Keep things the way you have trained. Little alterations can have a big effect in a long race like this.
- Have your name on the front of your shirt … the crowd calling your name will give you that added push when you need it!
- Dress as if 10-15 degrees warmer than it is. Once on the course for a while you will feel like you are on fire OR wear pieces you can peel off (arm sleeves, beanie, gloves, etc.).
- Don’t break rhythm. When you go to a water stop, don’t stop shuffling your feet in rhythm; keep them going because you use a lot of energy just getting them going again.
For more tips hit me up on twitter or leave a comment and I will be sure to address it.