Running a first marathon can be great fun or a major disaster. It all depends on how the runner prepares, both mentally and physically for the event. There are some steps a runner can take building up to the race to help ensure a successful event and check “running first marathon” off the bucket list.
1. The runner should start tapering off their training three weeks before the race. Many first time racers will not allow their body to recover prior to the marathon and will not be 100% ready to race opening morning. If a runner keeps the normal training intensity during the last three weeks, but starts to decrease the workout time, they should be in good shape at the start of the race.
2. Start slowly out of the gate. Even though a runner may feel well rested and just great through the first 15 miles, by mile 19 or 20, they’ll be dragging. A runner needs to pace themselves so there is enough energy to make to the finish line. This is especially important when running the marathon for the first time.
3. Stay hydrated by speed walking, not running through the water stops. Marathon runners tend to get dehydrated and if they run through the water stations, most of the water ends up on their shirts. Each runner needs at least 2 full cups of water at each station, so if a runner speed walks instead of runs through a station, they’ll be steady enough to actually drink the cups of water.
4. Marathoners need nutrients and Gatorade is not enough. A runner should bring energy bars with them and load up family and friends with fruit, bars, and salty snacks and station them along the way. Even if the runner does not use all the food, just the thought that it is there can often mean another burst of energy during the last miles.
5. Most marathons start early in the morning and it can be very chilly. Runners should dress in layers, with at least one layer they are willing to take off and throw away as they warm up from running. Many races will have charity bins where the runners can toss these throw away clothes, but even if these are not available, the runner should peel the layers off and discard them along the route. Runners should never get cold and still before a race. It is a good idea to bring a blanket to sit on, too, in case runners have to wait before the start of a race.
6. There will be people all along the course. A runner should look for a kid to shout out to or hi-five. This will help keep everything in perspective during a race that can wear down even the strongest competitors.
7. Runners should not let other runners intimidate them. They should not get caught up in anyone else’s race. Runners should run their own race. It is their own determination that will get them to the finish line.
8. Runners can get a huge boost from fan cheers, so they should write their name or a personal slogan on their shirt. They’ll soon hear people from the crowd yelling and cheering them on, perhaps using their name, and it will make a huge difference in their motivation!
These running first marathon strategies can help ensure a runner finishes their first race. Preparing properly and taking steps to make it through successfully will ensure a memory that will last a lifetime.