Running a Marathon : 9 Helpful Tips for Beginners – Athletes Insight
Running a Marathon : 9 Helpful Tips for Beginners – Athletes Insight
Dive in to our tips for running a marathon from our athletes community at Athletes Insight!
A rite of passage for any runner is running a marathon and that too their first marathon. Even the top marathon runners at Athletes Insight say that the first one is the one they always remember. Maybe it’s the mythical lore surrounding the marathon – “hitting the wall” around mile 20, the fans lining up along the finish line in some of the world’s most iconic cities, or the legendary mental and physical endurance required to make it all 26.2 miles.
Sound like mumbo jumbo? Maybe you need some tips for running a marathon successfully.
The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. Based on insights from other marathon runners in the Athletes Insight community, we’ve assembled some essential tips for running your first marathon.
#1: Review the marathon course ahead of time
Marathon races will make it possible to download or print out a course map ahead of time. This can be extraordinarily useful – not because there’s actually a risk of getting lost during the race (especially not in a city like New York, where you’ll be surrounded by a cast of tens of thousands), but because it will help you to visualize the key landmarks along the way, understand where the first aid stations are along the course, and grasp the overall logic to the course layout.
With that information, you will be able to split the marathon mentally into smaller pieces – smaller segments or loops that are much more manageable than the full 26.2 miles. You’ll also be able to visualize the start and finish of the race.
It is especially important for your mental frame of mind to understand the course breakdown – to visualize the crowds of people cheering you on at the end, as you complete your first marathon. Think about that finish and how proud of yourself you will be.
#2: Find your source of inner inspiration before race time
At Athletes Insight, we use our Inspiration Wall as a way to highlight sayings that inspire us to go the extra mile (literally). One of our personal favorites now is “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone.” This is something that you’ll remember once you hit your wall during the marathon – you’ll be leaving your comfort zone. So focus on the inspirational part of discovering something new about yourself – not the pain, sweat and tears. Think of each inspirational saying as a mental secret trick to get you through the pain and inspire you to move forward.
What many people do when segmenting the race, is write the significance of each mile on their forearm- a keyword, a reason for why they are completing that mile. It could be in memory of someone, or for all the people you want to prove wrong, or for your dog- it’s completely up to you.
Some runners use their family members as inspiration. As an example, a running mom might visualize their children along key mileage markers of the course. Or, they might dedicate making it past a certain part of the marathon course to a member of their family – inspiring them to fight on to meet that final end goal.
#3: Arrive AT LEAST one hour before the race
Your nerves will be jittery enough without having to worry about making it to the starting line in time. Get there at least one hour in advance and do all your pre-race preparations, such as any on the day registration, know where you need to go, empty your bladder, and warm up appropriately. Especially if you’re running a marathon in a city that’s not your hometown, this is important. Now is no time to figure out a city map! That way, you’ll have plenty of time to stretch, hydrate and prepare yourself mentally for the race.
#4: Stick to your running routine before and during the race
There’s always a temptation to try something new when running a big race. Don’t. Wear the same shoes and the same clothing that you’ve been wearing during training. We’ve all heard the horror stories about runners who wore new shoes or clothing before the race and ended up dealing with nagging blisters and chafing midway through the race. Also, eat the same foods. If there’s any reason to vary your race routine, it’s to allow yourself some additional carbohydrates before the race. Hopefully, you carb-loaded a few days prior to the race to give you some extra energy too!
#5: Set reasonable expectations ahead of time
This can be a particularly tough one. We’d all like to become elite marathon runners and implement all the tips mentioned for running a marathon in the world, but let’s face it – many of us also have families, kids, and an array of external responsibilities that eat into our idealistic training schedules. Sometimes getting in enough training time simply isn’t possible to reach the goals you’d like to reach in a perfect world. You need to come to grips with that – otherwise you may start to run too fast during the race, and that could be disastrous later. Set goals that you know that you can achieve. In many cases, just finishing your first marathon is a huge achievement! So don’t be too harsh on yourself with mile times- focus on completion.
#6: Remember to pace yourself
This is especially important for your first marathon, where you may still be adjusting to the pace set by other runners. It’s tempting to try to keep pace with the faster runners in the early stages of the race, but that’s ultimately self-defeating. The right pace is the pace that works for you, and you are able to establish this in your training up to the marathon. This is not necessarily the fastest pace, because we can’t always control how our body feels on race day. You’ll need to conserve energy for later, during the more grueling stages of the marathon.
#7: Regularly review your running form
If you’ve been training with a running club or running coach, you probably have your own checklist of items in your head to run through before or during a race – keeping your head and shoulders in alignment, for example. Run through them constantly, because at some point, your form is going to break down as a result of fatigue. Going through this checklist can be a way to calm your mind, too, during the race. But you’ll want to make it as simple as possible. When you’re fighting through the pain, you don’t want to be struggling to remember an item on your checklist. Acronyms can work particularly well, because it could be just a single word that you are remembering.
#8: Prepare your post-race recovery program in advance
Running a marathon is an exhausting process, and your body is going to need some recovery time to heal and recuperate. Before the race, start preparing a list of items that you’ll need for the recovery process. Before you start training for your next race, you’ll want to make sure that your body has fully recovered from its first marathon. Have a proper cool down protocol in place, replace your electrolytes, and replenish your body appropriately. No one should be jumping straight into a car and doing a long drive home immediately after!
#9: Finally… don’t forget your sunglasses!
(Above: Jenna McHugh)
What would a first marathon be without the Athletes Insight sunglasses you’ve been wearing throughout your training season? Especially on a sunny day, wearing the proper eyewear is important, allowing you to focus on what you have to do, not worrying about glare, shades slipping or bouncing around, and becoming a 26.2 mile distraction! This is especially true if you’re used to running on natural or track surfaces rather than the urban pavement of many marathons, where the glare may be a problem. Shades are a go-to when long runs come around and as far as tips for running a marathon are concerned, this is one that newbies often forget, but it can make an incredible difference to your performance on the day.
Running your first marathon is an exciting process. By following our tips on running a marathon successfully, you can help to ensure that not only will you finish the race, but also that you’ll exceed your expectations!