Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Roy : Running Your First Marathon

With a few races lined up in the coming months, 2ndSkin Athlete Roy Yeow, an Ultramarathoner is sharing some tips in particular for those of you setting out to do your first Marathon distance race - or simply put, to run a 42.195km footrace. Read on to find out more.
by Roy Yeow

For the uninitiated, running a marathon is a crazy, suicidal idea. But for those who intend to join the 1% of the world population that has completed a marathon, the journey to prepare for a marathon is an experience that can be fulfilling and filled with challenges. Many use the term "marathon" incorrectly to refer to any running event. A Marathon is a 42.195km footrace, period. Anything shorter is called a half marathon, mini marathon, 10km race, etc.

With the term cleared up now, there are tonnes of material on the Web by experts that talk about marathon history, how to train for a marathon and tips to excel in the race. What I am trying to do here is just to share some important tips from my experience as a regular runner that I have went through from my ups and downs experience in running races.

OK, Now I Know Better, What's Next?
The first thing to consider is to look at your current fitness level and evaluate a realistic goal for a marathon. If you have been running regularly and are able to complete a 10k decently, targeting a marathon within 6 months with proper preparation is possible. Having said that, you yourself know best if you are ready. I personally ran my first marathon within my first year of running, so I believe it is all doable within you.

The first important consideration is your commitment. If you have committed to challenge yourself for a marathon, then you need the discipline to see it through. Setting yourself the goal is just the easy step, going through the rigorous physical training and learning to cope with the mental stress of the endless pounding of each step is where all the challenges and fun is. In other words, how ready are you in completing a marathon is really a test of your discipline.

Now that you have a clear goal in mind, the next step is to get out of the house and start the execution. If you follow a certain training plan that fits your goals from the Internet (and there are many), follow through with it. In general, mileage of around 50km per week would be a good start to get you ready. Running at least 4 days a week would be recommended as well, with well-spaced sessions for some recovery. Again, depending on your goal and your running ability at this time, your training should be a little bit of a challenge to yourself for you to improve. Increase your mileage slowly. Increase your speed slowly. 

Mileage is added weekly to your weekly training time, so you get use to the time on your feet, this will determine your ability to withstand the hours in hot/cold/rain weather during the race. Your speed can be gradually increased through proper interval training, hill training etc. There are many ways of improving this and if you are into the technical details, my teammate, Tri Stupe has wrote in detailed about the different types of training (

Burning Out
Apart from regular running, monitoring of your condition is important. If you feel that you are pretty beat up and am unable to cope with your training plan, reassess it. Do not risk burn out or injury. If you feel there is chronic pain, attend to it. Do not just let it be as in most cases, it will escalate into a bigger issue later on. Remember that rest is as important as your training itself, so get yourself well rested before and after a training session.

Doing It Right
To know if you are training correctly, there are a few ways to gauge yourself. Firstly, you can register for races that complement your training. Run the races as race, but remember that your focus is still your marathon. Whatever the outcome, it is meant to be a gauge to know where you stand at that point of time and to readjust your training plan accordingly. Secondly, you can set up time trial sessions to check your progress. Finally, listen to your body and normally the more you train (properly), you can feel your recovery getting faster and better.

Cross Training
Other than running, if you can do additional complementary activities, it will benefit you in the long run. Cycling, hiking and swimming are cross training activities that can help train your other muscle groups that are not much utilized during your runs. Gym work helps with strengthening your body and also your core while yoga helps with stretching, core and the mental aspect of training/racing. As you can see, in general, most physical activities will complement your training, the key is again the discipline of doing it thoroughly.

It Is All In The Head
With all the physical part covered, let's focus on the mind. To go through 3-6 hours of non-stop action itself is a challenge, regardless of your fitness level. Your mind needs to be strong and prepared to face this. During race day, anything can happen, from the change in weather to your body condition. If you have not set your mind to be strong, you could possibly be faced with a dilemma of pulling out of a race, even though physically you could complete it. The mental preparation is all very personal. Some look to their religion for strength, others meditate, while others have their own unique way to build on their mental strength. Whatever works for you, you just have to believe in yourself. By going through all the physical preparation, you would have given yourself a big confidence boost. During the race, most people would go through bad patches, and it is your mental strength that will keep you going.

Hydration and Fuel
Let's talk about hydration and fuel now. This can be broken into pre, during and post training/race:

- For pre-training/race, make sure you hydrate enough. For the shorter sessions, drink enough and fuel up your body with the proper solids with ample time before the sessions. Proper solids really depends on you as our diets are all different. In general, make sure you have enough carbs to give you the fuel to propel on, especially for longer training sessions.

- During training/race, hydrate enough, but do not overly hydrate. Take everything in moderation. If you are doing longer sessions, prepare yourself with energy bars/gels/isotonic drinks/electrolytes etc. However my suggestion is, get use to these supplements so that it does not affect you during a race. Other natural food like banana also helps during training/race.

- For post-training/race, rehydrate and get some proteins into your body to rebuild your muscle.
As your marathon race date gets closer, plan out the hydration/fuel requirement. Get to know what the organizer will provide, the water stations setup, and plan for what is feasible for you. Then, start training your plan out during your longer runs to get used to it.

Gears. Gears. Gears.
Finally, your attire and shoes. Do not try anything new on race day. Your attire and shoes can break or make your race. You do not want to develop chaffing or blisters that stop you from running in your most optimal condition. Get a shoe that is suitable for you way in advance and start training with it. If you have the means, it will be good to have a few pairs of shoes to alternate during training. Know the weather of the place you are going to run and get the appropriate attire for the event. This is especially important if you do not have a chance to train in similar weather. Once you find the short, shirt, vest, compression, socks, cap, etc that are suitable for you and work for you, train with them on your long runs. Do not get overly sentimental over your attire/shoes and keep them for race day use only.

Other than the attire and shoes, there are also other stuffs to consider - ranging from high tech stop watch, buff, belts, earphones etc. Always try them out with ample of time to get familiar with it.

Get Set, Ready....
Now that we have covered physical training, mental strength, hydration and attire/shoes, it should have given you an idea of what the journey is all about. The Internet has many information if you desire to delve into the topics. For specific details you need, you can contact us at 2ndskin team website as well. Just drop us a note at and we will definitely get back to you.
A Marathon is not just about a race. It is about life itself - a journey within a journey in your life. Through hard work and your discipline, you control the results of this journey. Through your dedication and beliefs, you make the journey possible and worthwhile. The only question that lies between you and your first marathon is, are you willing to take the first step to be in the 1%;or continue to be in the company of the majority of the world population? You decide.....


  1. Thanks for this post, it was helpful. Suggestion: Perhaps team2ndskin can organise a 16 weeks training sessions for first time marathoners. It need not necessarily be coaching style, but it can be a group training together to motivate & push others. Training alone is always more difficult.

  2. Suggestion noted Johnson. We will try to work something out and keep everyone posted. :)

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