Training Program. Checked. - Race gears. Checked. - Hydration and Nutrition needs. Checked.
You are now at the final stretch of your first Marathon journey and you are well prepared and eager to toe the start line. However, bear in mind that even the best prepared, can underperform on race day. So, what are the little nitty-gritty factors that can derail the efforts and preparation and all that hard work that you have put in? Team 2ndskin have finished many races and events and have made all the little mistakes that many first-timers and event experienced runners do. Take a cue and etch these little details into your brain to ease your way through your first Marathon. Ready?
Let’s turn the clock back to one week before race day. The last few days leading up to your first Marathon is crucial to get your body (and mind) primed for the race. Remember to constantly hydrate daily and to take your vitamins and supplements regularly. It is a good practice to tune your toilet routine to match what your race day program would look like, and that means going to the toilet early in the morning before you leave home on race day to avoid any unnecessary stomach trouble during the race. You will need a couple of days to get into that routine, so start changing your toilet patterns a few days before race day. It is also imperative that you do not turn up at the starting line with tight or strained muscles, so please increase the amount of foam rolling, stretching and muscle maintenance in the last week leading up to race day.
Stretch out your legs and body and don’t forget your upper back and shoulders as well as a marathon is a full body workout.
Do read and understand the briefing and notes in the race day booklet or information package provided by the organizer. Specific details to get to know include the road closures, parking arrangements, water station locations and distance, route and elevation and emergency contact numbers. Having these information at hand allows you to plan your hydration and nutrition strategy accordingly, get to the race site with ample time for warmup and calming your nerves as well as gives you peace of mind knowing that in any situation, you have the right contact number to get in touch with. You will not believe how many runners do not study the road closures and parking arrangements and arrive late to the race site just before (or even after!) flag-off and are mentally and physically stressed before even running their first kilometer!
|RnR, part of the plan|
Stress is a silent killer, and being your first Marathon, you may be subjected to mental and physiological stresses that affect your well-being, without you even realizing it. It is good to calm your nerves by doing things that allow your mind to rest and to avoid the “what-if” thoughts that always cloud a person before an important event like an interview, a public speech, or a marathon. Do what works for you; listen to music, meditate or read a book. The important thing is to get your mind off of negative thoughts that may cause you unnecessary emotions. Try it, starting a few nights before your race and hopefully it will help you get some good sleep the night before the race as well.
On the morning of race day, do not try anything new. That means, stick to your tried and tested breakfast or food and drinks that you have consumed before in the mornings of your long run training. If you don’t drink coffee, do not consume that even though many runners say it will give you a kick. Anything that you have not tried prior may cause you discomfort or problems later and that’s exactly what needs to be avoided. The same goes for your racing gear where you shouldn’t wear anything new and untested. Do not have that thought of keeping a new running shirt to commemorate race day and then you find that a bit of uneven stitching causes you chafing at kilometer 15 and you have to bear with the pain for the next few hours. Race in the gears you have been training in for your long distance runs and you should be fine.
Try to get to the race site early. Have ample time to perform some dynamic warmup to get your heart rate up. Some light jogging around the race site for approximately 5 mins about 20 – 30 mins before the race start would be good. Try to seek out friends who are also running the marathon to have a chat or socialise to calm your nerves. At the starting line, whilst all the runners and yourself are crowding, take deep breaths as you wait for the start gun to go off. Remember to start your watch timer or GPS as you step across the start line! Now you’re off!
At the start of the marathon, you may find many runners passing you by. You may feel that you are going too slow in comparison to other runners. Don’t worry, don’t fret. Keep to your pace. Many runners make the mistake of going out too fast too soon and blowing up early in the run. Don’t get sucked into the atmosphere and make the same mistake. Run your own race and pace.
Make it a point to stop at every water station to get your little walk break. Walk through the water station, and grab some drinks if you need to. Take your time to consume your drink as you walk and start picking up the pace again once you’re done with your drink as you move away from the water station. It is also a good idea to consume your energy gels just prior to reaching the next water station as you could then dispose of your gel wrapper at the water station bins instead of holding on to them for long. It is only good race etiquette not to simply dispose of your gel wrappers and other small rubbish along the race route, but only at designated stops and water stations.
A marathon is not only a physical challenge, but also a mental one as well. There will be many instances throughout the race that your mind will tell you to wave the white flag, to give up, and that this is way too tough and you can always try again. Don’t give in to your demons. Find ways to think about the positives, like “I’ve run 28km already, I can do this!”, instead of “I’ve got 14km to go, how can I finish this?!”
Think about a motivational quote or race mantra that you like and repeat it to yourself when your will weakens. A few quotes like “Tough times don’t last, tough people do” and “Pain is temporary, pride is forever” will help pull you through when times are bad.
Remember to give your biggest smile when you reach the finishing line. There will be many race photographers around and you should commemorate your brilliant effort with a beautiful smile, simply because you have earned it. You have earned the right to call yourself a marathoner!