Tips on how to complete your first marathon
I see a lot of runners training for their upcoming events. Some of them might be preparing for their first race whilst others might be training for their first marathon.
Completing a marathon was one of the things I'd always wanted to accomplish and I can say, with a big smile on my face, that last year I managed to do just that!
I must say, I absolutely loved it from start to finish and if you're thinking about running one yourself, I would like to share some tips with you to help you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed mine.
You may have already Googled marathon training plans and perhaps you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of running days it's advising that you to squeeze in to your already busy schedule.
Don't worry! You don't need to train 6 days a week for an hour at a time. What matters is consistency. Just get out there and start running. I completed the marathon by training 3 times a week, as that's all I had time for.
If you're new to running, begin your training with a short run/jog/walk. We all start somewhere. Don't compare yourself to your friends or colleagues who have already been running for a while. This is your journey, nobody else's. Don't throw yourself in the deep end straight away, as you could easily end up getting injured, burnt out and demotivated. Aim for one long run a week and increase your distance gradually.
The right nutrition while training is as important, if not more so, than the training itself. You won't get far without the right fuel. Carbohydrates are your friend, they are one of the best sources of energy required for those long runs, sprints or hill running.
Make sure to refuel your muscles after your long runs too. As your glycogen drops during your training it is important to top it up. Eating some carbohydrates which are digested by the body quicker (simple carbs) will help replenish your muscles quicker. Additionally, having a meal high in protein will ensure muscle recovery and will prevent muscle loss.
Having the right balance of nutrients after a long or intense workout is important to ensure your body can recover well and be ready for the next session.
Try avoiding any new foods or foods high in fibre on the day, as it can give you an upset stomach and you might need to head to the loo a few times too often during your marathon and you'll probably want to avoid that if you can...
3. Choose an event that is right for you
Make sure that you pick an event that you will enjoy. Maybe choose a marathon in a city that you've never been to before? Running is one of the best ways to explore a city. Or maybe you prefer to be surrounded by nature? A marathon located in the countryside with picturesque views or an off road route could be the one for you.
Spend some time researching the route, check out the reviews - what is the crowd like? Will you get cheered on along the way? I find that the atmosphere and the support from the organisers on the day also matters.
I decided to run my first marathon in Warsaw, Poland, my home town. I'd lived there for 20 years and felt like I was running down a memory lane. All the memories going through my head whilst running around the city kept my mind occupied for miles! I was literally running with a smile on my face!
4. Think snacks
The right fuel is not only important for before the race but also during. Having some snacks high in both protein and carbohydrates are key to provide energy en route. There will most likely be food/snack stands but having your own wouldn't be a bad idea. Listen to your body, when you feel you're running low on energy have a snack high in GI to help you increase your sugar levels there and then. Aim for about 20-30g of carbohydrates per hour. I took a packet of Trek Cocoa Peanut Peak Protein Energy Chunks and a bag of Nakd Nibbles. Apart from that I was snacking on some banana chunks which were provided by the marathon organisers.
Remember, do NOT try anything new during the race as you could end up with an upset stomach. Be sure to test it during your training and see what works best for you. I've never tried any glucose gels but I know some people who swear by them. We are all different and the human body's reaction to stress and adrenaline varies hugely from person to person, therefore take time to figure out the best snack for you.
I would recommend investing in a comfortable little bag for your snacks which you can wrap around your waist. You can keep all your snacks in there still move without having to constantly re-jiggle, pull, twist or re-adjust the bag. I highly recommend getting one from Spibelt. They have some great colourful designs and most importantly they stay put while running.
5. Have your playlist ready
A big events such as a marathon can have an amazing atmosphere on the day. Take some time to embrace it all, be mindful of your surroundings, the views, appreciate the volunteers along the way and give them a high five.
However, if it happens that your mind decides to play tricks on you and take away all the fun, then make sure that you have a strong playlist to hand. It could be some motivational music that gives you that extra push or an interesting podcast that you've been meaning to listen for a while but can never find the time.
Some interesting podcasts I enjoy listening to while running are:
"Happy Place" by Fearne Cotton
"Deliciously Ella" by Ella and Matthew Mills
"Food For Thought" by Rhiannon Lambert
"UnF*ck Your Brain" by Kara Loewentheil
"Impact Theory" by Tom Bilyeu
Whatever your reason for taking part in a race, whether it's a personal challenge or you're supporting a friend or raising money for a charity, I hope that you can truly enjoy the experience and can cross the finish line thinking "Yes, I've done it!" or "I want to do it again!" rather than "I'm so glad it's over... never again!".
I remember speaking to a girl before the race I ran in Warsaw - I asked her if it was her first marathon and she said: "No, I've run marathons before" to which I answered "Oh, lucky you, at least you know what to expect". She replied: "Yes, I think that makes it worse..."
That made me think - we push ourselves to the limit, we train hard, we put our bodies through so much but somehow we keep coming back for more... and I remember one quote that I saw on the back of someone's t-shirt which explains it all - "Pain is temporary. Victory lasts forever". The satisfaction that runs through your body when you complete a race is indescribable. It gives you wings, it makes you believe that you can achieve anything and guess what, you can! So if you haven't done it yet, go on, sign up! You don't think you can do it? Well, it's time to prove yourself wrong x