How To Survive Your First Marathon

Making your marathon debut can be a daunting task! I understand the days and week or two before hand is a time where you might be second guessing yourself and wondering if you will be ok and if everything will go according to plan! Take some of the points below on board to make sure you get through your marathon debut & have an enjoyable time doing so! 

1) Set realistic expectations!

If its your first ever marathon its really good to set some realistic expectations for yourself too! Lets face it, you wont be winning the race but I think its a really good idea to have a goal of getting from A to B successfully and without any major problems! I think that in itself is a win on your debut!

Many people tie themselves down to a time goal on their first day out which in turn puts them under pressure to perform! Having a time goal is great, don't get me wrong, but its great to just go out and enjoy your first day if you can! So set some real expectations for yourself for your first marathon!

2) Taper off your training coming into the event! 

Allowing yourself a gradual taper will help you come race day! I wrote a full article on tapering here that you can read too! The taper period in your training will allow you to recover and it allows your body to actually soak up all of the hard work you have completed over the last few months!

The taper period is a good time to fine tune your pace and get everything dialled in! For example you should have used your race shoes, shorts, socks & tshirt on a number of runs by the time you start to taper!

Try your best to avoid buying any new gear or gadgets before the race! 

3) Stick with what you know! 

This is so important! Coming into the marathon is not the time to start trying new things with either your training or your nutrition! It often happens that a person will be starting to think they don't have enough work done and will try squeeze in extra runs or go to a new fitness class just to get an extra bit in! Theres's no need, you have plenty work done! Stick to what you know and trust yourself! 

The same rule applies with your nutrition! Try your best not to change too much coming into the event if you can! It's good to increase your calories slightly the two days before the race, but you don't need to get caught in the carb loading trap! Yes, carb loading is important, but sometimes people consume too much and you can up feeling bloated and sluggish on race day or race morning! 

So keep it simple here again! Plenty of water throughout the two days before the event and on the night of the race! No need to drink 4 litres the day before and another 2 litres the morning of the race, just keep it consistent and keep topped up! 

4) Make yourself a list!

I love lists! The worst thing that happen is you arrive to your hotel the night before the race and realising you left your running shoes at home.

It may sound silly but that could ruin your race! Imagine training for 16 weeks and then forgetting your GPS watch our your shoes? So make a list before you head off especially if you are travelling or staying somewhere that is not your home before the race! 

I like to make 3 small lists, one for before I travel, one for the night before and the morning of the event and then one for afterwards! 

5) Pace Yourself! 

Make sure to pace yourself on your marathon debut! This is vital! I often see people start out too quick and watch their whole day fall apart at the 16 mile mark! The thing is that this can be avoided!

Run within yourself at the start of the race! Try not to get caught up in the crowd if you can and after a few miles your under pressure! If this happens you are in for a long day! If people are flying by you, let them off! You will be surprised that after 17/18 miles theres a good chance that you will pass them again! 

Pacing yourself can also lead you to having a much more enjoyable day and you will be much happier with yourself post race too! If you start off too quick and have a tough last portion, you won't be happy post race! 

Take it nice and easy! You will have a better day! I promise!

6) Cast an eye over the route!

When it is your first ever marathon it's really good to have an idea of what the course layout is like! For example its good to know where the aid stations are located so you can grab some water etc! 

Also I like getting people to look over the course so they know where the hills are! As much as you don't want to think or talk about them going into the race it is a good idea to know where they are! From there you can plan your race around them and you know at what point to expect them! Going into the race and not checking this is silly! Plan accordingly and avoid any unwanted surprises on race day! 

7) Say Thank You! 

It is really important to say thank you to the people who organise these events too! I never run through an aid station without saying thank you to the person who handed me the water, say thank you to the first marshal or volunteer you meet when you cross the finish line and say thank you to the person who hands you your medal! There is enough negative nellies out there who run around all day with big frowns on their faces. 

If we didn't have volunteers and marshals there would be no events for us to run! So take the 2 seconds it takes & say thank you!

8) Rest & Recover!

Your body goes through a lot during a marathon! The day or so afterwards it might take you 20/30 seconds to sit into the car or you might have to walk down the stairs backwards for a day or two! But its very important to recover properly! Make sure you eat a good meal and get loads of water in before the post race drinks come and eat loads the day or two after the marathon too.

Some active recovery can really help! Such as an easy walk, but sometimes after a marathon walking is not that easy! Maybe a easy swim, I love to swim the day after a race! Just try move some bit at least to keep some movement going and it will help speed up your recovery process! 

Then you can turn on your computer or open you laptop and sign up for another race!!!

9) Come and educate yourself at The Running Summit! 

The Running Summit Ireland is taking place in Dingle Ireland this May 26th / 27th! 

The aim of the Running Summit is to be the one stop shop for educating runners on how to become better athletes. Fitter, healthier & stronger. 

The Running Summit was founded by (me) Shane Finn & Barry Murray and of course our co-host for the weekend is Ireland's female marathon record holder Catherina McKiernan!

The first Summit is limited to 100 Attendees and you can get more information here or have a look at our proposed schedule!

Thanks for taking the time to read the article! And make sure you pass it on or tag any friends taking on their first marathon! 



Shane Finn