Several of my running buddies will be embarking on their very first marathon this coming Sunday at the Space Coast Marathon. I couldn't be more excited for them because I will never forget the first time I crossed the finish line for my first marathon. It was an experience that words cannot even begin to describe and I hope they experience the same euphoria I did! Of course I certainly was not that blissful the entire time. Despite the months of training, my nerves totally got the best of me in the days and of course minutes leading up to the race. And even throughout the 26.2 miles, there were several moments of fears and doubts. But I kept going and before I knew it, I was officially a marathoner!
So as my friends prepare for their first, and hopefully not last (hehe) marathon, I thought I would share a few last minute thoughts and suggestions in preparation for their big day...
1. Trust Your Training
You have just spend that past 12-18 weeks of your life preparing to run the miles, you can and WILL run them all! Take a look back at your best and worst training runs. What were different factors in those that you can do, or not do, race day? Be sure to keep those things in mind before and during your run. These past few months have not just physically, but also mentally prepared you for race day. You have a plan. Trust in that and believe in yourself. Running is, after all, a mental sport (and we are all insane)!
2. Don't Make Any Major Changes
By now you have probably figured out your nutrition and hydration looks like for 20+ miles runs, as well as what gear and apparel work best for you. Don't make any changes. Don't add any new Gu or hydration tablets to your race day essentials. Don't buy new shoes or pants or sports bra, go with what you know and trust. And lastly, stick to a relatively simple diet in the last few days leading up to the race. You don't want to risk any unwanted GI issues come race day. Been there, regretted that, ugh! Stick with what you know.
3. Have a Mantra
Read through some inspirational quotes or stories. Find something that speaks to you about anything from perseverance, determination, competition, etc.. Whatever touches you and motivates you. Recite those words to yourself before the race and whenever things start to get tough out there. There will be times where you feel like this was too much of an undertaking and you want to walk, stop for a minute or even quit. DON'T! Remember your mantra, remember why you started this journey, what it means to you to finish, dig deep and keep pushing forward!
4. Relax, Have Fun
Listen, it's just running. It's not our job, we're not getting paid to do it. (In fact we pay a lot to do this, hehe). We're not going to the Olympics and most of us won't qualify for Boston our first go, if ever! Like I said above, think about why you even decided to run a marathon. You obviously have to love running if you're willing to do it for 4-6+ hours straight! So keep that in mind out on the course. Enjoy the sights and sounds and emotions going on all around you. There are so many great stories of triumph and inspiration at these events, including yours. Soak it all in! Running a marathon is the true definition of a journey, why not enjoy the ride, er run. Think about how much more sweet crossing that finish line will be if you can remain calm, positive and and just have fun!
5. Recover Smart
One of the biggest mistakes people make post marathon is not honoring a proper recovery period. Many people will stop running all together for a week or two, or even more, while others will jump right back into their old routine. Take a day or so rest. Not just the miles but also the emotional component of a race can take a toll on you. Be sure to refuel your body with proper nutrition and drink TONS of water. Foam rolling, active stretching and Yoga are all super helpful in recovery. Many training programs have recovery runs built into them, so don't neglect that. If your program does not have recovery runs, considering take some nice slow jogs or walk runs the week following the race and start building back up. You don't want any unwanted injury or illness after your race to taint what an amazing thing you have just accomplished, so recovery smart and stay healthy.
I could really go on and on about marathon training and race day preparation, but those are some big ones that have helped me over the years. No matter the outcome of your race, crossing that finish line at a marathon is a feeling like no other. You have worked so hard to do something you may have never thought possible. All those early mornings, tough workouts and dedication have paid off. You set a goal and you made it happen. Less than 1% of the population can say what you can now say...you are a MARATHONER!!!
Good luck and happy running!