6 Things You Should Know Before Running Your First Marathon

running

Running a marathon | Source: Thinkstock

As you wait by the starting line of your first marathon, you’ll feel fear, excitement, and plenty of adrenaline. Whether you followed your training plan perfectly or skipped one too many days, the day of a big run is always nerve racking. Even if you’re in the best shape of your life and you feel confident physically there is always something to worry about. You may find yourself checking the weather every 20 minutes or stressing about blisters or wondering what you’ll do if you have a bathroom emergency and there is no port-a-potty nearby.

Luckily, there are all sorts of running pro tips and tricks to relieve some of that stress so that you can let your body naturally do what it’s been trained to do. Prepare for the marathon day with these race-day musts.

1. Taper off your training

running

A man training | Source: iStock

Your training will actually peak a month before the day of the race. Then you’ll start tapering off on your training to allow your body to recover. This will ensure you are physically at 100 percent on the day of the race. MarathonTraining.com recommends maintaining intensity the weeks leading up to the race but doing 75% of your normal running time three weeks out, 50% two weeks out, and 25% the week of the race. By keeping your body moving but not pushing it you will feel rested and sharp on marathon day.

2. Set realistic expectations

You may be running sub-nine minute miles in training, but for your first marathon it is important to keep realistic expectations. Not every race day starts on a cool bluebird morning. Race conditions may be windy, cold, hot, or rainy which can easily throw off your performance. For many first-timers it is simply enough to have a goal of finishing the race. By setting healthy expectations you will have more fun and go easier on yourself if things don’t work out the way you planned.

3. Avoid anything new

Stirring, cooking, preparing food

A man cooking | Source: iStock

Don’t get caught up in the hype of what you should and shouldn’t eat before a race or how much you should drink and eat during the marathon. Those long training runs you completed were dress rehearsals for the marathon. If you always eat a bowl of cereal before you run, stick with that. If you’re a meat and potatoes guy, don’t eat Indian food the night before. The same goes of mid-race snacks. Stick with what you know and don’t try anything new the day before or the day of the race. For an extra boost of energy, Active.com recommends adding a higher ratio of carbs to your typical diet.

4. Don’t drink everything in sight

You may be tempted to accept every water or Gatorade cup handed to you along the course, but resist the temptation to overhydrate. While being hydrated is important, being bloated will only make you feel heavy and uncomfortable. The key is to drink lots of water the day before the race and drink and eat only as needed on the day of the race.

5.  You don’t have to run the whole way

running group, stretching

Stretching before a run | Source: iStock

You may have it in your head that you have to run the entire 26.2 miles to truly experience a marathon. This myth just isn’t valid. Many marathon runners plan scheduled walking breaks to improve performance and prevent injury. Some walk for a minute after every completed mile or time a walk after a certain number of songs on their playlist. Figure out what works for you but keep in mind that periodic walking can help you run faster in the long run because it reduces the impact on your muscles, joints, and tendons and helps control your heart rate.

5. Show up early

Leave your house earlier than you think and get to the race grounds at least an hour before the race is set to start. This will ease some of your race day stress and will ensure you find a parking space, have time to use the bathroom, warm up, and get an overall feel for the race. Use this time to get your music prepped, focus on your breathing, and visualize the racecourse and race finish. By the time it’s go time, you’ll be ready to get moving!

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