Advice For Your First Marathon

Advice For Your First MarathonLast week I had someone send me this message on Facebook: I am running my first marathon this weekend, do you have any advice?

YES! Don’t ask for advice 5 days before your first marathon!

But seriously…

I am running my 64th marathon this weekend so it’s safe to say I am a marathoner. I am happy to give any advice and share my experiences to help you have a great first (or 20th) marathon. Since I’m sure this woman isn’t the only one looking for advice, I thought I would share with you (and expand on) what I wrote to her.

Before I get started, I just wanted to share that you should have your marathon race day prep (mental, physical, and emotional) all planned out more than 5 days in advance, so you wouldn’t even need (or want) to ask someone else their advice. I help my clients work on this from the very beginning of their training. Sometimes even a year before their race. A marathon is a mental event. Running 26.2 miles is very physical, don’t get me wrong, but if you aren’t prepared mentally, when it gets hard, you will stop. So it’s important to train not only physically, but mentally as well for the event.

So based on my 15 years of marathoning, here are my top 3 pieces of advice…

Follow a plan and practice your race day nutrition. Whether you find a general training plan online or hire a coach to write you out a specific training plan custom to your needs, you need to follow a plan. WHY? Because it will give you the best chance for success. The coach writing out your plan knows how to train you for your specific race. If you follow the plan, you will complete your race and most likely hit your goal. Left to your own devices, emotions, commitments, priorities, doubts, etc will creep in to your mind and body and sabotage your marathon.

Within this training plan should be mental training AND nutrition training. You will want to practice on your long training sessions your race day nutrition plan. Elite athletes may be able to run a marathon on 4 cups of water and 1 gel, but you and I can’t. We will be consuming some sort of calories during the 3-6 hours it takes us to run and unless we have practiced during training, our bodies won’t respond well during the race. Trust me on this one!!

Enjoy the process. The process of training your mind and body to run 26.2 miles is life changing. Whether you started off as a runner or not, you will finish as a runner. This transformation is exciting and I don’t want you to miss a beat. This is also important because your race may not go as planned! Let me re-phrase that…your race probably will not go 100% as planned.

Life is unpredictable. Weather is unpredictable. And our bodies are unpredictable. You can train exactly as planned, have your nutrition dialed in, taper perfectly, and then wake up race morning with a migraine or a sore throat. Nature may toss you into a snow storm or a heat wave. You may get a cramp or twist an ankle or any number of random things could happen before or during your race.

If you have a bad race or don’t make your goal, and you DIDN’T enjoy your training, you are going to be disappointed, frustrated, and possible out of the sport for good. If you have a bad race but you loved your training and everything it took to get to the starting line, then you will walk away with experience, lessons learned, and excited to do the next one. Trust me on this one too!!

Have fun! There is no point in taking the time, energy, and effort it takes to train and race a marathon if you aren’t enjoying yourself. Especially on race day!

Get there early, take a selfie, meet people, tell others to have a great race, smile for the camera, sing a song, when someone passes you tell them they are looking strong, if you pass someone encourage them to keep moving, make up a rhyme to count down the miles, thank a volunteer, just enjoy yourself.

Believe me, at mile 20 you will be feeling so much better if you are having a good time. And again, if your race result wasn’t what you wanted, at least you had fun! And possibly made a few new friends.

I hope these are helpful! If you have any specific race questions or want a custom training plan, email me at coachsmith@usa.com

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See you soon!

Follow a plan and practice your race day nutrition and pacing during your long runs. Enjoy the process just in case your race doesn’t go as planned. Have fun!

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