5 Useful Tips for Running Your First Marathon

Man Running Reaching Finish LineYour first marathon is just around the corner. You have trained hard to get to this point: the culmination of weeks and months of dedication, sacrifice, and lots of miles under your shoes.

The anticipation and excitement are building. Your nerves are getting jittery. Maybe you are starting to doubt yourself and ask “Am I really ready to run 26.3 miles???”

You are scouring the internet for tips on how to run your first marathon, and you found this post. Well, look no further (at least, until you read this article), I have some tips to share with you that helped me on my first marathon, and I hope that they will motivate and help you to run your own first marathon.

  1. Enjoy the run
    You didn’t train all these months because you hate running, did you? Probably not. You probably trained for a marathon because you had a goal of checking your first marathon off the bucket list, and maybe even considered running more marathons in the future. There is no need to worry about coming in 1st place in your division. Unless you specifically trained very hard to do so, you probably won’t be able to beat everyone in your age group. Don’t worry about beating some arbitrary time goal either. Run this marathon for yourself. Make it as enjoyable experience as you can, because you will always think back to that first time you ran a marathon – and you do not want to have any regrets. There are always more marathons that you can run afterward to improve your time and finishing place.
  2. Pace yourself
    One of the easiest ways to ruin a marathon distance running experience is to overexert yourself early in the run. If you go out too fast, you will not have any energy left for the long haul. And the haul gets very long when you have 10 miles left, but feel like you can’t take another step. You may end up feeling like that at the end of the race anyway, but why torture yourself any more than you have to? I recommend starting off at a very easy pace. Slower than what your body wants you to do. It will feel strange at first, but you will get used to it, and your speed may even average out to somewhat faster over a 3 or 4 hour time period than if you had gone out fast, but then needed to slow down.
  3. Plan to stay hydrated
    Water is very important. It is critical for your body to function properly while running. Ideally, you need to take in as much water as you loose via sweating, breathing, and/or urinating. There is a way to figure that out, but you will need to track some data over a few training runs. I’ll go into more detail in a later post, but for now take regular sips of water, and don’t allow yourself to feel thirsty. You will also need to consider electrolytes. These are the salts that allow your body to function properly. You can get them by having some salt during the race, or… even easier… drink Gatorade or other electrolyte replacement sports drink. Just mix in a few sips of that every once in a while during your run.
  4. Plan to stay energized
    Energy to run is important. Your body is expending a large amount of calories (calorie = energy) every hour while you run. You have only so many calories readily available for it to utilize. If you hit the point where your body has to start working really hard to go get energy, you will probably start feeling really tired and like you are running on empty.When you feel empty and tired with 6 miles left in the run, you stop enjoying the run, and you want to avoid that! The science of energy expenditure during endurance running is fascinating, and maybe I can go into it in a later post.

    Where do you get energy? Food. You do not have to have it when you are running a marathon, but it sure can help.

    You don’t need to pack a picnic lunch basket, but having a few gels, power bars, or fruit (all spread out over the course of the run) will help you feel much better and enjoy your run more.

    I tried to have one mouthful of food every 30 minutes in my first marathon, and I think it made a significant difference in my enjoyment of the run and in my performance. If you practice eating during your long training runs, you will get a good idea of how much you need to eat to feel good, and you will also get an idea of things you enjoy eating while running. Don’t overeat, or else your stomach will hurt and you may throw up.

  5. Set mini goals
    Nothing helps motivate a person like accomplishing something, and time passes quickly when you move from checkpoint to checkpoint. Set some mini-goals for yourself: take a couple sips of water/Gatorade every ten minutes, eat a mouthful of food every 30 minutes, commit to run to the 5 mile mark at a super easy pace, give yourself a pat on the back and jump in the air and shout, then pick something to look forward to for the next 5 mile block, and so on. Just think, if you set 5 mile mini-goals, on a 26.3 mile run you can mentally reward yourself for completing 5 goals! How often do you get to do that?

You can expect to be rather on the sore side after your first marathon. But thats ok – just take it easy for a few days, walking only (no running), and some light stretching, and you will feel great. You can think about how awesome it is that you just ran your first marathon. You will smile randomly as you are walking down the street just because you are happy about accomplishing such a big goal, and strangers passing you will look at you funny.

As a bonus tip, I’d like to leave you with something you can do after the race that I find is one of the more fun parts of running long distances – guilt free treats! If your stomach is feeling up to it, go celebrate with a milkshake (or other favorite treat).

You earned it!

originally published on howtotrainforamarathonhq