For many of us the New Year is a time to set new goals, and it’s not hard to believe that for most people those goals are about getting fitter and healthier. One of the most popular ways to stay motivated with a new health and fitness routine is to sign up for a big race, charity event or a marathon, so that there is something to work towards. Taking on a marathon is a mammoth task, but it is achievable with the right motivation, plan and goals.
If you have signed up for a marathon in 2015, we’re here to get you on the right track. Below you will find tips for running your first marathon, which will help you with planning, preparation and achieving your goals. 35,868 runners finished the London Marathon in 2014, so let’s make sure that you are one of them this year!
Before the Marathon
- Set your programme in advance
Once you have dedicated yourself to running a marathon, you will need to organise a proper training schedule. Although there have been reports in the past, about people running the full 26.2 miles without doing any training beforehand, the vast majority of us wouldn’t be able to do this without sustaining some serious injuries.
It is generally agreed that you should train for a minimum of 16 weeks before taking part in a marathon. Throughout this time you will slowly increase the amount of time you run for, working towards being able to run further in less time. To complete a marathon without any major incidents, you should be able to comfortably run 10k – it may sound a lot if you are just starting out, but after sticking to your training schedule you will be able to do this with no problem.
You may find that during your training you become unwell or develop an injury, and so you will need to work this into your schedule. It is always better to do more training than necessary, rather than missing out the last 3 weeks and then starting the marathon feeling rusty.
Bupa has a great training schedule here, which you can use to prepare yourself for the big day and you can find lots of variations online.
- Choose your kit carefully
Your clothing on marathon day can either be your downfall or your saviour. After competing all that training, you don’t want a pair of tight trainers to be the reason why you couldn’t make it over the finish line. So here are a few quick tips to help you get your kit right:
- Make sure that you thoroughly test out your trainers. You want to make sure that they are comfortable, give good support and can withstand the long hours of pounding away on the pavement. Don’t buy a new pair just before the race – you won’t have enough time to wear them in, which could cause nasty blisters and rubbing. Stick to the pair that you have been training in, as you will be used to the way they feel and how you move in them.
- Cotton tops are a no-no as they will absorb sweat and hold it against your skin, leaving you feeling very uncomfortable. Opt for a quick dry top, which will keep you fresh.
- Wear your outfit before marathon day. This will help you to see if there are any scratchy labels that need to be cut out, hems that ride up or material that just doesn’t make the grade. The more comfortable you are, the better you will run.
- Socks are just as important as all the other bigger items of kit. Choose a pair which have been specially designed for running, as they will support your feet in the right place and help to prevent rubbing.
- Know your route
Before race day it is a good idea to become familiar with the route you will be running. You can find the route published online for most marathons ahead of time, allowing you to run or even just walk it, so that you know what you are up against.
When you go to check out the route, set yourself markers and goals that you can use when you are running. For example are there any monuments to look out for or special signs along the way? This will help you to keep motivated and less fixated on the miles.
During the Marathon
- Set yourself goals
To make sure that you complete the full course, it is very important to keep your mind focused. One of the best ways to do this, is to set goals along the way. Here are two examples of goals that we have found to help:
- Set yourself small goals along the route and reward yourself when you make them. For example, you might decide that for every 3 miles that you run, you can have 60 seconds of walking at the end. So you would run 3 miles, walk for 1 minute then start back running for the next 3 miles. This will break the 26.2 miles up into smaller chunks, keeping your mind focused on smaller targets that will eventually add up to the full distance.
- Use other runners as competition to keep yourself motivated. If you find that you are lagging behind, focus on another runner who is just in front of you and set yourself the goal of passing them. Keep doing this for a new runner each time you pass the last and you will take your mind off the miles, focusing instead on your own little goals.
- Focusing on finishing, not on time
Everyone who runs a marathon will find that they are asked, “What was your finishing time?” While it is a good idea to set time goals during training, to ensure that you are getting progressively faster, it isn’t always best to focus on your time during the actual race. If you push yourself too hard, trying to make up time, you might just hit the wall or suffer an injury. Your end goal should be to finish the race in a time that is reasonable for you.
After the Marathon
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the finish line and everyone is cheering your name. As much as you might want to just collapse into a big pile of pillows, you should do some post-marathon care. Here are the 3 things you should do straight after your marathon:
- Change out of your running clothes. Once you have stopped running your body will start to cool down very quickly, so it’s especially important to get into new clothes, especially when it’s a cold day.
- Eat some food. The average runner will burn their entire day’s calorie intake running a marathon, so it’s very important to get some energy back into your body. You might not feel like eating too much so opt for a banana or an energy bar to start off with.
- Once your muscles have been stretched and properly warmed down, it’s time to bask in your glory and relax. Take a nap, watch TV, have a lazy lunch with family and put off running for at least a couple of days.
Now that you’ve read our tips for running your first marathon, let us know in the comments which race you will be running in!