If you are reading this, that means I am on the road headed to O-H-I-O!
The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon will be my 6th marathon and I have to admit, I feel like it is my first! I’m nervous, excited, anxious, pumped: you name it! I get like this before every race I run and I love the adrenaline rush. I remember my first marathon: I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even have a watch let alone a Garmin: I just ran and took in every minute of it!
My last post before the marathon, I wanted to provide any first-time marathoners tips on how to prep for the big day: from the night before to the day of! Your first marathon is filled with so many emotions and I want you to enjoy every single minute of it!
BEFORE THE MARATHON:
- Catch some zzz’s. I won’t lie, you won’t sleep much the night before the race. The week leading up to race day, get as much sleep as you can. Friday and Saturday are the two most important days that you need to rest. Friday, try to relax and recover from your last few short runs. Take the day off from work if you can. If you cannot take the Friday off before race weekend, let your co-workers know about your upcoming race and maybe your workload can be lightened up a bit to help save you some stress. The week before a race I try to find subs to teach my classes and if I cannot find subs, then I try to walk around in my classes as much as I can to give my body a break.
- Eat Clean. It’s exciting to try new foods when you travel to a different city but the days before a race, stick to the foods that your body is used to. You don’t want any unexpected “surprises” leading up to race day. Eat clean and healthy. If you can, pack some snacks that you know won’t upset your stomach. I take a bagel for race day and any others snacks I may need throughout the weekend. Wait for after the race to indulge in the local fare!
- Chill Out. The night before your first marathon, you’ll definitely be nervous. After all, running 26.2 miles for the first time is a pretty daunting task. Plan a low-key activity the night before that will get you in the right mind-frame. The night before all of my marathons I have had a big spaghetti dinner and just chill out at home or in the hotel watching TV.
- Fuel Yourself. Hopefully during the last 18 weeks of training you have learned how to fuel your body for the run and know what works for you. Whatever your pre-race preference is, make sure you eat that about 3 hours before the race. If you’re traveling, bring the food with you, or find a grocery store. I pack a bagel as well as some GUs . I have my bagel a few hours before the race, then a GU about 15-minutes prior to the race.
- Run YOUR Race. If you trained with a friend and plan to run the race with him or her, of course you should try. However, if your friend’s pace pushes you out of your comfort zone, then relax, say good-bye and run at your own pace. Find a pace group that is running at a comfortable pace for you and stick with them I have a tendency to start races too fast so I always find a pace group to stick with in the beginning so I don’t start out fast. Once I get warmed-up and in a rhythm, I then head out in front of the pace group.
- Set a Realistic Goal. For inexperienced runners who have never ran before, I always tell them instead of setting a finish time as a goal: just set a goal to FINISH. Finishing a marathon is an achievement in itself so don’t stress about how long it takes you to finish. This ties in to the next tip: have fun!
- Take it All In. Have fun! You never want to forget the way you felt during your first marathon, so take some time to “smell the roses.” Take a few minutes to turn off your music, listen to the crowds around you and observe the new scenery. Give people in the crowd high 5’s as you run by them or maybe take a photo-op with some of the various cheer squads along the route. I love seeing kids along race courses and try to always make sure to give them a high-5 because their face lights up so big!
- Train Your Mind. 26.2 miles is a long time to be alone with your thoughts and that is why people will often tell you that a marathon is mostly mental. Be careful not to get ahead of yourself, silence the “noise” in your head and always keep the finish line in the back of your mind. Have a positive mantra to repeat whenever you feel negative thought taking over. Two mantra’s that I use are, “C’mon legs!” and “Embrace the suck.” Also, don’t be afraid of “the wall” that you may have heard runners feel between miles 20 through 26.2. Just stick with your mental strategy the whole race, and you’ll be fine.When you start to feel fatigued, just visualize yourself crossing that finish line.
I hope I gave you some useful tips for your first marathon. I want you to have the best experience and cross the finish line feeling proud. I remember as I was coming to the finish line the first time in Cleveland, the announcer said my name. MY NAME! I smiled big and sprinted across the finish line. Carolina Liar’s “Show Me What I’m Looking For” was playing on my iPod and I immediately knew I had to sign-up for another race.
I can promise you that when you cross the finish line, all of the long runs, early nights to bed and times you wanted to quit will all be worth it. Running a marathon will make you feel like you can do anything!
- Ever run a marathon or distance race? Share your tips for success below!!