With fall arriving, so is marathon season. Thinking of trying that distance for the first time? If a marathon seems like a big leap in distance for you, try a half-marathon first. Either way, here are ten tips to help get you to the finish line:
1) Train right:
Choose a workout schedule that will work for you. Be realistic about the time you have to commit to training and what your mileage and running experience has been up to this point so you can choose a schedule that will be attainable for you. There are many training plans online and I provide a beginner half marathon schedule here.
2) Practice nutrition:
Never experiment with new foods during a race. Practice during training to see what foods your stomach will tolerate and what your nutritional needs are during your runs. Eat the same foods (this includes breakfast) on race day that you are used to eating.
Drinking during a marathon or half marathon can be tricky so it's best to practice this during your long training runs. It is important, especially on a warm day, to stop at every aid-station and hydrate. If you need to, walk slowly or even stop so you can make sure to take in enough fluids. (More tips on hydrating and race fueling here)
4) Lube it up:
As your runs increase in length, the likelihood of you developing chafing increases too. The most common chafing areas are between your thighs, under your armpits, around your feet and on the underside of your arm. For men, it can also occur on the nipples, and for women along the chest band of your sports bra. Chafing generally occurs because of rubbing from loosely fitted clothing, irritating seams, or fabric that is wet. To prevent chafing you can rub Vaseline, or Body Glide anti-chafe balm directly onto the skin. A moleskin or band-aid can be used on the nipples to help prevent chafing for men, particularly in cold weather.
5) Pre-race prep:
Prior to your race, gather all of you equipment together and check your gear to make sure it is in good condition. This not only means your shoes, but also your sunglasses, socks, race belt, etc. as these are not easy things to fix on race morning. As you pack, go through the race day in your mind from the start of your morning to make sure you don't forget anything. Even better is to make a list the week prior and check off the items as you pack them.
6) Aid station etiquette:
When approaching an aid station, a volunteer may ask you whether you want a sports drink or water so make sure to let them know in advance what your needs are. Always thank the volunteers if you can. If you do plan to slow down considerably or stop altogether at an aid station, be aware of the runners around you so you don’t impede their race. After you have received your fuel, step to the side and let the other runners grab what they need as well. Try to dispose of your litter in the designated area (trash can or off to the side of the course) so that it’s easier for the volunteers to clean up and another runner doesn’t slip on your cup.
7) Pace yourself:
Don't let the excitement at the start of the race make you run faster than your intended goal pace. A marathon and half marathon is a long distance and you could really pay for it later in the race. It's best to be patient. You will have a better result if you stay in control and run the second half the same pace or father than the first.
8) Race mantra:
Come up with a race mantra to help ward off negative thoughts during the tough spots while racing. This can be as simple as repeating, “I am strong,” or a more personal phrase, in your head. Whatever motivates you through those tough sections!
9) Post-race tip:
Make sure to have dry clothes to change into after the race so you don’t get cold. Even on a warm day you begin to feel cold if you are sitting around in wet clothes. Also make sure to have something you like to eat and drink just in case the race doesn’t have something you can/want to eat.
10) Race day:
Most of all, have fun! Enjoy your day and thank your body for allowing you to complete such an amazing feat!
Go get 'em!