Tips for Your First Marathon
Running a marathon means running and completing the 26.2 miles.
Too many runners do not train properly and as a result have to drop out early or look like death if they make it to the finish line. Having completed three marathons, I’m no expert, but I do have real experience to share that will hopefully make your special day one of real achievement, personal satisfaction and injury-free. There are numerous books, online resources and clubs like the New York Road Runners or New York Flyers that can help you train for success. Consider this a topping of marzipan on your training cake, Guy’s Guy style.
Train in Advance.
I was listening to the New York Marathon broadcast on WFAN a year before running my first marathon. I was on a five-mile run and decided that I would train for a year and find a way into the race. It turned out the training was easier than actually getting a number. It was pre-9/11 and a female friend gave me her number, so I carefully made my way past the security checks and got on the bus, into the marathon compound, and up to the starting line at the Verrazano Bridge without a hitch. Don’t do this. It was nerve-racking.
Technically anyone can run a marathon. The key is putting in consistent training, staying healthy and managing minor injuries, and really wanting it. Runners need a foundation. That means logging lots of miles as a base prior to adding necessary mileage needed to be able to run a marathon. Beginning your training early will keep you healthy and focused. I highly recommend allotting a minimum of four months for training, even if many plans call for three months.
Face it. We are what we eat, and what we’re offered by the big food companies these days is not so good. If you are serious, you’ll buy a juicer and use it on organic veggies and fruits as part of your daily regime. If not, at least cut out the junk, booze and fast food. You’ll recover from your long runs a lot faster and it will keep your energy up. During the race I ate constantly (fruit, pieces of bagels, energy bars and gels) and slowed down at many of the water stops to grab a cup so I would stay hydrated.
Manage Your Injuries.
When you are logging in so many training miles—including a minimum of two twenty-mile training runs where no one is cheering you on— you learn a lot about your body and its capacity for pain. I suspect you will experience some discomfort or minor injury. Don’t ignore injuries, no matter how small. They can get serious quickly. You may need to take a day or two off to heal. All the more reason to begin your training months in advance. A marathon is a long haul, not a sprint. Treat your training the same way. Long and slow. If you want to amp up your strength and endurance, work in speed intervals, but regardless of your approach, pay attention to your body and your mental state. You will need to keep both in top shape.
Your body needs rest so few days off after a twenty-mile practice run is a good thing. One reason is that you’ll do another twenty-miler in a few weeks and before the marathon. Get to bed at a reasonable hour and take advantage of naps whenever you can afford the time. Stress is your body’s archenemy, so do your best to keep your mind relaxed. I mentally mapped out the plot and necessary revisions for two novels while running. Let those endorphins be your ally.
Enjoy the Race.
When marathon day arrives, make it a time of celebration. If you’ve put in the proper amount of training, you should have a great time soaking in a once in a lifetime experience of competing at the level of an elite, world-class athlete. It is a real accomplishment. Here is my number one tip for the race—go slow. You are embarking on a twenty-six mile (plus change) journey. It’s long, really long and you are only competing with yourself. Focus on enjoying the day, the experience, the spectacle and the people. If you are full of pep with less than ten miles to go, you can pick up your pace. I assure you that while you are making up time, others will hit that wall and bonk out after mile twenty.
My first NYC Marathon was my favorite. I ran with a good friend, took my time, had lots of energy after we entered Manhattan, and actually sprinted through Central Park and across the finish line. That evening I went out with friends, devoured a plate of Mexican food and pounded a few celebratory tequila shots. Yeah, I was sore as hell the next few days, but I felt great. I ran my race exactly as I planned it. I completed two more marathons, but it wasn’t the same, for me at least. I became too concerned with my time and as a result struggled both times in the last third of the race. Take it slow and you won’t be sorry, friends.
Are you ready to run your marathon?
This week’s Guy’s Guys and Gals of the Week are the participants in this year’s NYC Marathon. Have a blast and stay safe.