What you need to know about running your first marathon

what you need to know about running a marathon

The London Marathon ballot results are out this week – good luck to everyone who entered. I didn’t enter this year’s ballot because, after years of rejection emails, last year I got home to find a ‘You’re in’ magazine waiting on the doormat for me! 

Getting that acceptance magazine is so exciting, but then comes the realisation that in just six months’ time you’re going to be running the London Marathon. London was my fourth full marathon, so I already had a fair bit of marathon running experience behind me when I started training, but, no matter how much experience you have, the 26.2 mile distance is still daunting. The marathon is also an amazing race to run always provides fantastic memories and sense of achievement. So if you’ve got a ‘You’re in’ magazine waiting for you on your doorstep and have never run a marathon before, don’t let your doubts put you off as you won’t regret taking on the marathon distance. 

Whether you’ve found out you’ve got a place in the London Marathon this week or are planning on taking on another marathon next year for the first time, to help make the 26.2 miles seem a little less daunting here is what you need to know about running your first marathon. 

Respect the distance 

Training for a marathon is hard – I don’t know anyone who has trained for a marathon and found it easy – but the training is so important because the marathon distance is tough. Respecting the marathon is vital but it is also essential to not take marathon training too seriously. Training for a marathon can easily become all consuming, especially as it can be easy to get caught up with seeing other runners’ weekly mileage and pace on social media. But while we all want to do well, remembering that we have lives away from marathon training that is equally important, helps to retain a sense of balance and perspective.  

Training won’t go to plan  

If you’re anything like me, at the start of your training you will create or download a marathon training plan so that all you have to do is follow the plan to reach your marathon goal. In all four of the marathons I have trained for I’ve spent hours creating training plans, only for them to have to be completely re-written half-way through my training. Over the years I’ve learnt to not get stressed when my training doesn’t go to plan, whether it is due to weather, injury, illness or life just getting the way. Instead I will adapt my plan and aim to get back on track as quickly as possible. 

Invest in good running shoes

Investing in a good pair of trainers is essential to help prevent injuries and make the hours spent on your feet a little bit more comfortable. Whenever I need to get new running shoes I always go to my local running shop (for those that live in the Norwich area Sports Link is my go-to shop) where they look at my gait before fitting me with the right shoe for my running style. I also have really wide feet so I’m usually put in men’s trainers one size too big, which I find a lot more comfortable, especially in the last few miles of the marathon. 

Being under prepared is ok 

About five weeks before running the 2019 London Marathon I got injured and, as I didn’t want to defer my place for a year, meant I did virtually no running in the weeks leading up to the marathon. As a result, I missed an essential long run and felt very under prepared, it also meant I spent a lot of time googling ‘is it ok to miss a long run during marathon training’ and listening to any podcast available for information about being injured and running a marathon. After all the googling and podcast listening the key message I kept getting was that it’s better to be at a marathon start line healthy and under prepared than well prepared and injured. While being under prepared isn’t ideal, and both times I’ve not felt properly prepared for a marathon my finish times haven’t been great, but I did manage to get to the finish line for both races, which for a marathon is an achievement in itself.   

The race is harder than the training 

Training for a marathon is really hard, but running the marathon is even harder! I’ve always found that actual marathon so much tougher than my hardest training run but there is also something about the marathon that helps to keep pushing me to the finish line. One big motivation for me is the crowd and I always appreciate supporters standing at the side of the road for hours cheering on complete strangers and offering food, water and motivation. 

The marathon doesn’t start until mile 20 

The saying that the marathon doesn’t start until mile 20 is completely true. The first marathon I ran was the Manchester Marathon and, although it was a fantastic race and still my marathon PB, I had never been in so much pain as running the last 10k of that marathon. Every step I took was painful and even meters from the finish I wasn’t sure if my legs were going to be able to carry me over the line. I’ve learnt my lesson from that race and I’m now much more mentally and physically prepared to deal with the last 10k when the marathon is really going to start hurting.  

You will hate running and you will love running 

Usually within the last 10k of a marathon I tell myself that if I just get to the finish line I never have to run again, because at that moment in time I hate running. Months of my life has been taken over by marathon training, I’m exhausted by running and normally at this point in the marathon I’m in a lot of pain – I really never want to run again. Then the next day I’m usually already searching online for my next marathon! 

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