Back in 2017, I ran my first full marathon in Barcelona. Since then I've gone on to run a further 3 marathons (at time of going to press). For anyone running such a long distance, it's a huge achievement. However, I found right before the race I had a sudden meltdown and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t anywhere close to being prepared.
In the lead up to race day, I found myself experiencing a multitude of emotions; anxiety, worry, stress. And I struggled to sleep. But I soon discovered these nervous feelings of apprehension are completely normal. Pre-marathon paranoia as it’s otherwise known, is completely common among first timers and even experienced runners.
I thought I’d share the methods I’ve since used to get over these last minute fears, and how you can be prepared for running your first marathon.
Drink lots of water
The week before the race make sure you’re keeping hydrated. It’s important to not just think of your water intake on race day but in the week leading up to it too. Check out some of my favourite water bottles on Amazon by ProWorks here.
Get lots of rest
You’ve trained hard and the final week is all about resting. A few short easy runs can help you to stay supple but there is no need for any intense training at this stage. Many runners choose not to run the day before the race, but this decision is entirely up to you and how quickly you recover. Two to three days before a marathon I usually run an easy 3.5 to 5km. If you prefer not to do this, another way to stay active is through walking and yoga.
Don’t change your usual routine
Don’t attempt any new exercises, and don’t try anything new that could cause an injury. Stick with your usual foods, and now is not the time to be trying out new running clothes or trainers — keep to what you know. If you've bought new clothes or trainers for the marathon, allow yourself enough time to practice training in these, the worst thing to do is wear something new on race day and find it rubs or gives blisters.
Get enough sleep
This is important not just the night before the race but in the final week too. Early nights and good sleep should help prepare you for the marathon, and help to look after your immune system. Go to bed early the night before the race, if you can’t sleep don’t worry, stay in bed and rest, reading or meditation can often help with relaxation.
Now is definitely not the time to be trying new foods that your body is not used to. Eat predictable or bland foods that won’t cause any upset to your digestive system. Load up on carbs and try to avoid fatty and high fibre foods. Don’t overeat the night before the race, or it could leave you feeling bloated and lethargic. Avoid eating too late the night before, your body needs to have time to digest the food.
Check the course map
Familiarise yourself with the race route, make a mental note where the water stations are located. Get to know where the easy parts are and the hills so you can be mentally prepared. Arrange where your family or friends can come and watch you run — there’s nothing more motivating than seeing a familiar face in the crowd to cheer you on.
Know your pace
Know in advance how fast you’re going to run and the realistic time you’re aiming for, or whether or not you will run with a pacer. It’s good to get a rough idea of this is your head and then readjust it on the day if need be. Strava has this running pace calculator if you want to plan your ideal running pace in advance.
Plan your travel
How will you get to the marathon starting line? Don’t leave small but important details like these until the night before. Plan how much time you will need to allow for this. The last thing you want is to be late for the start of the race with no time to warm up.
Get organised the night before
Check the weather forecast so you can plan what to wear. Pack up a post-race bag with the things you’ll need immediately after; warm clothes, snacks, fluids etc. Remember safety pins for your race number. You don’t want to be stressing about all of these things on morning of the race. Set your alarm early for the day of the race, give your body enough time to wake up properly and allow time to digest breakfast.
Try not to worry, and relax!
When you’re preparing to run your first marathon, make sure you’re surrounded by people who support you and the challenge you’re about to undertake. If you experience any nerves remember it’s natural, think about all of the hard training and miles you've run to get to this point. Whatever the outcome on the day, it’s important to take time after the race to reflect on what you’ve achieved and be proud of yourself, it’s a huge distance to run and you’re putting your body through a lot physically. Running your first marathon can be scary, but by being focused, you too can be prepared and enjoy the race!
“Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go.”