Months of hard work have come and gone and now the day that seemed so far away for so long has finally arrived. The excitement and nerves will likely be going into overdrive but if you can get your head into the right place, you can piece together the most amazing and memorable experience you will ever have. Here are my tips to get you through the marathon.
- Get organised – As soon as you wake up, get straight out of bed and into the shower then into your running gear that you left out last night. You don’t want to risk hitting the snooze button and avoid checking social media on your phone until you’re sitting eating breakfast. You don’t want to feel rushed so get up, get on and this will help you relax.
- Have breakfast – breakfast is very important and while nerves may stop you feeling overly hungry, you need to have something. I recommend eating whatever you’ve been eating before every long run, something that your body is used to. Cereal, porridge, some fruit etc can be good here.
- Pack your bags – once breakfast is done, put all the stuff you laid out into your bag and begin to make your way to the start. Give yourself plenty of time to get there and aim to get to the start area a good hour before you’re due to run. You will no doubt be surrounded by equally nervous people heading to the same place.
- Go to the toilet then go again – one of the best tips I’ve ever been given is to join the queue for the toilets as soon as you arrive at the starting area then when you come out, rejoin the queue again as by the time you get to the front of the queue, you’ll be needing again! This is especially true in London and a combination of nerves and the water you’ll likely be drinking on the way to the start will prompt you to the regular visits to the toilet.
- Get on the start line – as soon as you’re ready, put your bag on the lorry and get to the start line. It can be useful to have a bin bag or an old top that you can throw away to keep you warm before you run.
- Switch off – when you’re at the start, one of the most valuable things you can do is switch off from everything that’s going on around you. Your mind will likely be racing but it’s worth to take a few minutes to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and think about how you want your run to be for you, how you want to feel and most importantly, visualise how you want your finish to be, both when you see the finish line ahead of you and also once you’ve crossed the line. Knowing all that will help keep your pace in check and help create your experience.
- Break it all down – the marathon is a long way and it can be very useful to break it down into smaller chunks, whether it’s in 5k bits, when you plan to have your gels or the various landmarks along the course so all you’re doing is running to one target then immediately resetting to the next one after you’ve passed the first.
- Control the controllables – this is important in the first few miles as it is at any other point of the course. When you start running, be totally selfish and focus on yourself. It can be tempting to go flying out at the start like many other people will be doing especially at a pace that’s clearly quicker than what you’ve done so far. I always look at other people who start quickly and thing that I don’t know how long they can hold that pace for and I don’t know how long I would be able to hold that pace for so I settle into a comfortable pace for me, where I feel relaxed. The only things you can control are how you feel, the drinks and gels you’ll be taking and your pace. You can’t control what others do so just let the do their thing and stick to what you’re able to do.
- Look around you – it can be tempting to look down at the ground while you run if you’ve been doing it in training but the marathon offers an amazing experience with incredible support all the way round so keep your head up the whole time and soak up everything the race offers.
- I can, I will, I am – it’s said the marathon starts at 20 miles, when fatigue can kick in and so if the going gets tough, it can be useful to have something to keep you going. Counting out loud to yourself can help and also reciting the words “I can, I will, I am”. These words are very empowering and it can be good to turn your thoughts to what you’re achieving, why you’re doing what you’re doing and the fact that by the time you’ve reached this stage, you’ve already completed the majority of the race.
- Savour the moment – one of the most incredible moments is when you see the finish line. The run is almost over and so this is the moment you’ve been waiting for, this is your time, this is what you thought about when you were on the start line, this is your opportunity to do things your way. This may be the only marathon you ever do so make the most of it. Lift your head up and give it everything you’ve got. To everyone else, you may not be moving very fast but to you, you’re sprinting majestically and make sure your smiling as you’re getting your photo taken as you cross the line.
- Take your time – once you cross the line, you will go through every single emotion and while you might be tempted to rush off to meet your friends or family, take time out for yourself. You have just achieved something incredible and you need to allow yourself the time to come to terms with it all. Collect your medal, your goody bag, get some photos taken and then when you go to meet everyone again, you’re more likely to be grinning from ear to ear than a big sobbing mess!I think that’s about it! Another thing you can think about on the way round the marathon is how you’re going to celebrate. Go out, have fun, have whatever you like and wear your medal while you do it. You’ve earned it!
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