MARATHON CHECKLIST FOR FIRST-TIMERS
It’s countdown time, your Facebook page is filled with running posts, injury posts and article upon article about what to do, what not to do, what you should have done, what it’s too late to do now and oh-my-god-you’ve-done-everything-wrong posts. Right? Yeah. ‘S’ok. Anyone who’s run a marathon has been there and heard most of it and I think I’m right in saying that you need to treat the advice in the same way that you treat all the suggestions about how to live your life, how to bring up your child, how to fold your laundry …… blah blah blah! Listen to all of it, nod, respect every viewpoint and then take the bits that are going to be good for YOU and run with them. In this case, literally!
For what it’s worth … here’s my list. Ignore at will or take what’s useful. Whatever you decide will be the right decision for you at this time.
– Whether you’ve done the training or you’re taking the ‘it’ll-be-alright-on-the-night’ approach, too late to dwell on should-haves and could-haves. Focus purely on the day that’s coming and getting yourself from start to finish. Remember – it’s all about the finishing photo!
– Don’t wait till you’re stressed out the day before your race to iron your name on your shirt. Do it a few days before so you have time to resort to Plan B without hysteria!
– You’ve heard it time and again but PLEASE don’t ignore it. NO NEW CLOTHING ON THE DAY! Nothing. Nada. Not even nail varnish!! God forbid – what if you find your new colour clashes with your laces????
– TOE NAILS. Cut them, file them … Brighton marathon is flat so little chance of you losing any – but why take the risk, eh?
– Double check your breakfast ingredients are all ready. Nothing worse than waking up to find Mum’s bought the wrong oats by mistake or forgotten to buy the all-important bananas!
– NO CARB-LOADING! You know that post-Christmas-dinner feeling when you can’t move because you’ve eaten so much? Why on earth would you over-eat the night before a big race – ensuring you arrive at the start line sluggish because your body’s still trying to cope with all that pasta! Stop it! By all means increase the carbs a little in the couple of days leading up to race day – but by ‘increase’ I mean perhaps a baked potato with your usual chicken and salad, maybe extra oats in your smoothie for mid-afternoon snack! Yeah, really! THAT is ‘loading’. No ‘double portions’. Double portions will merely lead to double trouble.
– I would love to know the percentage of marathon households emitting the familiar sound ‘OMG SAFETY PINS WE HAVEN’T GOT ANY SAFETY PINS’ on race morning. They’ll be in your race pack but invariably there’ll be a mishap. Just dig them out of the sewing box NOW so you’re not searching on race day and getting stressed. Besides, you know that if you have loads waiting you won’t need any because that’s just sod’s law!
– Charged your Garmin? #justsayin’
– Couple of wet wipes tucked away somewhere (they fold nicely in a mini sandwich bag) will see you comfortable if you get short-taken!
– Prepare for THE WALL! If (more likely ‘when’) you hit it you will feel that it’s affecting you far worse than any other runner. It isn’t. The wall is about perspective and strategy. Plough through it, leap (mentally) over it, go (figuratively) around it … but it DOES help to have a plan of action. Write a mantra on your hand and start chanting it to the rhythm of your feet (‘Nearly there, I’m nearly there’ or ‘I can do this, I WILL do this’ … or anything positive and ‘rhythmical’). Avoid phrases like ‘Don’t give up’ because they use negative words even though the meaning is positive. When you hit that wall your brain will only hear the ‘don’t’!! Maybe this is the time you can start counting strides? Pick a number, count, look up, take a drink, repeat, etc. I know somebody who wrote a few friends’ names on their hand and as they hit the wall they started having individual conversations with them (in their head). Whatever you do, it’s up to you. It’s never easy. You’re running a marathon, for goodness’ sake! There’s a reason very few people ever accomplish it. This is one of them. Give yourself the BEST advantage. PLAN your assault of that wall and remember … on the other side it’s time to run for home!!
– The expo ……… It’s exciting. It’s full of marathon fever. You can get lost in there. You can spend hours ……………… ON YOUR FEET! GO HOME! Feet need to be UP!
– Finally … marathon week … expect flu symptoms, bronchitis, IT band playing up, that old ankle injury will come back, you’ll feel ill, knees are aching a bit, that cough has returned ….. etc. etc. etc. You are not alone. Even better, for the vast majority of you these symptoms are all in your head. I can hear you right now: ‘Are you kidding? This sore throat/(insert appropriate symptom) isn’t in my head. It’s real.’ Yes, it is. Sorta! But it’s only a ‘temporary real’. I PROMISE YOU – a mile across that start line those symptoms will have disappeared (you’ll have a whole new set of things to think about haha). For now though, this is your body’s way of making you take notice. It’s merely saying ‘Time to compromise! You want me to carry you for 26 miles? Then feed me, give me water and get these legs on the couch!’ The least you can do is listen. It does have a point, after all.
I AM EXCITED FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. A marathon start line is an incredible achievement all by itself. Look around, feel proud, feel the buzz, ditch the excuses and do what needs to be done. The magic only happens outside your comfort zone. Go chase it.