There is one thing which first time marathon
runners as well as experienced marathon runners should have in common. This
similarity is the runner should have a well devised plan of action for
completing the marathon. This plan may be different for novice runners than it
is for more experienced runners but both types of runners should have a plan
established which will enable them to achieve their goals and complete the race
successfully. This plan of action for completing a marathon should include
eating adequately before the race, remaining hydrated during the race, eating
during the race and maintaining a pace which will not cause the runner to
overtire but will allow him to meet or exceed his race day goals.
The pre-race meal is a very important part of a successful marathon. This is
important because a marathon is an event which is very taxing on the body and is
also an event which requires a great deal of energy. Most marathons begin
relatively early in the morning which means a breakfast meal is typically the
type of meal marathon runners consume before the event. This meal should be
substantial enough to provide the runner with an adequate amount of energy but
should not be heavy enough to cause the runner to be uncomfortable during the
course of the run. Many runners find a meal which consists of mostly
carbohydrates to be an ideal pre-race meal; however, other runners may prefer to
consume a more equal mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat before a marathon. A
meal consisting of a bagel and a banana seems to work well for many marathon
runners but some runners are capable of eating a full breakfast including eggs
or pancakes before a marathon. Experimenting with different pre-race meals
should be part of the training process. The runner may wish to try a few
different breakfast options before various training runs to help him select a
meal which provides him with a sufficient amount of energy but does not upset
his stomach. The pre-race meal should also include a fair amount of liquids.
Water as well as electrolyte replacement drinks are typically good choices for
most runners but again other runners may prefer milk, coffee or even flat soda
before a marathon. Again, the runner should experiment with different beverage
options during training.
Remaining hydrated throughout the course of the marathon is another very
important issue for first time marathon issues. In many ways this issue becomes
more important for novice runners than it is for elite athletes. This is because
many novice runners participating in their first marathon take substantially
longer to complete the marathon than more seasoned athletes. This additional
time on the marathon course means the runner is exposed to the elements for
longer, is expending more energy and is losing water through sweat and
respiration for a longer period of time. This additional amount of time puts the
novice runner at an increased risk for dehydration. Most marathons provide aid
stations throughout the course which provide runners with water or electrolyte
replacement drinks. Some marathons may offer both water and electrolyte drinks
at every aid station and may have aid stations as often as every mile while
other marathons may only offer electrolyte drinks at certain aid stations and
offer these aid stations less frequently.
First time runners are advised to drink water or electrolyte replacement drinks
at every aid station whether they feel thirsty or not. This will help to prevent
the runner from becoming dehydrated. The runner may not consume a full glass of
water or other beverage at each aid station but should consume at least some of
the liquid. The runner should also be careful to avoid consuming too much water
during the course of the marathon. Drinking too much water can result in a
couple of different problems. The least serious problems which may occur include
the need to urinate frequently as well as bloating. However, a much more serious
condition can also occur. This condition is known as hyponotremia and occurs
when the salt content of the blood becomes diluted and may impact the function
of the muscles, heart and brain. To avoid this problem, first time marathon
runners should be sure to consume electrolyte replacement drinks throughout the
course of the event instead of only drinking water. First time runners are
advised to familiarize themselves with the replacement drink which will be
offered on the course to ensure they are accustomed to drinking this beverage
while running. This is significant because many runners find food and beverages
taste differently when they are running so it is important to be sure you can
tolerate the replacement drink while running. If you are unable to do so it may
be necessary for you to carry your own supply of replacement drink.
Eating during a marathon is another aspect of marathon running which is often
difficult for first time marathon runners. Those who are planning to participate
in their first marathon should practice eating while running and should
experiment with different foods to determine which foods are most palatable
while running. Foods such as bananas, jello and pretzels as well as energy
replacement bars and gels are commonly offered at aid stations during marathons.
However, runners may wish to carry other foods which they find to be helpful
during running. This is largely a matter of personal preference. Some runners
may prefer to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while running while other
runners may find other types of foods to be more appealing during a marathon.
Properly pacing yourself is also very important for first time marathon runners.
One of the most common problems first time marathoners often experience is
running at a pace which is too quick during the first couple of miles of the
marathon. This often happens because the runner has a great deal of adrenalin
and gets caught up running with other runners who are capable of maintaining a
faster pace. Wearing a speed and distance monitor and carefully controlling your
pace to follow your established race plan will help to prevent first time
runners from being swept up and overexerting themselves early in the race.
Another way to avoid this problem is to position yourself carefully at the start
of the marathon. Many large marathons have signs posted at the start line
indicating the approximate pace of runners starting in a particular area. This
will help to ensure you are starting near others who have a similar ability and
are aiming for a similar pace.
The video clip above is from my DVD about running stetches and other running related information. Click on the DVD case below to find out more.