Even the most seasoned of marathon runners can’t avoid those butterflies when race day creeps around, but for first-timers, pre-race nerves can have you feeling sick to the stomach. With the added pressure of not knowing what to expect, all those training runs will seem like a distant memory when you shuffle along to the start line. Although we can’t be there with you on the course to calm your anxiety, there are some things you can do the night before and on the day itself, to make sure you have a more enjoyable and successful race day…
Check the Weather
It might sound a little obvious but remembering to check the weather forecast is key to being prepared for every eventuality. A scorching bit of sun or a torrential downpour could really put you off your stride if you’re not expecting it and will mean you know what to wear too! Being ready with a light raincoat or sunhat will make all the difference to your comfort levels.
Don’t Run in Brand New Kit
Which brings us on to our next top tips: don’t run in brand new gear you’ve never worn before! Race day is not the time to give that new pair of trainers a spin, or fancy new running shorts. If you haven’t already worn them on a training run or two, you could be at risk for some serious chafing by Mile 11!
Make a Solid Entertainment Playlist
Whether you’re more into music playlists, podcasts or audio-books, make sure you have a strong line-up ready to go. Mix it up with something motivational, an upbeat tune and a gripping storyline too: they’ll be just what you need to keep your mind busy when things get tough on your feet.
Running a marathon is already a stressful experience, so don’t give yourself any other added anxieties! Look up the training route, check your start time, find out where the bag drop is and get your kit organised too. You don’t want to be rushing around in a panic, searching for a mini sun-cream tube or safety pins. Make sure you’re all set with your time chip, race bib, safety pins, outfit, energy gels and anything else you might need to get out the door with your head in the game.
Eat Well the Night Before
Possibly our favourite part of the whole experience is carb-loading! Choose something the night before that is not only carb-heavy but is familiar and reasonably simple too. You certainly don’t want to be experimenting with anything hard to digest or particularly spicy the night before…
Of course, lean proteins and veggies are also a great addition, put a big focus does need to be on filling your plate with plenty of pasta, rice or potatoes to make sure your carbohydrate stores are well stocked up – it’s just like filling up your car with petrol ready for a big road trip!
Rally Your Support Team
Catching a friendly face or a word of encouragement from one of your loved ones can be the only thing that keeps you going during a particularly challenging mile. Rally together your family and friends and get them to stand and cheer at strategic points of the race when you’re likely to struggle.
You're ready to eat your big bowl of pesto pasta for dinner and a bowl of protein oats in the morning, but you also need to consider how you’re going to fuel up mid-race. You don’t need us to tell you that 26.2 miles is a long way to run, so making sure to avoid dehydration and consume enough carbohydrates is key. Try to sip on water little and often, rather than in big gulps to avoid getting a stitch, and make sure to factor in the weather when deciding on how much to take in.
In terms of carbohydrates, taking in 40-60g per hour of something easily-digestible (such as a gel or handful of jelly beans) is ideal. But again, be careful not to try anything too on the day itself – for more on how to use energy gels, and even alternative ideas, check it out here.
If you’ve put in the work and stuck to the training, one of the biggest parts of race day will be keeping up your mental game. Try to avoid negative self-talk, reminding yourself of the hard work you’ve put in. Even have some positive mantras ready to chant in your head! It sounds a little silly, but it will really help to get you back on track if you’re struggling to push on.
Similarly, try to keep calm as you set off. One of the most common mistakes you see on marathon day is runners who start off way too fast. It’s easy to get swept up by everyone else’s pace, especially when the crowd is going wild, but you need to focus on yourself and your own game plan.
Keep to a good pace to avoid burning out in the second half. It’s much easier to hold back and then speed up later on than to make a comeback once you’ve hit the brick wall of fatigue! Follow a pacer if you think you’ll get carried away!
Yes, marathons are painful and stressful, but try to enjoy it whilst you can. Getting in the zone is great, but don’t miss out on really experiencing it. Especially at an event like London, bouncing off the electric energy from the crowd will do you the world of good. Take the time to turn off your headphone and soak it all in – it’ll be a day you’ll never forget…
Don't Forget Your Recovery!
Before you get swept away on endorphins and hit the pub to celebrate - don't forget to thank your body for all the work it's done and replenish it's depleted stores! Kick-start your all-important recovery by having your favourite Neat Protein Sachet at the ready for when you collapse over the finish line!
How are you preparing for your first marathon? Leave us a comment below or tag us in your stories & posts on Instagram...