Lessons Learnt by a First Timer!

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It’s amazing how much I learnt whilst training and then running the Marathon.  Mainly that I am stubborn (or determined as I am supposed to say), I really do love running and that friends and family mean everything.  However, aside from that here are just a few other things that I thought might be good to share ….

1. Racing fuel.  So I know everyone says this but PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.

  • Firstly, do your research.  It might be worth checking whether your race is being sponsered by a particular brand as that will probably mean their products will be available on the day.  The Manchester Marathon was being sponsered by Clif so I decided to head in the direction of their products.
  • Practice with the different products – do gels suit you?  Are you better with shot bloks?  Everyone says it but try out all the different possibilities/flavours and see what works for you!
  • Finally once you have discovered whether you are gel loving junkie or a blok nibbler like me then practice with different amounts!  On the shot bloks packaging it suggests taking 3 -6 cubes per hour!!!!  I discovered, after numerous practice runs, that even 2 cubes were too much and that 1 per hour was just enough! (I took 4 during the Marathon)

2. Never think of the marathon as 26.2.  26.2 is a seriously long way, why would you do that to yourself, instead “break it down”?!?!

  • It’s just over 8 Parkruns – you know those lovely little 5km races we all like to do when our hangovers/busy weekends allow.  8 isn’t even double figures, you can count those on your fingers!
  • It’s just over 3 8 mile runs.  Now, if you are planning to or are following a training plan it is more than likely that you will have a few mid week 8 mile runs scheduled in.  Casual, 8 mile, mid week runs, that you will just get out and do.  (Now I must be clear here I actually count 8 miles as a pretty impressive distance but when training for a marathon your views on distances go a bit all over the place).  So just 3 of those, when you have done the first 8 miles you only have to do 2 MORE!!!  Hooray!
  • The miles at which your supporters are standing!  If you are lucky enough to have supporters coming to watch plan where they are going to be (more on this in a second) and use that as your marker!  You just have to get to mile x and then you get a hug/love/your name screamed ridiculously loud.  Just get to mile 21 and you get the incredible #cheerdem experience!

3.  Have an awesome playlist BUT don’t rely on it!  I had set up an pretty brilliant (in my humble opinion) playlist consisting of some hype tracks, tracks with “running” in the lyrics and then just some good old classics.  However, when it came to race time it just became a quiet backing track.  Marathons are amazing and I think a HUGE part of that is due to the love and support you get from the crowd.  I don’t know about you but generally I don’t get random strangers encouraging me on with my journey as I walk down the street but during the marathon this is exactly what happens!  Embrace this, take those earphones out and soak up that incredible feeling of total selfless support from random strangers!  It’s wonderful :D!

4.  If you are lucky to have your own group of supporters plan where they are going to be and do something to make them STAND OUT.  I read on my inspirational friend Charlie‘s blog that her family had balloons to help get them noticed whilst she ran NYC Marathon and well this genius.  My parents had white and red heart balloons attached to  super long sticks allowing me to spot them way before they spotted me.  Whether it be balloons, banners, teddies on sticks(?!) get your supporters to stand out!

5.  And finally … ENJOY IT.  Whether you care to admit it or not you always have a time in mind, a goal of some sort, that you hope to achieve and with the trials and tribulations this can often change daily!  However, when it comes to the big day yes push yourself, try and achieve that goal, but DO NOT push to the point that it becomes totally unenjoyable.  A marathon is a magical thing, you have worked hard to get to that start line after months and months of training, this final “training run” is the celebration.  Soak up the atmosphere, take in the sights and sounds and remember why you signed up in the first place, not because you love the idea of putting yourself pain but because you love running, love a challenge and want to achieve something great!

Obviously this is all from my first marathon experience and everyone will have their own thoughts, feelings, learnt lessons but hopefully one of these little nuggets might come in handy!!





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