Your First Marathon – The Final Hours

Here it is….the day you have toiled and trained for has finally arrived! It is the end of a long road of dedicated training and preparation which in many cases is strewn with moments of physical and mental anguish. If you have run the miles in training, and followed your marathon training program to the letter, then well done! Your first marathon will be one of the most rewarding days of your life. It is going to hurt, it is 26.2 miles after all, but you have put the work in and are ready for it! The following are a few useful tips on what you should be doing the night before and the hours before the marathon.

Fear of the unknown is a huge factor if this is your first marathon, but is important to avoid stress. A positive state of mind and iron will is just as important as the physical training you have done. Self belief is of paramount importance when running a marathon. Simple things like visualizing yourself crossing the finish line and accepting your race medal are useful techniques that will help you to finish that race. You will have built up a huge reserve of mental strength during your training, so now is the time to stay focused and keep your eye on the prize.

It is vital that you are fresh and rested on marathon day. I know from experience that it can be difficult to sleep the night before a marathon. Dreams and often nightmares about what the big day has in store can play havoc with your rest. It is therefore necessary to have plenty of sleep in reserve to combat this. If the race is on a Sunday then make certain that you get enough sleep on the Thursday and Friday, that way you will still feel good on the morning of the marathon even after a night of tossing and turning.

If your chosen marathon is far from where you live and you have to travel, it is wise to have a few details sorted out in advance. Firstly book a hotel or hostel that is close to the marathon starting point. Find out the route from the hotel to the start line and work out how long it takes to get there. This will enable you to be a little more relaxed on the morning of the marathon, as you will not have to worry about being late. A hotel that is within walking distance is perfect as the walk will get your muscles warmed up gently in advance of your pre-race stretching. This is advisable because warm muscle is more supple and will respond better to the stretching and mobility exercises. You should request a wake-up call from the hotel desk call but do not rely on it. Set the alarm on your phone as well, it would be unthinkable to sleep in on the marathon day you have trained so hard for!

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give with regards to marathons is to have all of your kit laid out the night before. Do not leave any preparations until the next morning, because you will have enough to worry about on race day. Fix your race number and timing chip onto your gear according to the exact instructions you have been given. Whatever you do… not forget to pack your Vaseline!! Chafing can turn your marathon into a living hell, but Vaseline rubbed liberally onto nipples, and inner thighs can help to minimize this horror. If it is cold on the morning of the marathon wear a bin liner or an old sweatshirt to the start so that you can keep warm after you have handed in your kit bag. These can be discarded before the starting gun. once again, make all these preparations the night before.

When it comes to pre-race nutrition it’s important to stick to what you know. The last thing you want at this vital stage is an upset stomach. You will probably have been carb loading for the week leading up to the marathon and your meal the day before should also be comprised mainly of starchy carbs. This meal should be eaten earlier rather than later to allow time for the digestive system to process it. Also allow plenty of time on the day to eat a small meal. I have found a bagel with peanut butter and banana to be a perfect choice. At the risk of sounding crude, you will want to evacuate your bowels prior to the race.

The most stressful hour of your entire marathon preparation will be the hour leading up to the starting gun. Try to relax and enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of runners, all hungry for the same goal. The atmosphere is electric! You are all in this together! Once you have made sure that you are hydrated and have warmed up and stretched, there is nothing to do now but wait for the starting gun. All the work is done. Enjoy your first marathon experience, because if you are like me it will be the first of many!