Sunday, 19 March 2017

Marathon tips - first marathon

Posted by speedygeoff on Sunday, March 19, 2017 with 1 comment
I usually give the following advice for people running their first marathon:

(a) Long term preparation. You probably need more time than you think to prepare for your first marathon. Deek said ten years; I ran my first after 13 years of running, the last two or three years more specific long slow distance then cross country racing. I think the problem is that people get sucked into seeing the marathon as an early goal in their running career, when it should probably be the culmination of a long and successful career racing shorter distances. As I often say, train for the marathon, but don't even think about racing one.

(b) Short term preparation. I advise that four months before any marathon, you should be comfortable already having built up to your longest training distances. Then in the last four months you can be more specific, doing shorter tempo runs and speed work while maintaining those long training weeks, doing a half marathon dress rehearsal 3-5 weeks before the marathon, and staying well.

(c) How many marathons? Once or maybe twice a year, maximum.

(d) Recovery. Don't stop dead after the marathon, jog! Get the body moving again as soon as practicable, and you will experience a better recovery. And don't ever race or do speed work the week after the marathon, however good you feel.

(e) The race itself. Pacing: My advice to first time marathoners is simply to aim to finish. Not too slowly, you don't want to be out there all day. Not too fast early, there's nothing worse than blowing up and having hundreds pass you in the second half. The best advice is to start off slow and steady and relaxed. After about 15k look at moving up in the field, still relaxed but with an increased perceived effort. After 30k, running with a determination to run strong for 5k. After 35k, throwing caution to the winds and charging towards the finish.

(f) Race plan: know the course; ignore the opposition, stay focused on your own performance, and quietly move as quickly and efficiently as your preparation allows. Despite what I said about aiming "just to finish", have a plan, and be flexible. Don't sprint to catch up if you fall behind; just revert to your planned pace as best you can.

(g) Time predictor: Everyone is different. You probably don't know how to adjust projected times for your circumstances until after you have run a few marathons. If you have established what your "time predictor curve" is, then the predictor becomes useful. For example I could subtract about 7 minutes from my marathon predicted time based on my 5k/10k/half times to get a more accurate prediction. And it is true that, knocking a minute off your 5k times, say, means an 8 minute faster marathon, if you are doing marathon training. So predictors are useful, but don't believe them!

In my early marathon days my plan contained: mnemonics for each segment of the race (All my races, whatever distances, I partitioned so that I could concentrate on one segment at a time); a few options in mind for race tactics (I was trying to win; such considerations you may not find necessary, or do you have a bitter rival you have to beat?); a checklist for the morning of the race (no attempt to sleep for very long; spaghetti breakfast 5 hours before start time, items to take, etc), and time goals for each segment, taking course and conditions into account.

It might be useful to say that for the last 7k I added times to what was on my watch, to calculate a finish time to strike for, I did that every kilometre until the end. Not worrying about what might have happened; looking ahead to what was to come.

But the first marathon had minimal preparation; after that there were real goals.

OK, I typed this off the top of my head. later I might review things I wrote years ago, and update this. Happy marathoning!


Margaret and I at yesterday's parkrun. Not even thinking about marathons any more.

1 comment:

  1. I'll refer to this should I ever plan to run another marathon again.

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