Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Marathon? Don't Sweat It! - Part 1 sweat. But try not to worry about little things. So you're about to run your first marathon. I'm sure you're nervous about it, but I'm here to tell you that your hard work and training will pay off! Runners' goals for their first marathon can vary hugely. For many, simply finishing is the ultimate goal of the day. Some runners, though, might want to finish in under 5 (that was my first time goal), 4:30, 4:00, maybe even 3:00 or 3:30 depending on how competitive the runner. Ultimately, you need to decide what sort of mentality is going to best propel you to that goal. If you have one, great. If you don't and the thought of it overwhelms you, don't worry about it. It's not the world's last marathon! There will be plenty of marathons in the future where you can add a time goal to your running objectives.

A goal time is only one thing a runner might worry about, and I recognize that. Below, I'll list some common worries and issues that you might encounter at various points on or during your big day.

1. I only trained up to 18 or 20 miles. What if I can't run farther during the race?

This is probably the most common worry I've heard from people who are running their first marathon. I worried about it, too. It's scary to think that on race day you'll be running a full 6.2 miles farther than you ever did in training. Let me tell you, though, once you're at that 20 mile marker, you will not stop. Not that you won't want to. I remember around mile 18 of my first marathon thinking "this was the worst idea I've ever had and I'm never doing it again," and you see how that's turned out for me.

Before the 2009 New York City Marathon I was speaking to a woman who ran Boston that year. She said around mile 20 she encountered intense pain in one of her feet and had to walk the last six miles, but you can bet she finished. As it turns out, she had developed a stress fracture in her foot. In no way am I condoning or encouraging risking serious injury in order to finish a race. My point here is that the human will is a powerful thing. Don't underestimate yours.

2. I've heard a lot about "the wall" and I'm worried about hitting it.

I'm not going to lie to you, you probably will. And it probably has something to do with what we discussed in point 1. Remember, you only trained up to a certain number of miles in preparation. Your body won't be used to running further even though it can. You might hit that wall and think about silly things like quitting, but don't panic and give in! Push through that wall and make it to the finish line.

3. What if I sleep through my race?!

Okay, this one is probably specific to a very small number of people (like me). I never get a good night's sleep before a big race because I'm always worried about this and end up waking up every hour or two until I have to wake up and get ready. My advice here is pretty simple. Set a bunch of alarms. Ask a nice friend (who won't mind waking up at whatever ungodly hour you need them to) to give you a wake-up call or have your significant other set their alarms, too.

Alright, that concludes Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, when I'll discuss more specific concerns like your pre-race meal, staying hydrated and dun dun dun...the dreaded chafing. Are there additional topics I haven't addressed that are keeping you up? Let me know!

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