How to Ace Your First Ever Fun Run or Marathon

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Amelia Phillips

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You don’t have to be a seasoned runner to suffer from race day jitters.

As Australia gears up for the running season, whether you are about to do your very first fun run or entering your second marathon here are a few tips to help you kick butt on the track and cross the finish line, strong with your arms high in the air.

Stick to the Plan

Most likely you have been following a training plan for a number of weeks depending on what race you have entered. Sticking to it, particularly as you start to taper is so important. It’s normal to feel nervous during the last couple of weeks when you have reduced your kms but don’t be tempted to throw in a few extra runs. Your body needs to rest and the short runs you are doing should focus on quality.

Stick to the plan even at the start line. The start line is SO exciting! The atmosphere is buzzing, adrenaline pumping, and people are cheering. ENJOY IT but don’t get carried away and take off at a cracking pace – stay consistent right from the beginning.

Trial and Practice

The weeks leading up to your race are all about trial and error – you don’t want to be trying a new pair of shoes, hat, gel or sports drink during the race – this could lead to all sorts of ugly things like blisters, chafing, a trot to the porter loo (or bush) and cramps. Have your shoes sorted and make sure they are ‘broken in’. For the longer runs you will also want to practice running while drinking and opening your gels – it takes practice – trust me.

Food and Hydration

Like many things, food can be a bit tricky and depends on you and how far you are running. Like your gels and sports drink – make sure you trial different foods prior to a long run so you are familiar with what works and won’t cause you any mishaps on the day. Here are a few guidelines:

Leading up to the race: meals should include lean protein (such as chicken or fish) with some carbohydrates including rice, veggies, breads and pasta. It is also recommended to reduce the fibre in your diet – you don’t want any upset bellies on the day! You should increase your water intake to at least 2 litres per day.

The night before: choose a meal that is easily digestible so that you can pass it before you run. Yes you can increase your carbs, but sports dietitians’ recommend doing that two nights ahead rather than the night before to avoid that lethargic feeling!) Steer clear of foods high in saturated fat also.

The morning of the race: you should eat a meal at least 2 hours prior that includes carbs and protein. Popular choices are toast with honey, banana, cereal (low in fibre) with low fat milk or a sports muesli bar. If you cant stomach anything solid try a low-fat smoothie. Even though you may not be thirsty you should start ‘sipping’ on water or energy drinks 30mins prior.

During the race: Depending on your race distance you may need to have Gels (every hour) to top up your glycogen stores. It is also recommended to drink around 200mils of water every 15mins – even if you do not feel thirsty. You do not want to become dehydrated because once you are there is no catching up. Throughout the race there will be drink stations DO NOT drink the sports drink unless you have practiced with it previously.

Dress smartly

There is a general rule of thumb that you dress for about 10-15 degrees warmer than it is. Not the time to get your Gucci wear out because once underway you will warm up pretty quick and will want something that you can easily discard or if you can manage it – tie it around your waist.

I recommend buying a cheaper sweater, chuck it to the curb and have it donated to charity!

Night before

Have everything laid out so you aren’t panicking at 4am in the morning trying to locate those safety pins. Have a checklist and tick it off as you pull it together – sunnies, bib pinned to your t-shirt, shoes, shorts, hat, water bottles, gels etc even your train or bus fare should be prepared.

Get a good nights sleep of 6 to 8hrs, although don’t stress if you toss and turn. Plenty of research shows that it’s the weeks prior to the race that are far more important then the night before.

Get there early

There is nothing worse then arriving to an event flustered, stressed and then realising you have to tackle the long porter loo lines with only 10mins until the gun is fired! Don’t do it to yourself. Get there in plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere, do the last minute wee and most importantly to have a good warm up of power walking and 3-5mins of easy jogging.

Think like a Champion

… Because you are. All your hard work, training ups and downs, maybe even an injury has made you stronger. Be confident in yourself and know that you will get to that finish line. If an annoying voice sits on your shoulder telling you that ‘you can’t do this’, crush it under your stride and power on to the end.

Above everything else ENJOY the atmosphere and your achievement.

What are your marathon running tips? Share them with me below.

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