First marathon, what to expect, hints and tips, nutrition and hydration strategy, race strategy, mental strength and focus, pace and rhythm.

My First Marathon - What Should I Expect?

There are entire books dedicated to this topic. This blog is intended as a once over lightly, to prepare first timers to the marathon.

Embarking on your first marathon is a thrilling adventure, and being well-prepared for every stage of the race can significantly enhance your experience. Here is a guide for the weeks leading up to the race, the race day preparation, the actual race, the aftermath, and the essential recovery days.

Race Day Preparation

Weeks Leading Up
As the race approaches, taper your training to allow your body to rest and recover. This usually means reducing your mileage to allow your body to recover and peak for the event! Focus on nutrition, hydration, and ample sleep. Where possible during your training establish and practise your hydration and nutrition strategy. As race day gets closer plan logistics like transportation, accommodation, and pre-race meals. Try to arrive 2 days before your race, relax, do not spend too much time sight seeing or at the expo.  
Day Before the Race
Take it easy, rest, and finalise your race-day essentials. Lay out your gear, check your bib and timing chip, and ensure your running shoes are race-ready. Enjoy a balanced meal to properly fuel your body. Spend plenty of time relaxing, visualising the start and your race plan. 
Actual Race Day
Morning Routine
Wake up early for a relaxed morning. Have a light, easily digestible breakfast and hydrate appropriately. Arrive at the start line with ample time to spare, engage in a light warm-up, and use the restroom before the race begins. 
Start Line
Stay calm and start at a comfortable pace. Stick to your race plan, listen to your body, and adjust your pace if needed. Follow your nutrition strategy, hydrate at aid stations, and focus on staying mentally resilient.


The Actual Race

Begin at a manageable pace, avoiding the temptation to start too fast. Monitor your pace and adjust according to your plan. Break the race into thirds to make it mentally manageable. You will have practised your pace many times during your training plan.
In the first third of the race try to establish that all important rhythm and race pace. Conserve your mental energy and focus, you will need this later. In the second third of the race, things will start to get a little harder. Pay attention to your mental cues you must focus and dig in a little to maintain your pace and rhythm. You can do this, its what you trained for.
The last third is where it gets tough. You will need to use your laser focus and mental strength to maintain the race pace that felt easy during the first third. Stay positive, and do not let negativity creep in. 
Nutrition and Hydration
Follow the nutrition plan you practised during your training, consuming energy gels or snacks at planned intervals. Hydrate at aid stations but avoid over-drinking. Stay mentally focused, expecting and overcoming any challenges that may arise. You will have already practised your nutrition and hydration strategy during your training. This will give you confidence that your body has the fuel to complete the race. 
Mental Focus
Mentally break down the race into thirds. Stay positive, celebrate achievements, and use your training as a mental anchor during challenging moments. Embrace the mental and emotional aspects of the race. Remember that the mind will almost always give up before the body. Do not get sucked into any pity party. No matter what happens focus and complete, use your grit and determination.


The Aftermath 

Finish Line
Cross the finish line with pride. Collect your medal, and take a moment to savour your accomplishment. Stay on your feet to prevent muscle stiffness and soak in the post-race atmosphere.
Recovery Zone
Consume a recovery snack with a mix of carbohydrates and protein. Gently stretch and consider light cool-down exercises to offset muscle soreness in the days to come, re-hydrate and focus on rest to aid your body in recovery.


Recovery Days

Immediate Aftermath
Refuel with a well-balanced meal within the first hour. Consider ice and post-race massages for any sore areas. Prioritise sleep to support your body's recovery.


Days Following the Race
Engage in light, low-impact activities for active recovery. Listen to your body, allowing for rest if you experience pain. Reflect on your race, celebrating your achievements and identifying areas for improvement.


Final Thoughts
Running your first marathon is an incredible achievement. Each step of the journey brings unique challenges and rewards. Embrace the experience, celebrate your progress, and remember that the finish line marks the culmination of your hard work and dedication. And remember that there is no average time for marathon completion, the average person does not run a marathon. Best of luck for your first marathon!



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