Since I’m less than 2 weeks away from my next 50k, I’ve been reflecting on my marathon journey so far. It’s no surprise that I have a completely different mindset now than I did when I ran my first marathon in 2008. Hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes so you don’t personally repeat them.
1) No matter how good you feel at the start & how exciting the race day atmosphere is DO NOT start out too fast. I allowed myself to get caught up in the excitement of the start in my first few marathons and start out at a faster pace than I should have. Do you know what happened? I bonked. HARD! The last 8 miles of my first marathon were a miserable death march that had me swearing I would never run another marathon. (Clearly, I have short term memory issues because I ran my second marathon just 3 weeks after my first. Ha!)
2) Realize that pacers are human too. I usually try to match up with a pace group so I can focus on other aspects of the race and let the pace team leader worry about keeping even splits. The pacers are usually awesome and do a fantastic job of keeping the group motivated while maintaining a steady pace. However, even pacers can have an off day from time to time. If that happens, don’t feel obligated to stick with the group. The pacer in one of my marathons was running 30 seconds per mile faster than the pace the group was supposed to be going. While that may not seem like much, it ends up being roughly 13 minutes faster than goal pace if you maintain it over the entire marathon. I let the group go at mile 12 and proceeded to finish the race on my own. Needless to say, of the 30 or so of us that started with the group, no one finished with the pace leader that race.
3) Don’t try anything new on race day. This goes for everything from gear to nutrition. I had heard this many times, and yet I still found myself wearing the super cute shirt I picked up at the expo the night before the race, and trying orange slices mid-race when I had never eaten them during a training run. Unless you particularly enjoy chaffing or an upset stomach, it’s really not worth it.
4) Cross training is a MUST! It’s easy to get caught up in the amount of time spent running & think that you don’t need to spend a little extra time cross training. Let me tell you, not only have I had fewer injuries, but I have run faster and more efficiently as I’ve incorporated more cross training into my schedule.
5) Always expect the unexpected. When you are running for hours at a time it’s quite likely that something unexpected is going to happen. You can have a plan going into the race, but be open to changing it on the fly mid-run. I’ve had to deal with less than ideal weather (both too hot & too cold), last minute course changes, and discovering that I had the flu at mile 17. None of those races were as fast as I was hoping they would be, but I finished all of them.
6) Encourage other runners on the course. Some runners will want to engage in deep conversation & others will just want to focus on the run. Either way, a quick, “Nice job!” as you pass someone is always appreciated. They are hurting just as much as you are, so try to be uplifting as much as you can.
What other lessons have you learned that you would like to share?
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