The marathon should not be feared but it does require respect … indeed it demands and extracts respect. This is because the marathon is not like any other race, let’s face it, 26.2 miles is a long way and running a marathon makes physiological and mental demands unlike any other event.
You can perhaps get lucky with a 10km by not preparing correctly or getting your tactics wrong, but not with the marathon. The marathon will humble even the best athlete, so you need to ensure you are very well prepared.
Running a marathon is about attention to detail and you need to plan your race logistics, nutrition and hydration before and during the race and have tested your kit for all conditions.
The final component is your target pace for the race. This has been established by evidence from recent training sessions and races and you have been doing it as part of your long run. In fact it’s so well practiced that your body and mind understand what it feels like and you can automatically slot into this on race day.
When you stand on the start line think Patience and Pace. As I said earlier, 26.2 miles is a long way and the first 16 miles is only transport. In these early miles you need to relax, look after your energy and hydration and stick with your plan. Your pace has to be controlled. The problem is that with all the excitement and nerves around the start and the surge of adrenaline when the race starts, it’s easy in the moment to lose control and stop thinking. The other problem is that your pace feels extremely comfortable at the start, but this is exactly how it should feel and this is when you need to be patient. The runner who ignores this and is not disciplined and thinks that pushing the pace faster will discover at around half way why this was a bad idea.
Running a marathon is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one, but the first 16 miles should feel reasonably relaxed but beyond this point is where the race gets serious.
As you get further into the race you will start to feel more tired, not just physically but also mentally. Your legs will begin to ache and you’ll find it harder to concentrate. It’s easy to just plod, forget to take your gels or drink and generally feel sorry for yourself. You end up in what I call “the zombie state”, and it is at this point that you have to refocus and deal with the mental struggle.
I think the crux of the marathon is between 18-23 miles - this is where the marathon is won and lost. You’ll need to concentrate on one mile at a time, try not to think of how many miles there are still to go, focus on your running style and maintaining your pace.
This is where the marathon comes down to belief, will power and sheer stubbornness. You’ll start to feel sorry for yourself and your brain will try to convince you to slow down or to stop. Physiologically, providing your race pace was correct and you have replaced some energy and stayed hydrated, you can still keep going but you have to get rid of the negative voice in your head. Think about why you’re running this marathon, all the training you have done and the sacrifices you have made. Tell yourself that you will finish this and try to think only about positive things….just one mile at a time and nothing will stop me.
Once you get beyond 23 miles you start to believe you are going to do this and get a mini rush of confidence, it’s still hard, but it gives you a lift to keep going. The crowd will also really help at this point but you will still have to dig deep and work for it.
When you cross the finish line you will understand exactly why the marathon is such a demanding but exhilarating challenge. Most runners say “never again” as they cross the finish line but I’m afraid running marathons is quite addictive, we can’t resist the ultimate test as a runner and you’ll probably be back for just one more!
The recovery process after the marathon starts as soon as you cross that finish line. You need to rehydrate well (give it a bit of time before you hit the beer) and when you feel like it, get some food down you. The better quality the food, the better you’ll feel in the morning!! Your feet need to be pampered – and this is where a pair of OOFOS come in – the soft supportive shoe is just what your feet need, they can relax, breathe and begin to recover. You might want to run a cold shower over the legs, just to calm them down. I find that really helps.
OOahh Slide have been my go to shoe after running. I can take my trainers off, let my feet breath and they just feel like they are being looked after. I found the arch support a bit odd the first few times I used them, but it has become really comforting now. They are fantastic.
All views and advice given are the writer's own.